It is currently July 7th, 2019. More personally known as, the last day of my twenties. I have no problems with turning thirty. I truly believe that age is just a number, and it doesn’t actually define anything about me, especially at this point in my life. Turning thirty doesn’t change the fact that I still look like I’m in my mid-late twenties. I still act like a goofy 12-year-old a third of the time, a mysterious 60-year-old divorcée a third of the time, and a 40-something mother a third of the time, who is doing her best to take care of everyone around her, while desperately trying to make some time for herself.
With that said, a milestone birthday is giving me the opportunity to reflect on my life so far, and all of the things I have accomplished, failed at, still aspire to do, all of the people I have loved and lost, and most importantly, my journey of personal growth, which has been shaped by all of the aforementioned events.
The first decade of my life was practically perfection. I had an amazing childhood surrounded by such a loving family, and grew up around neighbors who also became family. We had fantastic home-cooked meals every night (except Pizza Friday, obviously), had the freedom to run around the neighborhood with our friends, always went on exciting summer vacations, experienced the happiest of holidays, and so much more. I may seem like I’m bragging, but trust me, I know how fortunate I was to be raised this way.
While Pizza Friday and summer vacations may have continued into the next decade of my life, let’s just say that my teen years proved to be a lot more challenging than being a kid. I really struggled through middle school. Not academically, I was still a mostly-A student back then, but it was in 6th and 7th grade that my social anxiety and depression decided to make themselves known. And by the time I went to high school, all of those feelings were amplified. Being a teenager is hard enough without chemical imbalances in your brain. But for me, the stresses and the pressure that life presented on a daily basis were almost paralyzing.
My family and teachers and even other students all just assumed that I was a moody teenager going through a phase. And I’m sure all the emo music I listened to didn’t help my case (but it’s still SO GOOD!). My mom tried her best to talk to me and understand me, but instead of letting her help, I opted to tell her I hated her at least five times a day.
I think most people assumed that I was a very troubled teen, possibly into drinking and drugs and sex, and all sorts of things that keep parents awake at night. (Okay, yeah I got arrested for shoplifting that one time, my bad.) But all things considered, I was really just struggling with severe depression.
After high school, I got a job at the mall selling body jewelry at a kiosk. My boss was this creepy coke dealer who always had at least $1500 in cash in his pocket at any given moment. He would even play a game where we could have all the money if we could guess how much was on him within $200. We never won. With that said, he taught me how to sell. And if you can sell body jewelry in the middle of a mall, you can sell anything.
I made a lot of friends at that mall, and even ended up in my first serious relationship with someone I met there. Life wasn’t looking too bad. I didn’t have any real direction or ambitions, but sometimes it’s okay to just go to work and come home, while having a little bit of a social life in-between.
During my last month working at the kiosk, some people from a casting company approached me about being an extra in a movie. I was incredibly intrigued but also very skeptical. Still, I got someone to cover my shift the next day, and found myself on set at Jimmy Fallon’s character’s house. What! I met some amazing people that day, Drew Barrymore and Kristen Wiig, to namedrop a couple. But the defining moment of that day was at 3am. We had been on set for over 14 hours, we were outside, and I was freezing to death. But as we were about to roll on a new scene, I look over and see the makeup artists doing last looks on Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis, and they were bundled up in scarves and coats. That’s when I realized I belonged on the other side of the camera.
Yes, you read that correctly. The moment that quite literally put me on a new path for the following decade, was me looking at someone who was warm, and wanting to be warm too.
Don’t get me wrong, I was always into makeup. I even did other peoples’ hair and makeup for prom instead of going to prom myself. But on top of the sudden inspiration to become a makeup artist, I also decided I wanted to work in film. And at this point, Michigan had a film incentive that was bringing a lot of productions right to my backyard. It was the perfect time to take advantage of a perfect opportunity.
The beginning of my twenties were so promising. I got my first job in cosmetics at Macy’s and met some amazing people while learning a lot along the way. I was crushing my sales goals and pushing myself to learn artistry techniques on different face shapes and complexion colors. But the department store atmosphere wasn’t what I was looking for.
