The 2010s, In Memorium
The last days between 1999 and 2000 were surely more of a big deal than those between 2019 and 2020. An entirely new millennium is much more impactful than a new decade, right? Well, I didn't have a blog then; I was barely alive. So here's an ode to the 2010s: The weird, wonderful, exhausting, exhilarating, and ultimately noteworthy moments of my past ten years.
Started to get my eyebrows under control as I started to get the hang of high school. Filled my head with concerns about geometry and biology and if I could read the bulk of Of Mice and Men the night before the book report was due.
Took the school bus that dropped me off two blocks from home solely because it was the bus most of my friends rode, expect on days when I walked to my friend Yasmin's house after school, spending pocket change on Starbucks and McDonald's on the way.
Begged my parents to adopt another dog, so our Hollie could have a companion she probably didn't even want. Brought home a 10-year-old Shih Tzu named Rascal who growled every time you touched him but somehow grabbed onto our hearts in that peculiar way that only dogs seem to manage.
For the first time in my little tweenaged life got a boy to notice me and like me back, after almost an entire year of my pining. I'm sure this was reflected in the text messages my parents were being billed for a la carte.
Applied to a rigorous and prestigious writing camp––I can't stress enough how popular and sporty I was in my teens! Attempted to call my mom's cell phone while she was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean to gleefully share the news that I had been bumped to the top of the waitlist and got the opportunity to go. I guess 2010 was the year that I discovered writing was my "thing," if you will, and begun burrowing myself into figurative language as if my own words could keep me warm.
Moved into a large single family home that my single family of three humans and two dogs couldn't seem to fill. When it comes to homes or pants, if they're too big, what's the point? Extra furniture and belts can only do so much.
Joined the ensemble cast of the spring musical and wore an ill-fitting powder blue men's polo shirt with clashing argyle knee socks as a military boy in Seussical The Musical.
Saw the last Harry Potter movie in theaters promptly at midnight and cried through the entire thing, despite its flaws and plot holes. Sat wordless and numb in the backseat of a minivan while processing an end to what was at the time the piece of media that had affected me most.
Got an absolutely abysmal grade on my first AP English writing assignment, which I could only interpret as an absolute blow to my self esteem. Because when you're newly sixteen and you've only in the past year discovered there's one thing you like to do and get an F doing that thing, the floor beneath you all but disappears. For what it's worth later managed an A in the class and the highest score possible on the AP exam, but that doesn't really matter. Actually, for my narrative, it very much does. I'm still the same girl deep down, who needs strangers on the internet to know she prevailed and got good grades in her English classes.
Got my provisional driver's license that December, just days shy of Christmas, and began carting myself around in my parents' hand-me-down Nissan sedan the following February. In those first few months drove only to school, work, and the Target near my house.
Got capital-D, all-encompassing, "oh my God why do I feel cemented to my bedsheets?!" Depressed. Read Catcher in the Rye for school and felt, like many mentally not-so-great teens before me, kindred to Holden Caulfield and pledged to lease a bit of my soul to JD Salinger. Annotated pages and highlighted important passages, though the assignment was simply to read the book and write a report on it. Because if there's one thing I didn't master this decade, and probably never will, it's the art of casually liking something.
Owed my mom big time for listening to my laments about friends' betrayals and the stress of applying to college. Stayed home from school for a "mental health day" as much as she would allow. Didn't realize until years later how grateful I was to have her take me seriously.
Went to Chicago on a field trip to attend a national writing tutoring conference, where myself and a friend presented a shoddily-done Powerpoint to a hotel ballroom lined with stackable chairs. Made this small feat the first bullet of my resumé, as I didn't have much else to show for my now seventeen years of life other than "cash register at Justice, the store at the mall you probably remember better as Limited Too."
