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  • Shannon Brault

Cheers to 20 Years



It's 10:37 p.m. on September 20th, 2020, which means that my 20th birthday is in less than an hour and a half. I have no idea how I’m 20 years old already… Literally, not a clue. But, what I can tell you is that there was a point when I didn’t think I would make it to 20 and it feels like a huge blessing to be here.

For many months in early quarantine, I somehow convinced myself that I was already 20 and that I was “failing” at life because I hadn’t met these arbitrary goals in my head. Coming-of-age movies make me sad in a way, as I compare my own life to that of a fictional character that falls in love, achieves their dreams, has amazing friend groups or a best friend from birth, etc. The classic tropes do tend to make me sad, I cannot sit here and lie about that, but I’m challenging the sadness that I thought was inevitable with turning 20 and no longer being a teen. I’m so thankful to be here with the good, the bad, and the messy (and there’s a whole lot of messy).

I sometimes think I was born into the wrong time, I truly do. Being a teenager was never something that I actively enjoyed in the moment. Not like turning 20 is this huge milestone and everything will be so different, but we put so much pressure on our teenage years to be “the best years”, and then the older you get, the more you realize that its a huge lie. I don’t want my peak existence to be getting asked to a school dance by the boy I liked. I just don’t. Life is short, but it’s also long. I put so much pressure on wanting my teenage years to be great, and I can sit here and tell you that they weren’t because they started with an eating disorder and ended with a pandemic, but I’m not going to do that, and that's not the reality. I’m challenging my own thinking that puts these certain years into boxes that need to be labeled as either “good” or “bad” because that’s just not how life goes. There is good in the bad and bad in the good and you find a way to learn and grow and find the positives in waking up each day.

I haven’t thought this through at all, but I wanted to make a list of some things that these “teenage” years have taught me. I know I do this a lot, but this time will be a little different. I did a similar thing for my mom's birthday with lessons she’s taught me, so why not do a spin-off of that.

I’m currently listening to Miss Movin’ On by Fifth Harmony on repeat, which was totally one of my favorite songs in middle school and seems so much more fitting now. As cheesy as it is, the lyrics “everything is changing and I never wanna go back to the way it was. I’m finding who I am and who I am from here on out is gonna be enough” is just so fitting to what I want to say right now.

When I was 13, as I have shared on this blog many times before, I was in treatment for an eating disorder that made me feel so worthless in every possible way. I’ve thought about middle school a lot and how honestly terrible it was, and how much of it still shapes me to this day even though I have tried to forget everything that happened. The ED followed me throughout my teenage years off and on, and I don’t think I have the capacity yet to describe what that is actually like. Sometimes I look back at certain times in high school and think “that was really good, why didn’t I appreciate it more? I want to go back”, when in reality, I don’t. Everything is changing in life and it continues to change. That’s scary sometimes, but with everything that happens, we all learn and grow, and I don’t want to go back to a time where I didn't feel like I was enough for whatever reason. I am enough. You are enough. We’re more than enough. Especially in these times of COVID, I find myself hanging onto the familiar, but the familiar isn’t always great. Life starts outside of your comfort zone.

Without further ado, here is a random list of things I have learned/ things I have done that I’m proud of during my teenage years (while thinking on the spot) :

- I’m very proud of going through ED treatment, not once, but twice with the second time being on my own terms.


- I’m very proud of this blog and how open it has helped me be both here and in my day-to-day life.


- I learned that life isn’t about “finding yourself” but about accepting yourself and creating yourself.


- I learned that real connections are rare but so incredibly special.


- I learned that being yourself is hard, especially when you don’t know who you are. But, the people in your life that stay when you’re fully yourself are the ones that are supposed to be there. They’re the real ones.


- I’m proud of how vocal I have become when it comes to social issues, and I’m proud of how comfortable I have become with standing up for others, myself, and for what is right, even if I’m the only one standing.


- I’m proud of doing PSEO, which was just what I needed in so many ways.


- I’m proud of how many different life changes I have handled with grace and dignity, even when they were hard.


- I’m proud of learning how to ask for help.


- I learned that people aren’t always in your life for the right reasons. They may cheat you, rob you, lie to you, etc. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t trust other people.


- I learned that high school drama really means nothing in the long run. And in a bigger sense, sometimes the things that feel so big in our lives will be nothing of remembrance in the future, and on the flip side, life is about the small moments.


- I learned that I loved to dance and ski and be active.


- I learned that I need to stop overworking myself.


- I learned that I love politics and writing.


- I learned that not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay.


- I’m proud of how much I put myself out there by trying new things, meeting new people, going to new schools, being in different leadership positions, doing studio and competition dance, etc.


- I learned how to be a true and honest friend.


- I learned that not winning a race, or a prize, or whatever it may be, doesn’t mean that you aren’t winning in the ways that matter.


- I learned that comparison is the thief of joy.


- I learned that life is more than just a waiting game.


- I'm proud of the different jobs I have done, both paid and volunteer, and how much I have learned and grown through them.


- I'm proud of being here and working through everything that I thought would be impossible to work through.


- I'm proud of how tenacious and determined I have become.


- PLUS SO MUCH MORE


I have to cut myself off at some point, but these years have been instrumental in shaping who I am and who I'm becoming. I'm so proud to be here (sorry to sound like a broken record), and I'm so hopeful for the years to come.


Thank you to everyone who has been in my life so far, even if it was in a small way. Everything we go through shapes us into the people we are, and I cannot thank everyone enough for helping develop me into who I am.


Cheers to 20 and I hope you have a great week!


Much love,


Shannon


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