I’m happy and excited to bring you the first guest blogger, Stephanie Thornsbury, who does an amazing job opening up and sharing her major first life experiences. She highlights how they impacted her and what she learned from them.
Things I Learned from my Top Ten Firsts by Stephanie Thornsbury
Life is full of firsts, some good and some bad, and it’s not always obvious which kinds they are. Firsts can be a very big deal because they will shape and define you. For me, whether they were happy firsts or not so happy firsts, I realized I could choose to learn and grow from them, and in time, they taught me about life and who I am.
My first love
I fell in love for the first time when I was 15 years old. I was at a local music shop looking at the magazines when across the store I spotted this long haired, skinny, and very tall handsome fellow. I was instantly smitten, I walked over to him and started talking about music and we exchanged home phone numbers, this was the olden days before cell phones and texts messages.
We talked to each other for days and hours, I fell madly in love with him, and would have run off to have a million of his babies had he asked. He never asked. Instead, he began dating my best friend and turned into my “best guy friend.”
I was broken. Why didn’t he like me? Why didn’t he love me? And the dreaded question every teenager asks themselves at some point: What was wrong with me?
Eventually, through their relationship, I saw how jealous he was, how possessive, and how quickly he got angry. I saw parts of him I didn’t like without having to go through them myself as his girlfriend and having the emotional scars of his behavior. I learned that just because someone gives me butterflies—I don’t need to give them my heart. I learned that better things were on the horizon.
My First Breakup
I remember back as a teenager (what feels like a long, long time ago) and what it was like to be in love. The sun was brighter and the birds sang louder just for me—and I thought every relationship would last forever. Admittedly this wasn’t quite like that, yet, it was still devastating. Everything is devastating as a teenager!
I was 16 when I got my first official, genuine boyfriend, he was nice and funny, but he never really made my heart flutter. We dated for about 2 months and then one day, while hanging out, he said “I don’t think you are my type.” WHAT? How could he? Break up with me? I don’t think so! I was so heartbroken.
Break ups are always hard, they aren’t fun, but that first one, nothing ever hits quite as hard as that.
Looking back it seems ridiculous because I didn’t like him either, but at 16, being refused for who I was (even though that wasn’t fully clear) was a terrible experience. I cried and questioned myself for a week. But then, my best friend gave me advice that has stuck with me my whole life, “some people are your people, some are not, just find your people.” I learned she was right. I learned it was okay to be me, some people would like me—some wouldn’t—but either way, I would keep marching on.
First Death of a Loved One
I was 16 years old, I came home from school and a friend was waiting for me at my house. She told me while I was at school my best friend had shot himself. That blow can never be explained. I had never lost someone I loved. I retreated inside myself, I went through the stages of grief over and over and over again for weeks. I wanted to talk about him, then I didn’t, then I didn’t want to talk at all. I cried, I screamed, I asked why, and then I cried some more. I couldn’t wrap my head around anything, nothing made sense, the world became so dark, and for a while all the butterflies had broken wings.
This experience has followed me through my life, even now at 35, I often think of what my friend would be like now, would he have kids? Would he have gone to college? Would we still be friends? It lingers in my mind some days more than others.
I learned this was a big defining moment in my life—when a person you love dies—it changes who you are. Everything is defined by this moment, before the lost and after the lost became how I described and identified with time. I learned to cherish and love people with all I have because I have no idea what demons they are fighting and how long I’ll have them in my life.
Moving Out on My Own
I was 20 years old working my very first full time job with a baby and now I was going to go “full adult” and live on my own too. What was I thinking? I was so terrified. What if I failed? What if I lost my job? Can I afford the bills? All the first time questions and no experience to answer them.
Thankfully I had my mom. I called her so much—asking questions about financing, balancing my checkbook, how to cook certain foods, how to make the baby poop (yes, that’s a thing), so many questions at all hours of the day and night. No Google, blogs, Podcasts or Youtube at the time either.
She always answered them, and in time, I found my footing and successfully became an adult, a real genuine adult. I learned it was okay to ask for help and being clueless about things I had never learned, tired, or done before. I learned not to be embarrassed because I needed to learn and grow.
My husband and I met when I was 17, he was so handsome and charming and my heart was his the minute he spoke to me. We had our eldest son when I was 20 and then we got married when I was 23.
Granted we did the whole marriage, home, kids thing a bit backwards but it was still a very scary thing for me. What if we failed at this whole staying in love thing? What if we failed to truly grow with each other? We were so young, we were bound to grow and change, and we did. But, luckily, we did it together, we made each other better, and managed to (almost) always make each other happy. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we don’t like each other, but we always love each other. I learned that marriage is scary but as long as you communicate and you grow together, it is 100% worth it.