Stayed up all night on the thirteen hour bus ride home swapping stories and unsolicited advice with a boy in my class I barely knew. Exited the charter doors back in Virginia with my mind made up that I'd developed a new crush. In true teenaged fashion, did the whole awkward song and dance that you do when you have feelings for someone new. Went on a pseudo-date to Target (I'm S U B U R B A N, okay?!) and sat in the parking lot of a 7-11 to watch Christmas lights across the street. Did a full foot-in-mouth on our first (only!) established, sit-down date. Strung poor dude along for truly years every time I was bored and home from college. Didn't feel intense regret and embarrassment until adulthood, but that's normal. Remorse and seventeen don't often go hand-in-hand. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Got accepted to three of the four colleges I applied to, but remained firm that I did not want to go to my mom's alma mater. Went to the admitted students' open house just for grins and swallowed my pride for the sake of the Shenandoah skyline and bluestone architecture. Got an overpriced JMU hoodie at the bookstore and wore it to school every time I needed a little reminder that I was not long for West Springfield High and the trouble it seemed to cause me.
Nervously quit my job at Justice and began a long stint of unemployment that sat poorly with my parents and has me now wondering how I afforded to keep gas in my car and go to chain restaurants with my friends.
Studied for my AP exams and regularly checked a Facebook group that existed solely for the girls in our grade to ensure no one would be wearing the same dress to prom. Wore a navy blue Ralph Lauren number that my mom had to coax me into even trying on. Oh, to fight with your mother in the formalwear section of Lord & Taylor, meanly hissing under your breath about not even wanting to go to the stupid dance, anyway. Another hindsight adulthood thing is: I'm happy I did go, because ultimately when it comes up in smalltalk I can participate in the chatter about what I wore (that RL dress), who I went with (a friend), and what I did after (got McDonald's fries and went to bed).
Graduated with my class of 500+ wearing a coral lacy sundress from Forever 21 under a navy blue cap and gown. Spent the subsequent summer breaking into the public pool after hours with my friends, sneaking out the back gate and driving down the street with no headlights until I got far enough away from the house. Mom, if you're reading this, I didn't do this that often, and in a way I hope you're proud to discover I wasn't as boring as you maybe thought.
Went to college and marveled at how quickly my life could turn from bleak to buzzing. Became fast friends with girls who lived in my hall and latched on for dear life to my roommate. Busted the stereotype by still being best friends with her today, a token of my college years I value just as much as the degree itself.
Rode the wave of anxiety for months, knowing deep in my gut that I should not have declared an English major before even moving into my dorm. I suspected I didn't want to actually be an English teacher, but couldn't imagine a world where a girl who likes to write gets employed for doing much else.
Suspicions confirmed by Professor Facknitz's "Writing About Literature" course; fifty minutes three times per week spent sweating around a small table hoping to God he wouldn't ask me to analyze James Joyce for deeper meaning. Had an "ah-ha" moment one night lost in thought on the elliptical: I want to create the content, not interpret someone else's! Filled out a form the next day declaring I would now major in School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD for short), and throw in a creative writing minor for flourish. Rounded out freshman year fulfilling gen-ed credits and cried packing up my tiny linoleum shoebox of a room, lamenting that the year seemed to go way too quickly.
Actually kept busy over the summer––what a concept––as a camp counselor, which brought in more money than I had ever made in my life at a whopping $650 every two weeks.
Went back to school in early August and worked as an RA solely for the perk of having a room to myself sophomore year. Sorry, fingers slipped––I meant solely for the ability to impact lives and foster a positive community. That's what I meant. Managed to write as few incident reports as possible, call 911 only a small handful of times, and find a kindred spirit in my then-boss, now-mentor/friend/media critic/regular FaceTime date Zach.
Brought my car with me to school and marveled at just how often I could drive to the Target five minutes away from campus, because I am anything if not predictable.
Died my hair that much coveted Emma Stone shade of purply-red, much to the chagrin of my grandmother, who would constantly lament, "Lauren, it's carrot red!" For the record, I don't know what "carrot red" means, either.
Along with the rest of my family, surprised my grandparents for their joint 80th birthday party, which involved hopping on a plane across the country on the first of the year.
Moved out of the double room I had to myself days after all the other students went home for the summer, and spent that night climbing onto the roof of the dining hall and watching the sunrise from the top of the stadium. Hopped more fences and cheated serious injury more times in a six hour window than ever before in my little nineteen years of life. Worth noting that this was with two or three other former RAs on my staff and not just a weird rebellious streak I was pulling on my own in the middle of the night.
