Life After Oprah/Here’s To a New Decade

3 Jan

And no, I’m not referencing the end of the talk show.

Given that it’s a new year and a new decade, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting about my life over the past 10 years.   And the one moment I keep coming back to- and one that I will never forget- is my 15 minutes of fame on the Oprah Winfrey show:

Basking in Oprah's glow and loving my new dark hair.

Summer, 2004.  Twin sis and I are about to head off to college, (me- Wake Forest University, her- Washington and Lee University) and we’re slowly realizing that for the first time in our lives, we’ll be individuals.  We won’t be known as ‘the twins’- we’ll be known as ourselves. Crazy exciting.  And as if that wasn’t exciting enough- twin sis has decided to go by her middle name rather than her first name.  Wow.  We’ll still look alike, sure- but we won’t even be known by our traditional ‘AJ‘ when we come home from school!

And then enter life changing moment: the call from Oprah.  Twin sis and I are huge Oprah fans- I’m talking the crazy fans who apply to be on the show- and low and behold, that summer there was a ‘makeover’ show looking for candidates.   Twin sis, the gifted writer of the family, wrote into Oprah with our story– twins separated for the first time, individuals at school but still lookalikes when together.  And wonders of wonders, the folks at Oprah picked our story– and the rest, as they say, is history.  She became a blond, and I became a brunette.  And.we. (not even embarrassed to admit it, I cried.  Love that lady.)  Sure, we still look alike- but as sisters, not as twin sisters!  (Read more about my 15 mins of fame here)

But life after Oprah? Can anything else compare to meeting your #1 idol? Well folks, if you’re not the sentimental/sappy type you might want to skip ahead- I’m a hopeless romantic and also hopelessly idealistic.  This is a lethal combination– I find joy in even the smallest things in life and I believe that anything (with some hard work) is possible.  While every moment of the past 10 years certainly hasn’t been television worthy like my Oprah appearance, there have been plenty of other amazing life changing moments.  And I can only believe that as long as I can hold onto my romantic/idealistic view of life, life can only get better and better…right?

So here they are- the past decade boiled down to 9 other life changing moments, followed by 10 aspirations for the next 10 years of my life (that may even just topple my Oprah moment).

The best of the past 10 years:

1. Got my driver’s license at the ripe ol’ age of 15, the state of SC says you’re ready to get behind the wheel.  Shiver.  And I was so ‘ready’ I failed the test 3 times before I finally got that coveted piece of plastic.  Lesson learned: Some things in life are hard, but if you really want it, you just got to keep trying. And trying. And trying…

2. Landed my first job- This southern belle traded in her pearls, rolled up her sleeves, and took a job on a farm. And loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I worked my way up to farm manager (ahem, in charge of a staff of 3, 21 calves, 1 pig, countless chicken and goats, picking vegetables to supply the connected summer camp, and supervise the camp children when they came to help out).  I don’t think there is anything much harder or more gratifying than manual labor.  You know when you’ve done a good job, and that feels damn good.

3. Studied abroad in Vienna, Austria- study abroad 101: you should probably speak the language of the country you’re going to live in for 4 months.  Oops.  Without ever have taken a single German course, I hopped on a plane to Vienna and never looked back.  Like I said, I’m idealistic- I not only survived the experience, I thrived.  Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and be ok with making a fool of yourself.

4. Graduated from college- Magna Cum Laude, Wake Forest University, top 25 University. Business major, history minor. Proud, proud moment.

5. Entered the ‘working’ world- No one likes their first job… except for me.  I am still (very happily) employed by my first post-graduate job.  Got incredibly lucky and have had amazing bosses who are also great mentors.  And with their help, and through lots of hard work I’ve been promoted twice.

6. Payed my first rent check and cell phone bill- Hello reality, it was nice to meet you.  Became financially independent, and I still find that fact exhilarating.

7. Ran my 1st half marathon- 13.1 miles in Annapolis, finish time of 1 hr, 54 minutes.  Ran the 1/2 marathon with Team-In-Training, 2 great friends, and more support from family/friends/co-workers than I could ever have imagined.  Equally proud of raising over $2,000 for cancer research and for running further than I ever have before.

8. Moved to NYC– that’s a check off the bucket list!  I have always dreamed of living in NYC, and now that I’m here, I feel like I’m living in a dream.  After living in the city a year and a half, I still find New York magical- and I hope I always do.

9. Turned 25- For some reason, I always thought that when I turned ’25’ I would have life completely figured out.  Well, I turned 25 and had the cliche ‘quarter life crisis’ when I realized I didn’t have a clue what I wanted in life.  So instead of cry about it, I created to help me explore my various interests.

And now, drumroll please, the 10 things I most want will accomplish in the next decade:

1. Live and work abroad- I want to have a more global perspective for my work, and I think the best way to learn is to completely immerse myself in a foreign culture.  Where do I want to go… more like where do I not want to go? I would love to live in multiple places- the more I’m exposed to, the more well-rounded I think I can be.

2. Become a home owner- Sure, if I stay in New York it will probably be a tiny shoebox of a walk up apartment.  But it will be mine.  And I’m dying to say ‘my home.’ (and let’s be honest- to decorate in any way I want)

3. Strengthen my voice- Ok, so this one is a bit selfish.  I want to be really good at what I do- so good that I have the opportunity to help others.  I’ve been lucky to have great mentors so far, and I can only hope that I can one day be one as well.

4. Get a dog- I’m dying for a dog.  I mean dying.  Proof? My mom got me an electronic dog for Christmas.  I know I can’t have a dog right now- my apartment isn’t big enough, I have absolutely zero green space for the little guy, and I don’t have enough time to devote myself to a new puppy.  But one day (maybe when I own that home) soon I hope to be able to have one!

5. Live by myself- I love the girls of 137, but eventually I want to live sans-roommates.  Maybe this goal will be a stepping stone before I become a homeowner!

6. Run the NYC marathon- I will not move away from NYC before I run this marathon.  I’ve been denied from the lottery once, so this goal is within a 3 year reach.  Woo hoo!

7. Own a Vespa- I’m obsessed with vespas, and one day I will own one and use it as my primary means of transportation.  I’m not the best driver in the world, but I’m even willing to go back to ‘driving school’ for a vespa.  Especially something like this little baby here. (preferably in powder blue)

8. Learn photography- I really want to learn how to better capture life’s beautiful moments.  At the risk of sounding cliche, a [good] picture really is worth a thousands words… mine right now are worth about $2 since they always turn out so badly!

9. Always be a student- I never want to lose my curiosity… about everything.  I always want to be some kind of student and always keep learning (I’m a true nerd at heart).  I’m currently taking classes at NYU… let’s see where those take me!

10. Never become complacent- I always want to challenge myself.  The day when I become a smug know it all is the day I will consider myself to have failed.

So there you have it- my aspirations for the next 10 years of my life.  Some will be more easily attained than others, some are a little silly, some will only come after lots and lots of hard work, but all of them are as equally important to me on the verge of a new decade.

See ya’ later Oprah, I’ve got a lot to look forward to/accomplish in the next 10 years!


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