A Decade in Review

It’s time to ring in the new year but this year is different, as we are also ringing in a new decade.

Before I ring in this new decade by channeling my inner Gatsby and calling everyone “Old Sport,” I thought I’d take a minute to reflect on this past decade.

The past ten years have been life-changing, to say the least. This decade defined me and made me who I am today. I think for many people, their early twenties consist of life-defining moments that impact the rest of their lives. But for me, I feel like more has happened in the past 10 years than most experience in a decade.

Let’s begin in 2010!

In June 2010, I graduated high school. I vividly remember sitting front row at graduation and the Grad Night festivities that took place later that evening. At the end of Grad Night, I remember seeing one of my friends crying and I asked him what was wrong. He said this would be the last time we’d all be together. As the years progressed, I came to realize how right he was. We may come back for reunions or different school events, but it’s never be the same. (And lets be real, who isn’t glad high school is over?)

In August 2010, I started my first year at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. I was rather nervous to start this new phase of life because I was going to be so far from home, and would only be going back to California for Christmas and summer breaks. While I was homesick frequently, I adapted pretty quickly to my new environment and learned that I really loved the Midwest and its easy lifestyle. California was all hustle and bustle, but the Midwest was relaxed and kind. At school and around town, you’d say “hi” or wave to people you passed on the street; everyone was genuinely kind and cared about your well-being. It was a culture shock to come back to California and feel the exact opposite, where everyone was always in a hurry and kept their heads down. Over my time in college, I seriously considered staying in the Midwest after college, but eventually decided to return to California, since I missed my family too much.

I was very active in different organizations throughout college, including Red Scare (the student athletics spirit org), my sorority Theta Phi Alpha, the Panhellenic Council, and the Pre-Law Program. I thoroughly enjoyed being busy all the time and planning different events for the orgs. I met so many different kinds of people that opened my eyes to different cultures, spanning from different areas of the United States, all the way to Africa.

In September 2011, my beloved uncle lost his battle to cancer. This was probably the first death of my adult life that really had an impact on me. My uncle was one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in your lifetime. He was genuinely happy all the time, and outwardly displayed his love for his family, his community, and God on a daily basis. He is someone that is deeply, deeply missed whenever we have family events, as he was truly the life of the party.

My third year of college was the most memorable. In March 2013 on St. Patrick’s Day, I was sexually assaulted by my best friend, and then a month later, my grandma passed away during finals.

I’ve been very open about my sexual assault experience, and you can read about that HERE and HERE. That night feels like it’s frozen in time, where I can vividly see the events unfolding before me as if I was back there again. That night changed me more than any singular event (that is, until 2016). I dive deeper into that night and the aftermath in the blog posts referenced above, but the synopsis is that night plunged me into a dark depression, fueled by PTSD and anxiety. It was crippling and it wasn’t until years later that I learned how to cope with all the different emotions I was feeling surrounding that night.

And as previously mentioned, my grandma died just over a month later at the age 96 on my Dad’s birthday. I was living in my sorority house at the time, sitting at the kitchen table when I got a phone call from my Dad. After wishing him a happy birthday, he gave me the news. After crying for a while, my roommate and her boyfriend took me to Graeter’s to get ice cream (best ice cream ever, by the way). My Grandma Ashes was an amazing woman and one of the main reasons I went to college in Dayton, where I was surrounded and embraced by her siblings and their families. She’s definitely someone I miss a lot, especially while eating donuts from VG’s or Mexican food from Tony’s Jacal.

In May 2014, I graduated college and went on a road trip with my sister and niece back to California. This was a day I thought would never come. I spent my entire senior year of college wishing I could leave and go back to California because of how depressed I was from my assault. A pivotal moment for me was driving over the bridge from Ohio to Kentucky, watching the Cincinnati skyline in the rear view mirror slowly faded away, silently crying. It felt like I was physically and emotionally putting that night behind me, that life behind me, and moving on to a better life (although, actually “moving on” didn’t come until much later).