Saw One Direction in concert from the comfort of the absolute nosebleeds, courtesy of $20 Groupon tickets.
Moved into my first apartment, an admittedly pretty awful, rickety four bedroom townhouse situation that is standard for most college students. Threw up on the crappy kitchen floor and even crappier bedroom carpet. Hi, mom.
Started working at the gym on campus as a marketing assistant, a job that would later become very telling in my pursuit of a real career. Once I settled into the role, I found myself explaining many times over the next few years, "I just really want to find a job that feels similar to what I'm doing at UREC," or "If I could do this full-time that'd be ideal!"
Also started working at the newly-erected Ulta that anchored the teeny southern mall just off-campus for a little bit of a discount and extra spending money. This coincided, no surprise, with a period of my life in which I was wearing lots of makeup all the time for no real reason at all.
Did my first honest-to-goodness reading of my own writing for a final grade in my advanced creative nonfiction class. Everyone in class got ten or so minutes of stage time to share something they had written that semester, on a proper stage with a podium and microphone. The local paper even came and did an article on it! Still have a video somewhere in the iCloud that I filmed in my car right after it ended, hands and voice shaking: "I just want to document this so I remember that I feel so loved and so happy."
Rang in the new year in a hotel room my friends had rented out, and quickly scuttled into the parking lot just after midnight when the hotel manager came pounding on the door alongside two police officers. Apparently you can't throw a party for thirty people in 400 square feet owned by Marriot? News to me.
Cut my hair on a whim, participating in the "lob" trend that seemed to be omnipresent in 2016-2018. Militantly kept up with regular haircuts for years, and now look back on photos and think, "Did I need to be doing all that?"
Studied abroad in Ireland for 5 weeks over the summer. Made lifelong friends, got a tattoo on my ankle, and for some reason loved being in a 50-degree rainy climate in the middle of July. Didn't love getting food poisoning on a bus that was careening through the Irish countryside, but didn't love having to come home even more.
Turned 21 ten days after drinking my way through Cork, Doolin, Galway, and Dublin for weeks prior. Was for sure that annoying girl who rang in her big boozy birthday by sighing and saying the gin and tonics in the states "just aren't the same!" Ugh, we hate her.
Started senior year of college. Went out to downtown bars where rail drinks were $3 and nowadays really can't believe I once took that for granted. Also for the record don't really drink or go out much anymore, but I guess these few months were my little party animal phase. When in Rome, drink as the Romans do I guess.
Woke up in a cold sweat that one gross night in November and swore I was just having a bad dream upon Googling final election results. I still remember that next day being eery and grey, almost as if the sun was just as shocked and angry as the popular vote.
Spent Christmas with my grandparents at their home in Rhode Island, which involved a nine hour road trip with my mom and our very neurotic dog, then rung in the new year at a house party I angrily walked home from at two in the morning.
Went to the inaugural Women's March on the National Mall. Cried off and on for hours, from a strong cocktail of passion, inspiration, fear, and anger.
Traveled to Boston for a long weekend trip with my friend Claire, where I stayed in a youth hostel for the first (and maybe only!) time. I can't help it that I'm too high maintenance and want to not bunk with strangers when I'm traveling! Take it up with my parents; they didn't give me siblings. They made me this way.
Had my world rocked in a very real and scary way when my grandfather was admitted to the hospital for a serious brain surgery, and understandably thought of little else for weeks. Visited him over that Easter weekend in lieu of him and my grandmother making the trek to my impending graduation. Still occasionally find a reserve of relief in my chest and say to members of my family, "Can you believe that happened? You really wouldn't know it now, would you?"
Got together with my hallmates and collection of friends from freshman year, sitting around hand-me-down couches and swapping memories of when we were eighteen and new to campus. Marveled at what one another had accomplished in just four years and made peace with the fact that it's okay to not really be close friends anymore.
Donned a purple cap and gown one rainy morning in May and moved out of Harrisonburg for good. Managed to freak myself out for not having a job lined up right away and refused to listen to any adult who knew better when they said I'd be totally fine.
In actuality, only spent three weeks unemployed, but somehow managed to turn myself into a bundle of nerves and stress, constantly camped out in coffee shops applying to any and every job that sounded promising.