I found a school in Orlando, FL that taught beauty and special effects makeup for film and print. My family was happy that I was finally passionate about something, so they were very encouraging and supportive of me going away to school for a few short months. I spent January-April in Florida that year. I was 21 and it was my first time living on my own and I loved it! School was Monday through Friday, for nine hours a day, and then I drove to Tampa on the weekends to hang out with friends. I made friends in school (there were only 30 people in our class) and somehow ended up becoming the class clown. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to face a Michigan winter, which severely activated my depression.
While I was in school, I got word that someone from Urban Decay Cosmetics was trying to get ahold of me. They were my favorite cosmetic line, and I was definitely their top salesperson when I worked at Macy’s. This was incredibly exciting to me, even though I was planning on going in a different direction with my makeup career.
After graduation and a long drive back to Michigan, I was ready to join a crew and live that set life. I had the opportunity to work on a some commercials, as well as a feature film. And then BOOM! They took away the Michigan film incentive. This was certainly discouraging, but I also reminded myself that someone from my favorite cosmetics line was still interested in bringing me on board.
In 2012, things were definitely looking up. I was dating a really great guy, I finally got that job with Urban Decay, I truly felt like I had direction and purpose in my life. But then that summer, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.
The following few months were challenging, but at least I had my dream job, an awesome family, amazing boyfriend, and incredibly supportive friends by my side. Until that boyfriend and I broke up and I dove head first into the most depressive, self-destructive, self-deprecating, truly lowest point of my life. Well, at least up until that point.
I did the only thing I felt I had control of and I started a new chapter by moving to a new city and getting my own place. Fabulous Ferndale immediately felt like home. Not in a warm, loving way, but because I found myself surrounded by other equally-depressed misfits who were also just trying to find small ways to be happy, regardless of all the garbage the world continued to throw their way.
Over the next couple years, I gave my best attempt at reinventing myself. I made a lot of new friends. I was doing well at my job. I hung out with a surprising amount of famous people. I even tried to date again. But between watching my dad’s health deteriorate, and being too afraid to get my heart broken again, I ultimately turned off my emotions to the point where I was just functioning on auto-pilot.
Then in August of 2015, I watched my dad take his last breath. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel anything. I was so afraid of getting hurt, that I spent two years shutting myself off to the point where I was completely numb to any feelings. I watched my mom struggle through the grieving process, and while I was physically there for her, I couldn’t relate to her on an emotional level.
A few months later, I started dating someone, who eventually helped me feel again. Ultimately, I don’t think either of us thought it was going to last forever, but we were there for each other through challenging times in our respective lives.
On Father’s day of 2016, over ten months after my dad passed away, I cried for the first time in years. It was a combination of anger and sadness. And it was long overdue.
That year was also my last year with Urban Decay. There had been so many changes in upper-management, that it had become a completely different work environment from the one I had loved so much. It was time to move on.
But where do you go once your dream job is no longer your dream job? You take a leap and start your own business.
Of course, I didn’t have enough money saved up to start a business from scratch without a regular income (did I mention that my mom and I also bought a house for me in 2016?). So I took a job with another cosmetic line.
Starting a business while working full time is definitely a challenge. But I was excited and ambitious and hopeful. I also had a healthy social life, and had started dating someone new. There was a lot to juggle, but I was inspired and decided to run with it. And in Spring of 2017, I opened a makeup studio in Downtown Ferndale, which I was insanely proud of. I was finally back to a positive place, where I truly felt like I had control of my life for the first time in years.
Then in July, one of my closest friends took her own life.
To say that her death broke me would be an understatement. I still haven’t recovered, and I’m not sure that I ever will. Needless to say, this tragic event launched me right back into my depressive state. Except this time, my emotions were fully intact, and I was feeling every ounce of pain.
My relationship began to suffer for this reason, among others. I took a back seat on running my business because I struggled to find the will and inspiration to continue growing it. I was doing my best to manage work at my day job, since I still needed to pay the bills somehow. But every single day was difficult.