That road trip was one of my favorite trips. Our main stop was New Orleans, and then on to Roswell, New Mexico to see aliens, Albuquerque to see the Breaking Bad filming locations, and finally, Vegas!

In August 2014, I started my first year of law school at Whittier Law School in Orange County. I remember feeling like I didn’t belong. I was one of the youngest people in my entire first year class. Despite making friends, I spent most of my time during my first year in the library doing homework and studying. I would get to school way before class started and left late into the evening, because my depression, anxiety, and PTSD were at their peak and I couldn’t deal with being alone in my apartment for extended periods of time. Despite my mental health, I still managed to end my first year in the top 10% of my class, earning myself a spot on the Whittier Law Review and a great scholarship.

In August 2015, I spent two weeks in Ohio for my best friends wedding where I was her maid of honor. That was the only time I have been back to Ohio since graduating college. Although I had mixed feelings about being there and seeing certain people (my assaulter was also in the wedding as a groomsman), it was a fun two weeks helping my best friend put the final touches on her wedding and spend quality time with her.

2016 was a pivotal year for me. It started with my Grandma Mary, the woman I was named after, passing away in January. Her death was not completely unexpected, as her health had been declining ever since my uncle passed away. Although it was sad, her death felt more joyous because of her love for Jesus and knowing she was in Heaven with Jesus, my uncle, her parents, and other family and friends who had passed before her. To date, that has been the only funeral I’ve been to where people told me “she’s in a better place” and I actually believed it and didn’t feel angry about death. I knew she was someone who, once she reached Heaven, would race into the arms of Jesus and have the longest embrace with her Savior. It brought me great peace knowing she was where she wanted to be.

In April 2016, I went on the worst date of my life, but shortly thereafter in May, I went on my last first date. Bret (spoiler alert, my now-husband) finally asked me out on a date after 12 years of being friends. We had met in middle school and had crushes on each other ever since. Nothing came of it until one day I got a text from him and the rest was history.

What wasn’t expected that year was the death of my Dad that following November. I have written many blog posts about his death and its impact on me. Most notably, HERE, for what happened.

I consider there to be two defining moments in my life thus far: my sexual assault and my Dad’s death. Both events taught me more about myself and my capabilities than anything else I’ve experienced. Specifically, in regards to my Dad, I had to learn how to live and thrive on my own. While I did live on my own and support myself, my Dad was always there. I spent almost every weekend with him while I was in law school, we went on road trips frequently, shared a love of walking through model homes and open houses, and ate way too many donuts together. I leaned on him for support to get me through the difficult days of college and law school when it felt like my inadequacy was too great. He was my cheerleader, the one who, upon hearing my new goal or dream, would always say “let’s do it” without hesitation. In high school, when I was on the golf team, he golfed with me every weekend so I could continue to improve. He took me on a road trip in high school to tour colleges and then again to tour law schools. He talked to attorneys about their experiences and asked them for advice. He was always putting me first and trying to think the of the next action to get me to my next goal. When he died, I wasn’t ready to live a life where my Dad no longer existed. I still felt like a child that very much needed her Dad’s guiding hand.

But I quickly learned how to guide myself as I was thrust into the world of parenting. Two days after my Dad’s funeral, I found out I was pregnant. The timing was less than ideal considering Bret and I had only been dating for about nine months and my Dad had literally just died. But God knew best (like always) and gave me my Little Angel Baby to save my life.

I’ve talked about this with Bret and family numerous times, but I feel like Amelia coming into my life when she did truly saved me from, what would have been, the darkest depression I would probably ever experience. Had I not gotten pregnant, who knows what would have happened to me, to my relationship with Bret, or my legal career. But I know for certain none of those things would have ended well.

Also considering the timing of my pregnancy, it really did work out for the best. I was in my last semester of law school and studying for and taking the Bar Exam. I gave birth exactly one month after I took the Bar Exam. I was very pregnant while taking the exam and just kept praying about getting through the test so I could sleep and eat and do nothing until the baby came.

