It’s the End of an Era

Julia Malinowski Twenties Lessons Learned Depression Anxiety

These last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a grown-up. Today marks my transition from my twenties to my thirties, and as I usher in this new decade of my life I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past 10 years. Most people come into their own in their twenties and I was no different. I spent this time experimenting with my hair (definitely had a mullet at one point), jobs, and boyfriends, testing things out until I found the best fit. I also faced my first adult challenges: paying bills, negotiating work politics, developing a support structure in unfamiliar cities, etc. With each new challenge came a lesson, a strategy for doing it better next time or not at all! When I think of the most salient lessons I’ve learned during this time, I keep returning to these three:
Own your truth. For most of my life I’ve taken pains to always present my best self to both the world and my friends. Success is important to me and perception is a big part of achieving success. For a long time I thought that the strong thing to do was to present and happy yet determined face to the world. Whatever I was actually feeling, most often depression, I threw on a smile as soon as I walked out the front door. Turns out, constantly plastering on a happy face and avoiding your real emotions isn’t that good for you in the long term…Seems a bit obvious as I write it, but in the moment it certainly was not. In my late twenties I reached a breaking point and ended up being hospitalized for the depression I’d spent years ignoring. Having my very own Girl Interrupted moment shocked me into realizing that something needed to change. Since then I’ve worked to be much more honest with myself and others. Real strength comes from understanding who you are and really owning it.
It’s never too late to change. I am a stubborn person. I’ve always been open to trivial changes: trying new foods, changing my hair style, making new acquaintances, which helps create the perception that I’m flexible. However when it comes to my core attitudes and behaviors, I’ve been more resistant to change (aren’t most people?). I’ve always been fiercely independent and as already referenced have struggled to let others in. The idea of depending on someone and completely letting them into your life, whether a friend or a significant other, has always scared the bejesus out of me. I certainly count on my friends and family, but in the back of my head I always told myself that if push came to shove I’d be fine on my own.
While I still think this way from time to time, over the last couple of years I have been working hard to change my default thoughts and behaviors. Getting married was a helpful push. You can’t have a successful marriage if you’re not willing to fully open up to your partner and trust that he/she will support you in spite of your ugly secrets and moments of shame. I’ve actually started taking a class to help me better understand and communicate my emotions. It’s hard work that’s often often frustrating and I frequently fail. What makes it worth it is that there was a time in my life when I thought “once emotionally stunted, always emotionally stunted,” and today I know that that’s not the case.

Nick Malinowski Julia Malinowski twenties lessons depression

Me and Nck. Don’t worry, the shirt was for a theme party. 

From time to time, take the crazier and riskier path.
 I am generally a risk averse person. As my husband can attest, I’m terribly fond of longterm plans and saving for future. I don’t gamble, ride motorcycles, or even rollercoasters. However, a couple times in my life I’ve let my passions or intuition lead me down the riskier path and each time it’s ended up having an incredible impact on me. I think the craziest thing I did in my twenties was move to a rural town in Arkansas, a state I couldn’t even mentally picture on a map. I moved with the intention of launching a career in economic development with the next step from there being a stint abroad. 5 years later, I still have yet to work abroad, but what I gained more than makes up for it. I gained amazing work experience, serving as a board president and the director of an organization. I gained strong friendships and mentorships that I know I will be able to count on for years to come. And I also gained my husband. I actually met Nick on my first day in Helena; can you imagine how different my life would have been had I not made the move?!



Striking a pose in downtown Helena, a place that will always be near and dear to my heart.

So cheers to my twenties and let’s hope that the best is still yet to come! What are the best lessons you’ve learned over the years? How have you changed over the past decade?


10 responses

  1. You’ve got a lot to look forward to, Julia! Of course your thirties will bring their own sets of lessons and challenges but they are also filled with fun and opportunity that builds from the best of your twenties. Happy Birthday!

  2. I was clapping while reading this. I think so many woman think your 30’s is where you go to die LOL. Not saying you did, but so many do think that… I know I did. But I learned more about myself in my 30’s and I have to say I feel like a complete woman, but a kid at heart. Where as in my 20’s I didn’t. I know myself more and no one can tell me sh**. Congrats for entering your 30’s and may your journey be as enlightening as mine girl.

    Kia / KTS

  3. “Real strength comes from understanding who you are and really owning it.” Yes!! You are very wise. I’m constantly impressed with how you handle everything life throws at you…and doubly impressed at how you are always working to improve yourself (something I should probably try to do too).

    Love you and love this post! xoxo


  4. Pingback: New Year. New Goals. « SOUTH BY NORTHWEST

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