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An Ode To My Twenties

Today I turn 30! Where has the time gone? I feel like I say that a lot lately. Must be a sign of my aging... Getting up there, folks!

This is an imperfect recollection of the past 10 years of my life. There are certainly parts I'm not proud of, but I'm human, and I've made and will continue to make mistakes. Here goes.

I turned 20 on February 6, 2012. I was a sophomore in college at K-State, treading water and mostly flailing, but continuing to try. I got prescribed my first antidepressant after breaking down and sobbing in some academic office after returning to school from an extended hospital stay for CF. The medication wasn't a good fit, and taking it resulted in me sleeping anytime I wasn't in class or working. I was skating along in terms of my health, doing what I needed to get by, and just ignoring the rest because I didn't have the understanding to do anything more about it. I was anxiety-ridden, but I didn't know how to name it at the time because I'd never seen a therapist and mental health wasn't talked about much then. I was trying like hell - and failing - to fit in with the girls in the sorority I joined. I was drinking too much to cope with the social anxiety I felt at all times. I earned myself a DUI. I sought comfort in the arms (and beds) of too many men. I was trying desperately to connect with people, but I felt awkward and weird. An outsider, all the time. I didn't know who I was, but I was desperately trying to figure it out.

21 brought a little more solid ground beneath me, ditching the attempt to fit in at the sorority and finding a group of friends who I actually enjoyed being around. I was having fun; sometimes too much fun. But at least I was finding happiness among the angst that was hanging on as a relic of my teenage years. 21 also brought me my future husband. Bless him. He's made this whole decade a whole hell of a lot better than I would have dreamed possible. At 21 I traveled out of the country for the first time, studying abroad in Costa Rica, falling head-over-heels in love with that tiny dot on the map. It was one of the first times as an adult that I felt free enough to be completely myself. I made friends easily, which was something I hadn't been able to do since I was little. I'd return to Costa Rica two more times later in my twenties - once with my husband and once alone - and I'd find more lost pieces of myself.

I remember my 22nd birthday because I remember how lackluster it was after the Big Bang of turning 21. My roommates and I went to Kite's for a few beers. It was a weeknight, and I think we mostly just wanted to get back home and get in bed. I graduated college that year, moved to Kansas City and moved in with Kory. God, writing this, it seems like a century ago but also like yesterday. Note to those under 22: Buckle up. The rest of your twenties goes by at warp speed! At 22, I experienced lots of ups and downs with my physical, mental and emotional health. My lung function took its biggest dip ever, dropping into the 60% range. (~60% FEV1). That scared me. I was sickly skinny; I wasn't eating much because, embarrassingly, I didn't know how to cook for myself; I was depressed, anxious. I was running ‘home’ to my mom in Wichita often for needed comfort and familiarity. The transition from college to whatever you call post-college ("real" life?) wasn't kind to me. I historically don't do transitions well. Later that year, despite doing a lot of painful growing up, Kory apparently still saw enough in me to propose to me. Lucky for him, I turned out amahhhhzing. HAHA.

23. I got a handle on some things. I was working at my first big-girl job, which I hated, but it was better than no job/working at Johnny Kaw's in Waldo 'til 2 AM three nights a week like I did the previous year. Kory and I moved into a cute little shoebox in Roeland Park. We have a lot of happy memories from that year, living in that neighborhood. We got married in October - we were 23 and 28, babies. Cystic fibrosis was still a big part of my daily life, but I was taking better care of myself. I was drinking less, exercising more. Kory and I mark eras of our life together by which house we were living in (we moved a lot) and which show(s) we were watching. 23 was Breaking Bad (we were late to the party). I left the job I hated and started a job at a company I grew to really love. Like, I still miss it right now, thinking about it. Sagacious peeps, if you're reading this, I love you. That was the second time in my twenties that I felt like I could be myself around a whole group of people without compromise. I don't take those instances for granted.

Seriously, how was 24 six years ago? (Note to self: learn to accept that time flies!) Kory and I moved to "the rental house" in Kansas City, MO. More happy memories here. Lots of snuggling up on the couch and watching Friends and The Walking Dead (another show-defined era). I introduced Kory to Costa Rica. It was really something being back there with him. Like déjà vu. We traveled to England together that same year, spending part of the trip with my coworkers, partly paid for by the company I was working for (told you it was amazing). Now that present-day Morgan and Kory are parents, I realize that we did take traveling a bit for granted. That trip was one for the books - we stayed in London then headed north to the Yorkshire Dales, visiting the Lakes District, York, Whitby, and more, driving (read: Kory driving, me panicking) on the left side of the stone-lined, narrow-ass winding roads. We stopped for beers when we felt like it; we soaked in a wood-burning hot tub; Kory secretly killed huge English spiders that dwellethed in our stone country cottage – secretly, because he knows I’m terrified of big spiders; we meandered along cobblestone streets and dreamt of 15th century life while walking among cathedral ruins. At 24, I started pursuing photography. I loved it immediately, and wondered why I hadn't explored it before.

