Well, it’s finally here– my 30th birthday. The end of an era. The death of my youth. The beginning of the slow march towards middle age. An existential crisis. I expected to wake up this morning with a face full of wrinkles, and the wisdom of Buddha. To my melodramatic self’s surprise, it was pretty much like any other morning. Drank my leftover smoothie from last night’s Smoothie King dinner, and sat down to write a blog post before work. As today is “Throwback Thursday” — it seemed appropriate to share some of the highlights from the last decade of my life.
Looking back, I loved my twenties. It contained the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life, but by the end of the decade (aka yesterday), I just felt an overwhelming sense of calm. If my twenties were about self-discovery, the thirties will be self-actualization. I made it through, and lived to tell about it. It feels peaceful to end the rollercoaster chapter of my life, and enjoy the fruits of my experiences and lessons in a fresh new decade.
Here’s a glance at the moments and events that brought me to 30…
20 // Friends & Family
At the end of my sophomore year at DePaul, my hard drive crashed and I lost pretty much all of my digital photos up until that point. Sadly, the pictures I have from year 20 are few and far between, but basically I was living in Chicago which meant that I got to spend quality time with my grandparents. It was also when I became involved with the Asian Cultural Exchange at my school and met some of my closest friends.
21 // Asian Cultural Exchange
By the time I turned 21, I had become president of aforementioned Asian Cultural Exchange. This was a huge feat/challenge for someone that spent the better part of her high school career denying that she was, in fact, Asian. One of the proudest moments of my life was winning Organization of the Year at DePaul during my presidential tenure- due in large part to my best friends JP and Micah (with whom we affectionately referred to ourselves as the “Trifecta”). It was also through ACE that I happened to meet filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park, who truly changed my life. We helped HR 121 (regarding “Comfort Women”) get passed through the House of Representatives. Our work included a dignity walk in front of the White House. We celebrated the passage of the resolution in LA with one of the Korean survivors, Lee Yong Soo. There also may or may not have been several karaoke nights at “Fiesta Mexicana” complete with delicious margaritas this year…
22 // The Last Year of College & Korea
This year was a bittersweet farewell to my favorite city in the world. I retired from ACE and took the opportunity to enjoy my friends and Chicago for the last time. It was the first birthday I celebrated single (my college boyfriend had broken up with me the previous year), but it ended up being one of the most memorable. The two night affair began at Max Bar, continued the next day in a VIP booth at The Filthy Libertine, and ended at a friend’s apartment with a plate of spam, corn beef hash, and rice. My graduation was the pivotal moment of the year, when my entire family traveled to Chicago to celebrate. After graduation, I had the opportunity to visit Korea for the first time as a guest of the Korean government for a leadership conference. While I was there, I visited my adoption agency and met the founder.
23 // The Long Way Home
This was one of the most trying years of my life. In my impetuous, impulsive stage, I moved to New Jersey on a whim (for a guy… who ended up being an emotionally abusive narcissist). I got the first job of my post-graduate career at Bradford Licensing and got to explore the East Coast. But eventually, I moved home to Texas, because I missed my family and needed to get away from psycho-ex. I slowly started feeling like my old self again, even singing and dancing a little bit (albeit for a cheesy corporate music video).
24 // I Got By With a Little Help From My Friends
Still in recovery from my time in New Jersey, this was a year of transformation. I got my very first tattoo, started running, and made it through the year thanks to the support of my closest friends (and lots of karaoke).
25 // A Whole New (Bio)World
I found myself back in the licensing business at Bioworld Merchandising, where I got to work with brands like Activision, Strawberry Shortcake, Live Nation, and more. Consequently, it was also where I met Holden, the handsome and slightly awkward headwear designer who pursued me over group sushi lunch dates and happy hours at Cool River. He eventually won me over by sending chocolate covered strawberries to my parents’ house while I was visiting them for Easter. It was one the most fun years of the decade– filled with trips to the Korean spa, more karaoke, singing with Silver Dove at my church, being a bridesmaid for the first time in my friend Jordan’s wedding, hockey games with Dad, and falling in love with Holden. It was also a difficult time when I lost my last living grandparent, Grandpa Eddie. I will be forever grateful that he was able to meet Holden (and give his approval) before he passed away.
26 // Puppy Love
Holden and I moved in together and adopted our sweet Chipoo baby Zeus. I also started a new job with i5 web works where the two co-founders taught me everything I know about SEO. Most pictures from this year are of Zeus and Daisy, up until December when Holden surprised me with a Christmastime proposal at Sushi Zushi.
27 // All the Feels
If there was ever an “emo” year in my twenties, 27 was it. It was a triple threat of stressors– finding my birth family (and traveling to Korea for a reunion), buying our first home, and planning our wedding. I’m not sure how we made it out alive, but it ended up bring Holden and I even closer before the big day. Oh, and karaoke.
28 // Wedding Bells
The happiest day of my life happened this year– marrying my best friend, Holden Hostetler. It was the perfect day, surrounded by my friends and family, in my beloved wedding gown, with my mom’s veil… Words cannot describe the magic. This needs its own post, so instead I’ll leave a link to our Style Me Pretty feature for more photos by the amazing Elisabeth Carol Photography. The events leading up to the wedding, my bridal shower and bachelorette party, were also some of the best times of my life– let alone, decade.
29 // Blog-tographer
Since I’m running out of time, and probably your attention span, I won’t write too much about this year because it’s already been covered on my blog recently. Basically, this year was the birth of Diversity Chic and my blogger besties. I celebrated my birthday last year in true Stephanie fashion– at Family Karaoke! (Are you noticing a pattern, yet?) I don’t have a ton of pictures of myself to share because I spent most of this year behind the camera shooting Dallas Fashion Bloggers. My fashion photography pilgrimage led me to New York Fashion Week, where I shot my first runway show (and got press credits). My twenties ended on a high note when I landed my dream job at rewardStyle.
Thus ends Stephanie’s life as a “twentysomething” and the beginning of a bright new adventure in my 30’s!