One year later, not much had changed. I had a new day job, but my makeup studio was still a low priority for me. I was on a cruise ship with my family in the Greek Isles when the clock struck midnight on July 8th, 2018, ringing in my 29th year. We spent my birthday on a beautiful tour of Rome. And when we were in the Catacombs, I cried uncontrollably for 20 minutes straight. No one noticed, except perhaps our tour guide who was the only person facing my direction at the time. I didn’t need anyone to notice. I just needed to let myself be sad. I still wasn’t okay.
About a month later, my youngest brother got married. And less than a week after that, I found myself single again. Fast-forward two more months, and my other younger brother got married. I was so happy for them. Their weddings were beautiful and fun and SO memorable. But there’s nothing quite like a wedding (or two) to remind you how alone you are.
I was feeling so hopeless and uninspired about my life, and struggled to find a reason to keep going. I knew that I had to get rid of my makeup studio because it was eating away at the little money I had. So I accepted defeat and reminded myself that my business didn’t need a physical space to survive, and I’d have the opportunity to pick it back up any time in the future when my mental health was in a better place.
Then in December, out of nowhere, someone new walked into my life. We fell very hard for each other, very quickly. I had hope again. I had inspiration. I was smiling uncontrollably, and for the first time in a long time, I really felt like everything was going to be okay.
Well, that ended almost as quickly as it began. And I was crushed. To make matters worse, it was the middle of February, and the middle of an absolutely terrible winter. My depression spiraled out of control, and I ended up at the lowest point I’d ever been in. I didn’t want to live.
I did my best to find something every single day that gave me a reason to keep going. Most days, it was Castiel, my cat. Other days, it was simply the reminder that I don’t think my mom could survive without me. Often it was an event or plans I forced myself to make with a friend so I wasn’t completely isolated from the world. And then I decided I wanted to go to Cuba for my 30th birthday. That would be something to look forward to, that would keep me going for a few months.
On the last day of March, I was sitting on the floor of my makeup studio, packing up the last couple boxes I needed to move out before my lease was up at midnight. I got a text from my mom, asking if I wanted to go on a cruise for my birthday this July. I immediately shut her down, because even though cruises are my guilty pleasure, I was in the process of packing up my failed-dream, and was trying to focus on the task at hand. I reached out to her the next day and we started planning a cruise to Cuba. I was back to feeling a little bit of excitement. Maybe things would be okay.
I knew that the biggest thing I needed to focus on, was myself. I found a new therapist and began working toward a healthier mindset. I started exercising more often, to stimulate my body along with my mind. The weather was slowly getting warmer and sunnier, which alone changes my entire attitude. Things were turning around.
And then I got laid off.
Losing my job didn’t only mean losing my income, it meant losing my health insurance, and losing my therapist. But I refused to lose the progress I’d made on myself. Not having a job gave me a whole lot of extra time, so I pushed myself to focus on productivity, as well as some relaxation and reflection, all while focusing on the future.
Then in an evil turn of events, our country’s administration placed a travel ban on Cuba. I mean, COME ON. I’ve never been someone who thought the world was out to get me, but can’t a girl catch a break around here? Our cruise was re-routed to the Bahamas, which will undoubtedly be beautiful, so I’m trying not to be a complete brat about it. But it sucks to have the ONE thing you were looking for, taken away.
——— Present Day ———
It has been two months since I lost my job. I’ve had over fifty interviews with more than twenty companies (I had EIGHT interviews with ONE company!). I’ve had a few offers but I’ve turned them down, holding out for better opportunities. And as I write this, I can tell you I have my next move planned out, I just can’t announce it quite yet.
With all that said, I don’t know what my future holds. I know this next decade will have plenty of challenges, but I’m choosing to remain hopeful. I have been through a lot of difficult experiences in my life, as most people have. But I’m also very fortunate to have had so many wonderful opportunities, experiences, and relationships in my life.
For better or for worse, everything I’ve lived through has made me the person I am today.