When I was 24, my little brother got his liver transplant the week he turned 15; My dad was his donor, donating part of his liver to Mason. Did you know that the liver will regenerate when half of it is removed? That transplant tragically failed, and Mason was relisted and waited perilously for 24 hours for a cadaver donor to come through and save his life a second time. Luckily, one did, and today he's over 5 years post-transplant. My family and I collectively suffered from some PTSD (not being dramatic, my therapist diagnosed it as such) from the transplant experience. It was horrible and terrifying. Therapy helped me work through my trauma. My niece Callie was born the month before Mason’s transplant; the first grand baby in our family, and a little miracle considering that my sister didn't think she'd ever be able to get pregnant because of CF.

25. Copper joined our family! We treated our little 8-week-old puppy like a newborn baby. He traveled with us around Kansas that first week, and I was so worried we’d do something to make him get sick and die (IDK, irrational mom thoughts). We took him on a little hike, babying him all the way. Kory put him in his coat and carried him. We put my camera on a timer and took ‘family pics’ in my grandma’s RV. A month before my 26th birthday, Kory, Copper and I moved to the country, the house we live in now. I remember pulling up to it and thinking, “I can’t believe I get to live here”. It felt so far away from Kansas City (it’s not), and so far out in the country (it’s not).

26. We got our Ruby girl, our Sour Patch Kid. Sometimes she’s so terribly annoying. Then the next moment she’s behaving like an angel, and you wonder why you were ever so annoyed with her. At 26 I began to learn how to garden and it changed my life. I fell in love with the prairie, which also undoubtedly changed my life and my perception of the place I’ve lived almost all of my 30 years.

At 27 I took a leave from work and traveled solo to Costa Rica for a month by myself. My husband trusted me to know myself and my needs, and he encouraged me to go. I’ll never forget that he has that kind of faith in me. My depression and anxiety hit an all-time high while I was abroad. It was severely and acutely felt because I was completely alone, with only myself to rely on. I didn’t think I’d be able to get myself out of the rainforest and back to the airport, but I did. I learned that I could rely on myself even in my most vulnerable state. I learned that I am resourceful, smart, and maybe a little too adept at pushing myself to my limits at the worst times. I became confident in my ability to converse in Spanish for the first time ever, for if I could do it in the midst of a mental health crisis, I could do it in good times as well. I returned home, and we promptly got chickens! They’ve been blessing us with eggs and entertainment for two-and-a-half years now. At 27, I got brave and left my employer of 4 years where I was paid well but feeling empty inside, and made the jump to the non-profit world, starting work at an environmental education non-profit. Sometimes work can feel like just another day in front of my computer, until I stop and remember that the work that we’re doing is actually making a difference in the world, not just lining execs’ pockets. At 27, my life was changed when I started taking Trikafta.

I’ll never forget the day when I was 28 when I found out I was pregnant with our twins. Amid a pandemic. I also birthed said twins amid a pandemic. I still shake my head at the fact that a few years earlier I had put it into the universe that if I weren’t pregnant by 28, I never would be. Call it coincidence, I call it Trikafta. We spent a couple of weeks in the NICU with Alder and Winslow while they grew and got stronger. Before we knew it, we were home as a family of four! Even with a fully-engaged partner, caring for newborn twins is not for the faint of heart. We fumbled our way through the dark (literally and figuratively) for what seemed like endless nights, up feeding, changing, and burping our little 4- and 5-pound babies. A lot happened at 28, and a lot changed. A gulf opened up between families and friends across the country and throughout the world as misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID rampaged our communities. The Black Lives Matter movement happened. George Floyd was murdered. And Breonna Taylor. I dove head-first into 'unlearning' a lifetime of racial bias and other ugly things. So much ugliness that sometimes it’s hard to even acknowledge. But we have to

29. Oh, 29. You’ve been one for the books. Familial relationships began their repair this year. I struggled (am still struggling) to find myself in the context of being a new parent. I relied more on my husband for love, support, and advice than I've had to before in our relationship. I watched Kory become this wonderful, natural, nurturing father to our babies. I watched our children grow right before our eyes from 4-month-old babies to 16-month-old toddlers. I marveled at every new thing they learned, every funny facial expression, all of it. I kissed Alder’s cheeks as many times as he’d let me. I watched Kory’s eyes well up as Winslow took her first steps. I laughed. I struggled with my feelings of inadequacy as a parent. I put love and compassion and humanity ahead of frustration, anger, and a desire to be ‘right’. I grew up a little more.

For a long time, I imagined turning 30 would be a darker time for me. A few years ago, I knew several people with CF around age 30 who were getting lung transplants, some dying of end-stage lung disease or organ failure. It seemed that my twenties might be my last hurrah in some ways. Oh, how wrong that turned out to be. As my mom wrote recently, "It's easy for me to forget some days that we ever worried about (her) life expectancy. I just want to make sure we never take any of it for granted and always remember the battles all the children and adults with CF still face." Turning 30 is not all about a cystic fibrosis milestone; clearly, far from it. But it is something that I can’t help but think about. I am so grateful to be breathing more easily these past two years than I ever have before in my life. It’s hard to explain, hard to put into words in a concise way. I am 30, and I can breathe. I can breathe.

Thank you to my 20s for the growth, the lessons, the blessings.

Welcome, 30. I’m so looking forward to seeing what you have in store. Cheers to a new decade of life.


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