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On Friday, I celebrated my 21st birthday with some of my closest friends and family.  The festivities continued for the entire weekend, and I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to share these experiences with people who mean so much to me.

The weekend also gave me a bit of down time to reflect about this past year and the incredible personal and professional growth I’ve experienced.  After experiencing so many consecutive years of hardship, I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to have such a positive and productive year.

I was first introduced to the concept of listing “x number of things you’ve experienced in the past year before turning x number” from a friend of mine at Berkeley.  I thought it was a great idea and a really interesting way to reflect on recent life events, so I decided to try it out this year.

Without further ado, here are 21 things I experienced in the year before 21.

  1. Celebrating my 20th birthday in Southern California with the Cal Band and learning how to not get my hat and/or plume stolen by U$C fans
  2. Graduating from an academic institution for the first time since the 8th grade after a hectic semester filled with 18 units, an internship, volunteering, and marching in the aforementioned Cal Band
  3. Celebrating the new year in the most festive way possible filled with karaoke and Vietnamese food, and then taking a road trip up the California coast during one of the worst projected storms with my favorite sassy snare drummer
  4. Skiing downhill while playing bass drum with the Cal Band—and not falling over or running over a small child
  5. Witnessing the iconic super bloom in the Anza Borrego desert state park with the best aunt in the world
  6. Supporting Cal Women’s Basketball in Waco, TX and getting the worst blisters of my life while walking 15 miles around Austin, TX with the only two other drumline members on the trip
  7. Seeing my favorite band, Radiohead, live for the first time with one of my oldest friends
  8. Getting to explore London with new friends who helped show me exactly what the hell a “cheeky Nando’s” is
  9. Being able to eat french fries for breakfast and eating the best chocolate truffles of my life in Bruges
  10. Experiencing the world’s most impressive collection of Tulips, learning about Van Gogh’s beautiful art and tumultuous life, visiting Anne Frank’s house, and learning about the difference between an Amsterdam coffee shop and cafe with some of the best Canadians I’ve ever met
  11. Getting to see an amazing free Berlin Harmoniker concert the morning after accidentally going on a tinder date with a literal neo nazi suggesting that my German bloodline wouldn’t have been “dirtied” had my mom been Japanese lmao fuck that guy
  12. Hiking around the gorgeous hills surrounding Heidelberg and eating delicious authentic German food (spargel season!) with a South Korean, an Australian, and a German
  13. Visiting Dachau with a Stanfurd Alumni (who happens to live a few miles away from where I grew up and works across the freeway from my dad—what a coincidence that we met in a hostel dorm room in Munich!) and finally being able to really contextualize and deeply understand the atrocities of the Holocaust
  14. Drinking a liter of beer on the shore of Lake Königsee with an Australian and a Bostonian after hiking through beautiful German countryside and rowboat-ing around the lake
  15. Seeing Beethoven’s Fidelio in the Vienna opera house for 3€
  16. Spontaneously visiting Bratislava with a Hamburger and a Singaporean and enjoying some of the richest, most deeply satisfying mac n cheese I’ve ever had
  17. Day (and night) drinking my way through Budapest with two brilliant and beautiful Kazakhstani and Australian women
  18. Taking Daisy to her first ever corgi con and watching her peacefully interact with other dogs for the first time ever
  19. Celebrating a new job, new apartment, and a new age with one of my best friends in the whole world and the Perseids meteor shower
  20. Reuniting with FC16 at Forestry Camp alumni weekend and finally being able to catch a beer while jumping into Gold Lake off of a boulder
  21. Starting my career as a professional environmentalist and learning how to (professionally) deal with casual (and not so casual) ageism and sexism in the field

20 was a pretty bitchin’ year.  Let’s hope 21 is just as great.

a twenty-something photographer & solo traveler based in the San Francisco Bay Area

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