On turning 27

my friend lexi took this at a restaurant we visited on a trip to Laos last week

I never expected this is where I would be at 27. I don’t know where exactly I thought I’d be, but I don’t think I’d have ever guessed here: broke, single, and teaching two year olds in Thailand. My mom was 27 when she married my dad…who was 22. I never imagined I’d wait as long as she did to get married. 27 was old. And I never imagined I’d be teaching babies. And here I am. Enjoying teaching, and thankfully unmarried…my goodness.

As for the broke part, that is slowly, gradually changing. I may not be the most financially stable individual (and no, Bank of America, I will not be paying your $70 overdraft fees. Rude.) but I am thriving on what I’ve got here, and that is enough.

If I had to use one word to describe my life up to this point, I think I’d choose bewildering. Nothing has gone according to any plan I’ve ever had. I used to think I’d go to college, graduate, and move into a fancy job in publishing or editing (does that count as a fancy job? I don’t know). When I told people I was majoring in English they’d inevitably ask, “oh are you going to be a teacher?” And I’d respond with a resounding “no.” And now I’m doing exactly that.


But my life, despite its many unexpected difficulties, has been good. I am amazed at how incredible the opportunities I’ve had have been. It has not been easy. And I am often bewildered at how hard it has been. But what remains consistently true is that the difficulties have never taken away from the goodness.

I have depression. Now, at 27, and a decade ago at 17. That has been one of the most consistent aspects of my life. And if you’ve ever struggled with mental illness, you know just how hard that is. But what I also find bewildering is that it has never stopped me from living a full life–a good life.

Outside of a few close friends, I’ve never been very open about my depression. I feel like there’s enough negativity in the world without me adding to it. But what I’ve found is that while that may be true, it has also created a life in which I can never be fully known.
So here it is. The whole me. 27 years old.

I like cross stitching, and knitting, and sipping cheap wine. I like pancakes and waffles and the smell more than the taste of coffee in the morning. I like walking and running but hate riding bikes. I despise mushrooms and things with tentacles and only like broccoli when it’s cooked. I love Star Wars. And pretty much all other sci fi. I adore good novels. I struggle immensely with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. But that’s not who I am.

I am a teacher. I am a daughter. I am a friend. A sister, a grandchild, a caretaker, a musician, a writer, a thinker. Not a sleeper, but a pretty good dreamer…striving to be more bewildered by the beauty of the world than the pain contained in it.

So maybe that’s what I’ve learned after 27 years. We get to pick who we are and what defines us. And I choose the good things. I choose the unknown over careful plans. I choose a good life even when it’s not an easy life. I choose joy. Adventure. Perseverance. Love. I choose bewilderment.

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6 thoughts on “On turning 27

  1. Hi, Caitlin: Happy 27th, and may you have many more happy birthdays, also. You’re learning (and have learned) some of the same lessons my husband and I have struggled with. We both have anxiety, he has chronic depression, I had one depressive episode many years ago, and we have the fair share (and more) of problems that come with aging. And as for insomnia — well, I’m writing this at 3:30 am and listening to an odd birdcall that I can’t identify. Usually the birds here don’t wake until 5 so there’s an insomniac bird out in my backyard keeping me company. And one of the life-lessons is that illness can be managed and that life can be lived fully despite it, with it, and sometimes because of it. Many years ago, when I’d hit a really difficult time and my anxiety level was over the top and I could manage going to work but little else, Jim suggested we take a trip. We had discovered that we love to travel, but I knew that I was incapable, at that point, of planning or executing a trip (I’m the family planner), and I said so. Jim announced, “We will not live in fear,” and proceeded to plan, make reservations, pack and get us on a plane to New York. Back then, I loved to sew, so he took me to the garment district to look at fabric. We saw the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers. We walked so much that at one curb my legs simply refused to lift high enough to get over it, and I had to haul my legs up by grabbing my pant legs and pulling on them. For that weekend, the anxiety receded, and we had a truly joyful time. And we learned that if we moved forward through the problems that there can be, and are, joyful times and bright spots for remembering. We’ve pretty much tried to live by his statement ever since.

    I don’t know whether you’ve tried medication, but we find that it can be helpful to manage and level out excessive highs and lows. I’ve also found that meditation can be helpful to reduce and manage anxiety without medication, and you’re living in a nation where meditation is often part of daily worship. If you don’t already know how to do this, you could probably easily find a teacher — maybe in one of those beautiful temples that Thailand is dotted with. Exercise and non-processed food at regularly-scheduled times also contribute to good management of these illnesses

    A week ago, Jim & I went to a birthday party and met the daughter of the host. Her name’s Katy Connolley, and she’s married to an Irishman, and they teach English in Thailand. They will be moving from Chaing Mai to Bangkok when they return. I didn’t think to ask where they taught or what level, but I assume that the teaching community is small enough that you may run into them one day. She looks a great deal like you and appeared to be close to your age and was delightful to converse with.

    Hope you were able to do fun things to celebrate your birthday and that life will continue to be bewilderingly beautiful for you.

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  2. Hello, thanks for let us know about yourself. life itself is weird, tough,etc. we have to struggle everyday in order to find meaning to our existance (with or without money). it is a fight whitin ourselves. Life is to keep finding what we are as humans and to serve and to be served to love ourself and to care for others. Keep doing exercise. look for insights, grow inside, be calm in each matter. Everyone has a special meaning in life…you take care and strong., cheer up! hugs!!

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