Saying Goodbye to my Twenties

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The first day of my twenties

I turned 20 years old to the tune of “Tanti Auguri a Te” – the Italian birthday song – sung by people I barely knew, as we gathered around a tiled patio table covered in vine canopies overlooking Italy’s Ligurian coast. I blew out a candle on a perfectly woven, pastry style pie filled with preserves, and was offered my first taste of champagne, which I politely declined. A pink and purple sunset sunk itself into the Bougainvilla shrouded Mediterranean below. The evening smelled of star jasmine and ocean spray.

As my newfound friends, Sandra, Elettra, Maddalena, Alessandra, Angela and Luca sang their foreign tune, I fought back tears. This was the first birthday I’d spent away from my parents, I was half the Earth’s circumference from my boyfriend, and no Italian coastal lullaby could soothe my aching heart.

That 20th year held my first international adventure alone. My first time away from my family as a nanny in Italy. I eventually stopped crying, learned Italian, and acquired a collection of adventures and memories which are now so treasured to me, they have become the happy place I go in moments of melancholy.

When my boyfriend, Eric, came and we toured some of the world’s most enchanting Italian cities, I had my first sip of alcohol, a glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, at an outdoor cafe beside the Rialto Bridge overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. My first red wine, a Chianti Classico, was enjoyed with Maduro cigars while standing among the Chianti vines at a villa in Machiavelli, Tuscany. Little did I know then the oenophile I would one day become.

That fall, I returned home basically broke, in need of a job, and accepted a position I vowed would be temporary, but it turned out to be the last job I ever took. Ten years later and still at the same school, I love teaching and it loves me right back. It’s also brought me some of my closest friends.

Age 21 brought my hard-earned bachelor’s degree, and my engagement to a person who to this day is still the man of my dreams.

At 22, I changed my last name to Bernard and moved out of my parents’ house to Fullerton to begin a new and exciting stage of life. I taught science with enthusiasm, and loved coming home to Mr. Bernard.

At 23, I was given a classroom full of fourth graders three days before the school year began. Now deemed “The Crucible”, I weathered the storm of that year and came out on the other side wiser, seasoned and feeling ten years older. I almost quit a few times. I’m glad I didn’t.

At 24, we toasted to paying off over $63,000 of car, credit card and college debt, becoming fully debt free and earning our right to eat something besides mac and cheese or bean burritos for dinner.

At 25, we bought our first home – a condo in Yorba Linda we loved dearly. We made it our own, and I still miss the curtainless windows and wide open sunset views, as well as the kindest neighbors on Earth, Fati and Poora.

At 27, we hit the road with our Hyundai Santa Fe packed with a tent, some maps and my way-overstuffed suitcase, to spend 40 days seeing America and Canada from the front seat of the car. We witnessed and did unforgettable things, and I will forever cherish the hours of podcasts, stimulating conversation, breathtaking views, and silent, content, side-by-side togetherness of those 13,000 miles.

At 28, we purchased our first bit of Earth, a 1927 craftsman bungalow on 8,000 square feet of dirt that’s all ours. We’re chicken owners, garden growers, have heirloom tomatoes about to turn red, and are proud residents of the colorful city of Pomona, CA.

That year, I also watched my first class of fourth graders graduate from 8th grade and enter the world of high school as poised, exuberant young men and women who I am so proud to have had even a small hand in guiding.

At 29, I said goodbye to my trusty Santa Fe, Jack Kelley, on the side of the road in a small town in Oregon during another comically crazy road trip up California’s enchanting coast. I also earned my 10 year pin as a teacher, making me feel, officially, like a grown up.

I closed out the decade by taking a personal hobby and turning it into a public one: I entered a storytelling contest and won on my first try the day before my 30th birthday. It is the first step toward a dream of storytelling to larger audiences, possibly on a podcast, and maybe someday making something out of my writings.

My twenties turned me into a fiancé, a wife, a teacher, a homeowner, a dog owner, a wine lover, a mixologist, a volunteer, a reader, a writer, a devourer of podcasts, an NPR enthusiast, a skeptic, a deeper lover of Jesus Christ, and a better lover of myself.

If 30 year old Miriam could go back to baby 20 year old Miriam and tell her all that she would accomplish, the many ways she would grow as a person, and the unbelievable amount of FUN she would have in those ten short years, her jaw would have been on the floor. But it was more fun as a surprise, anyway.

As I wave goodbye to a decade, I realize my thirties have some big shoes to fill. Something tells me they’re gonna do just fine. ❤️

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The last day of my twenties.

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