Starting My First Job
I remember I got a job at a grocery store when I was 15, I walked in a giant ball of panic. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t know if I would be any good at it. I was a ball of nerves—worried I would screw up even before I clocked in, but you know what? I didn’t.
I made a few “work friends”, quickly learned how to stock, how to run the cash register, and learned how to order merchandise in a very short time. I wound up working at that grocery store through high school—from cashier to assistant manager. From this experience, I learned to face my fears, to go for it because no matter what, at a minimum, I would gain knowledge and experience. I also learned that courage truly is not the absence of fear, but the act of doing despite being afraid.
First Time Losing My Job
This happened to me recently, I was laid off because of budget cuts but it was very sudden. There was no time to think or plan, I had a job, and then I didn’t. A million things went through my head like: how was I going to pay our bills and how I was going to find a job in our very small, very rural town.
At first I was devastated and scared of the financial burden we were about to face. After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I took a deep breath, buckled down, and started figuring out what I wanted to do next. I started writing articles for our local paper and freelance blogging. I also started making art again, something I hadn’t done in years, and selling it online.
I don’t bring in nearly as much income as I did before, but I do help stabilize us, and give my family a little extra spending money. But the best and expected outcome is that I never realized how unhappy I was at my old job, until I realized, how happy I was being at home and letting creativity guide me. This whole situation taught me that money really wasn’t all that mattered and I really needed to start taking time for me. We all say we are going to do that thing we love, someday, but we say that again and again and someday never comes. I have learned to embrace my someday.
My First Child
I was 20 years old when our first son was born. I read everything I could find on babies before he came. But then after he was here, I realized no matter how much I read there really is no manual. Kids are all different and have different needs and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
I worried if I was feeding him enough nutrient rich food. I worried and rushed to the doctor if he so much as sneezed. I homemade his food, I never gave him juice, I read to him every night and we did projects, educational games, and crafts all the time.
He turned into a great kid, at 15, he is smart and funny and sweet, but you know what? I believe he would have turned out the same even if I hadn’t worried over him quite so much. I believe he had a great character already before I helicopter parented him. I learned that I just need to love my children (and maybe feed them once in a while) and everything else will fall into place.
First Panic Attack
My dad was in the army when he was 19, he had never been sick his whole life, not even a cold. While in Korea, directly after the Korean Conflict, he contracted whopping cough. He thought for sure he was going to die and this scared him for the rest of his life. From that point on, he suffered from health anxiety, panic attacks, and at times debilitating agoraphobia.
Once, when I was a child, I remember him losing his job because he was unable to leave the house. That particular episode lasted 3 months. He couldn’t even walk out on the porch because he was sure the minute did, he was going to die. No matter how irrational he knew his thoughts to be—he couldn’t help them. That one sickness changed his life forever.
My dad’s story always haunted me. I too have panic attacks and some pretty severe general anxiety, I fixate on death (remember, losing my best friend) and constantly worry that something is wrong with me. I Google symptoms. I think and think and think, ALL THE TIME.
These started when I was about 15—but because I knew about what my dad was going through—I knew to go to him. I went to him when I was worried. I went to him when I felt the walls caving in and I couldn’t catch my breathe. I went to him when I thought I was going to die. I always went to him and he always talked me down. He helped me through my attacks and provided new tips and tricks from his years of experience that never would have occurred to me. From him, I learned that no matter what I was going through—I was never alone.
Becoming a Caretaker
My mother has pulmonary fibrosis—at first it was slow growing, but has recently gotten a lot worse. She has to be on oxygen at all times and gets out of breath just going to the bathroom. Last year, she also had a stroke, and although her recovery has been amazing, she still suffers from some cognitive loss and speech issues. I also worry she may be developing stroke induced dementia.
This has left me as her caretaker. My father passed away in 2014 so last year my family and I moved in with my mother so I could be with her and help her. This has been challenging because being a caretaker is a lot more than you bargain for. There are so many needs and demands I don’t think of, like: making sure medicine gets filled and taken, making sure she eats enough, helping her bathe and clean up when she has an accident, scheduling and attending doctors appts, and so on.
It also presents a challenge because it is very difficult to watch someone I know to be strong and independent become frail and seeing that look of giving up in her eyes is indescribable. I have gained a lot of life lessons from this experience.
I learned that your parents take care of you and eventually you take care of them. I learned that sometimes I have to love people a different way than I’m used to. I was used to call my mom for advice, and tell her about my day—I can’t do that anymore, so I had to figure out how to love her through the medicine checks, the bathroom trips, and the many other things I do for/with her. It’s different, she’s different, but she isn’t less.
Our lives are defined by our experiences, none more so than our first experiences. Whether good or bad, happy or sad, our firsts make us examine who we are and grow into who we become. Remember to treasure the experiences of life, and never forget we only get one first time.
Stephanie Thornsbury is a freelance blogger, artist, and jewelry designer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of 12 years and her 3 children.