It was November 15th, 2019. The day after my 24th birthday. The second birthday I had spent away from my family and friends after moving to Denver, Colorado and a quiet reminder that my early twenties were inching closer to the notorious “mids”. AKA a time when the majority of my friends would begin to settle down, buy houses, and have babies, and I would continue to wander about aimlessly with no real desire to do any of those things, only the desire to do an ambiguous “something” that I still hadn’t figured out yet. People would drift apart, Saturday night hang-outs would turn into annual get togethers around the holidays, and memories of the old days in college would slowly fade into the back of dusty photo albums.
To say I was getting restless with where my life was at is an understatement. That’s why on November 15th, one day into my 24th year, I sat down with my husband and told him that, if my mid twenties were really going to turn out how I thought, then I at least wanted a celebration to end all celebrations as one-last-moment of youth. Now at this point, it might sound a little melodramatic, but to be fair I never had a Sweet 16 so, I reasoned, it was time for the party I never had.
I should also probably mention that I’m a planner, and by planner, I mean slightly obsessive and very hands-on anytime an event comes up. Fast forward to the new year, and I had been spamming my husband with ideas for everything from party invitations to food, photo booths, locations, and decor. I created boards on Pinterest and folders on Instagram, detailing everything to the point where it could practically be planned in the dark (much to the amusement and sometimes annoyance of my husband).
Everything seemed to be on track: we’d move back to California in the early spring and be unpacked long before my birthday approached. My mom was turning 50 the day before me, so it’d work out perfectly to have our birthdays celebrated together and kick off these new chapters as a team.
Around the end of February though, whisperings of a new strain of virus had steadily grown louder until, by March, they reached a deafening roar that drowned out all other news and reduced the world to an eerie halt. Pending job applications were closed as companies struggled to keep their employees supported, basic necessities became precious commodities, and our long-awaited dream of moving back to our California home began to recede before our very eyes. Not to mention that (long before masks were mandated or available), due to my line of work, I was still deemed “essential” and working from home was impossible. Precautions hadn’t been put in place as there was still so much not understood about this new disease, and after a few weeks I contracted a strange, severe form of asthma that was labeled as “probable COVID-19” (though not confirmed as testing was not widely available at this point).
The world of possibilities and my astronomical plans for the year had shrunk into a the size of a thimble. I sunk into a deep depression. My need to have an income fought with my fear of this unknown sickness; my longing to see my family was unable to be satiated without a job offer. My days on sick leave were spent chatting virtually with doctors, trying to figure out treatment options, and getting winded going from my resting place on the couch to the bathroom. For the first time ever, I didn’t leave my house for over 7 days straight. Not even to walk the dog. I was in survival mode, and my birthday was the farthest thing from my mind.
Well, it wasn’t all bad. Yes, my lengthy illness did get worse before it got better, but after a chest X-ray and a few medication changes, I was able to be cleared to go back to work part time. By that time, masks were mandatory and gave some sense of security. Despite the thinning job market, I secured a few offers and was able to not only move back home before the summer started, but choose where I wanted to go, which was more than I’d ever hoped for even in normal times. Our marriage was strengthened because my husband no longer had to commute, and after the move, we both were fortunate enough to work from home (and have been ever since). Things did get better with the virus as a whole, and we started to establish a routine of socially distant outings and activities. My anxiety and depression still lingered, but having more “normal” back definitely helped.
After our annual anniversary trip to Lake Tahoe, the realization hit that it was less than one month until my birthday and, though better managed, we were all still embroiled in a pandemic that left both us and friends leery of gathering somewhere. The options were slim, and the giant send off into official adulthood that I had planned was just not going to happen.
We needed an inexpensive getaway (as, like many this year, money has been tighter than usual), and we both thought that an intimate getaway to my grandpa’s condo in Lake Tahoe was just the ticket to satisfy my wanderlust and my husband’s bookkeeping.
In the end, my 25th birthday was not what I thought it would be. But, my husband surprised me with the dreamiest rainbow dress and personalized accessories from my favorite designers, we got to snuggle up next to the fire, and spent some time hiking through peaceful forests in the snow at our mountain getaway. My mom and I still celebrated together with the rest of the family after I got back, and she even surprised me with the cutest handmade plastic “birthday animals” and balloons. I spent time with people I had been separated from in one way or another for years, and that’s something no expanse of party plans can top.
Sitting here in the aftermath of such a year, I’m starting to think that 25 is not just a dreary confirmation of adulthood. It’s a testament to survival, adaptability, and lowering expectations without reduced satisfaction. For 25 years, and despite my best self-destructive habits, I have survived. I’ve adapted to the new, left behind the weight of the old, I’ve both lived and learned. I’ve gone forwards and backwards, conquering my fears and creating new ones. I might not be settling down or having babies, but I’m finding ways to be an adult without losing my wild streak. I’m working harder to keep friendships alive for the first time, and appreciating the diversity of experiences we’re all having. This is what the “mids” are all about. This is 25.