I am in my last days of being a 25-year-old. Friday I will turn 26.

Since my last birthday I have moved twice, to two different states. I have been to 5 foreign countries (two of them for the first time). I have visited and been visited by friends from around the country and around the world.

It’s been a full, full year. I have laughed too loudly, cried too many tears, and written too many words.

I have eaten too many waffles at Waffle House and too many packets of Top Ramen as I remembered that deliciously addictive 10 cent snack. I drank too much whiskey and too much coffee. (I drank the appropriate amount of both tea and champagne, though, because I’m a classy lady.)

I have had too many adventures and too many swims in cold bodies of water. I have learned too much about cannabis (thanks to Colorado) and not enough about the Italian language.

I have watched too many Friends episodes and too many movies in the theater by myself (which I love to do). I have read an appropriate amount of books, I have made an appropriate amount of artwork (as compared to my average of 3 pieces per week last year).

I have had too many tear-jerking conversations about how hard life is and can be. I have entered and left too many churches. I’ve had too many doubts. And I’ve had too much faith to let me leave altogether.

Of all years, this year has been the fullest of all in terms of life lived, adventures had, and stories gained.

But what I’ll remember most about this year won’t be the date I went on at a 16th century palace in Italy with a handsome influential foreigner. It won’t be climbing another 14,000-foot mountain or learning to slack line. It won’t even be the start of the Story Project — something that has given me purpose and energy again. I’ll remember these, but not as much as this:

I’ll remember 25 as being the year that I first started to tell my story.

I’ll remember the nausea and anxiety and pain of telling it at the beginning. I’ll remember the simultaneous heart-break and meaning that I found when hearing from others who read it and shared their similar stories. I’ll remember finding that in telling my story, I owned it, and it no longer owned me. I’ll remember it being the path that led me to a place where I felt young, where I found the adolescence that I never really got, where for the first time ever both my insides and my outside matched, and all of me felt exactly the age I was: 25.

Upon moving to Wichita, in the first week I found myself in a living room full of women who had invited me over to get to know me. Soon, the conversation led there and I was telling my raw story again. One of them, with tears in her eyes looked at me, reached for my hand, and said, “I can’t believe you’re able to tell your story so soon. You are so free.”

And you know what? She was right.

I am 25 and I am so free. And that’s the best thing I’ve been in a long, long, long time.

By the end of the week, I plan to be 26 and still free. I believe I will find that 25 was only the beginning of a grand new story — a story of being young and free and fully alive again.



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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com