Started working at a small startup-esque company that ultimately did teach me a ton. Grew exponentially in my role. Learned how to take constructive feedback. Learned how to navigate different personalities and how to actually use Adobe Photoshop.
Moved out of my parents' house into a little apartment in Alexandria, where I lived in a sunroom and spent way too much on rent because I didn't know any better.
Went to homecoming at now my alma mater and got teary-eyed walking past the same Shenandoah hills and bluestone buildings that got my mother, and now me, good in the first place.
Rung in the new year at one of those overpriced "all you can eat and drink" monstrosities downtown, where I watched a girl throw up on herself at 11 p.m. and had to flag down a bartender for fifteen minutes every time I wanted a teeny tiny mixed drink. I guess you can call that one of those life experiences you do once to say you did and then vow never to do again.
Attended two weddings and a bridal shower in the month of March, taking me to wineries both in sunny Temecula, California and humble, chilly Charlottesville, Virginia.
Went to New York City to see Harry Styles in concert. Saw him live three times in the span of four days because I'm really sorry to tell you, I don't know what "chill" is and I never will!!
Finally crawled to the end of my fifteen-month lease, and moved from that dingy little apartment in Alexandria to my dream two bedroom in Arlington. Obviously with my roommate, because I never quite hit it rich this past decade. Maybe I can afford a two bedroom on my own before 2029. Fell in love with the little nook I now get to call home and walked to Trader Joe's for my groceries.
Fell very, very in love with both Queen and indoor cycling classes, two interests absolutely none of us saw coming.
Started to think maybe it's time to start looking for other jobs. Applied to a ton. Interviewed with a few. Got rejected by most.
Rang in the new year on the couch with one of my best friends. Struggled to keep my eyes open past midnight.
Saw my queen Kacey Musgraves in concert for the fifth (?) time, this time as a headliner. Got teary thinking about all the other shows I had been to in the last decade where she was just the opening act.
Hit 100 rides at my favorite spin studio, followed by my one year spin-iversary a few months later.
Quit my job with no safety net. Felt my heartbeat in my throat as I nervously put in my notice, and was given the silent treatment for days after. In an office of fewer than ten people, that felt good! Realized that my choice to go was one of the bravest things I've ever done, probably ever will do, and that you can't make people happy for you or force them to be in your corner.
Adopted the most perfect kitten, and named him Freddie Purrcury. Remember the Queen obsession from the year before and my inability to just casually like things?
Finally, after months of interviewing and trying not to get my hopes up, started a part-time job at SiriusXM radio, where I feel scared and challenged every day. But in that good, exhilarating way, where you lie in bed at night and swear you ache from growing pains because you're learning and doing so much.
Picked up another part-time job at Anthropologie, expecting it only to be a vehicle with which to help pay my rent. Accidentally fell into a colorful, multi-faceted, uplifting cohort of women who tell interesting stories and have good, abundant hearts with closets to match.
Cried. A lot. Fell apart a lot. Took long, aimless walks through the little neighborhood I have come to love, kicking slush and leaves. Wondered when it would stop feeling like I'm careening downhill at 100 miles per hour, sometimes on long phone calls to my mom, and other times just to myself in secret.
Had the type of year that had me being far too holy with my horoscope and singing along to musical theater power ballads with far too much gung-ho. The type of year that threatened to knock the absolute wind out of me, as evidenced by the fact that it took a full week to get this decade-in-review blog post written.
But as cheesy as it sounds, the type of year that affirmed the old proverb "fall down seven times, stand up eight." The type of year that every young person needs at one point or another, because it's "character building." The type of year that made me realize I am resilient and I am smart and I would much rather work all the time in pursuit of a life I love than coast through a life I'm bored by. I learned that being honest and brave can sometimes be lonely, but your people––your real, earnest, supportive people; not your "yes men" or your conditional confidantes––will always be there to keep you company.
And that's my decade. If you thought those unbearable, never-ending Instagram stories were bad, I may have just topped those by 20,000 words or so. So, uhh, in conclusion...if you made it this far, Happy New Year! One week in isn't too late to say that, right?