Then finally, in August 2017, Amelia Wheeler was born (read about her HERE). She is named after one of my favorite Doctor Who characters (Amelia Pond) and my Dad (Wheeler was his first name, though he always went by Nick). Like everyone says, you never truly experience love until you have your own child. The unconditional love I feel for her is unlike any love I have felt for anyone else.

In November 2017, I found out I had passed the Bar Exam on the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death. I remember coming out of my bedroom at my Mom’s house, crying, because I was so relieved. She hugged me and told she knew I had passed the moment I walked out of that exam, which was comforting to know she had faith in me when I had very little in myself. Mom always knows and Mom is always right.

For about a year, I struggled to find a job in Southern California that would pay the bills. Between rent and childcare, we couldn’t afford much, and I started to feel the weight of my student loan debt and credit card debt slowly put pressure on my shoulders. We finally decided to do something about it and learned how to budget in the Fall of 2018, after finding The Budget Mom and Dave Ramsey. Since then, budgeting, paying off debt, and sinking funds have become a slight obsession.

In November 2018, I received the best job opportunity I could have asked for and moved Bret, Amelia, and I up to Fresno. From the time I accepted the position to actually moving and starting my job, everything seemed to fall into place. It was because of our move that, on the second anniversary of my Dad’s death, Bret and I got married. It was a day of mixed emotions, which you can read about HERE, but we wanted to start this new phase of life as husband and wife, and were excited to do so.

Since then, 2019 has been spent working, playing with Amelia, and hiking all over Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks.

One of the highlights of 2019 came in July when my Mom married her high school crush at the Grand Canyon, which you can read about HERE. We spent almost a week in Arizona celebrating my Mom and Stepdad’s marriage over the long Fourth of July weekend. It was such a fun trip…minus Amelia chipping her two front teeth. I could not be happier for my parents and this new phase of life for them.

Leading up to their wedding, I dealt with a lot of conflicting emotions as to how to cope with having a new father-figure in my life shortly after the passing of my Dad. I don’t think my siblings felt the same because they’re much older and didn’t seek the same advice or approval that I did from our Dad. But Tad has been the biggest blessing in my life, and Amelia and Bret’s lives too. He helped us find a good used truck, figure out retirement funds, and help me with my budget (he also follows Dave Ramsey). As much as I miss my Dad and wish every day that he could be here, Tad is the father-figure I needed for this phase of my life and I will be forever grateful he came into our lives when he did. Bret constantly mentions (especially after this past Christmas with my parents) how Amelia really has the best grandpa that Bret could have ever imagined, and we’re really thankful Amelia has Tad to look up to.

And last, but certainly not least, in August 2019, we found out we are pregnant with our second child. On December 2, we found out we are having a boy and we finally announced it on Christmas Eve. I’m due in May 2020 and we are so excited to add this bundle of joy to our little family. Not only that, but the same weekend I found out I am pregnant, my sister told us that she is pregnant too and due in April 2020! This pregnancy has been exciting because I get to share it with my sister, and since she is also having a boy, we’re excited that our boys will be built-in best friends.

Well, that’s it! That’s the whole previous decade of my life. Sometimes it’s hard to believe so much happened in, what feels like, such a short time span. From birth, to deaths, to career moves, it’s certainly a lot.

I will have a post about my goals for the upcoming year and decade. My main reason for that post is hoping that putting those goals in writing and out into the world will help me actually work towards achieving them.

I am excited to see what 2020 has in store for me, especially with the expectation of a new baby joining our family. I’m also excited to see what happens over this upcoming decade and see how the events of this decade shape me. I doubt this next decade will be as life-changing and defining as this past decade. But I hope, if it is life-changing and defining, that it is through events that are a little more positive than some of the events of the 2010’s.

Until then, let’s ring in the New Year!

Cheers, Old Sport!

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