a look at 29

Torres del Paine in March 2019 // Credit: Silvestre Seré

30. I’m supposed to have it all figured out, right? Husband, house, kids, stable job. That’s what society tells me, at least. I turned 30 at the start of February and check none of those boxes. In a lot of ways, I’m more confused than ever before. But I also know those boxes aren’t for me at this moment in my life. If I were in those shoes, so to speak, I would likely feel as though I’m selling myself short. I would likely yearn for this life I’m living now – with all its beauty, adventure, potential, freedom, fear, self-doubt, [occasional] loneliness, unknowns, challenges, etc.

As I start life in my 30s, I’m searching. And I’m quite sure anyone who’s spent time with me in recent days, weeks and months knows or can see this. I’m searching for who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m searching for my purpose, my place and who I am in and with and through God.

And while I’m mostly living in the present and looking forward these days, as I started this new year in my life in February, I couldn’t help but look back on all that 29 was. Here’s where I landed.


On February 1, 2019, I celebrated 29 at the hospital with my dad and mom and then later had dinner, watched “Meru” and had a slumber party with my mom and aunt.

In the year that followed, I re-connected and spent a lot of time with family and friends in Michigan. I was reminded of the value of community, near and far.

I am so grateful for Cindy and Mark Ventimiglia – who feel more like family than friends now – and their kitties. Memories from our time at their cozy home on a lake include watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, completing quite a few puzzles together and Mark playing guitar in the mornings and evenings.

In March, I re-rooted myself in Bariloche. My friendships with Mica, Juli and Bruna grew deeper. I traveled within Patagonia. I faced my own health struggles. In April, I traveled to Misiones with Mica and Sabri and had a tough call with Dad one morning where he told me he felt like he was dying.

In May and June, I traveled back to Michigan. I was so relieved to get there for so many reasons. Those were okay months for me but by far the most challenging for Dad. They were tireless months. Mom and I shared spending nights at the hospital with Dad.

I worked – like, my job – through it all. In addition to freelance stories, I collaborated with the RANGE team, who I love, admire and respect so much, and others to bring Issue 11 of the magazine to print.

I tried to maintain a routine. Admittedly, I let my physical health go. I worked to study God’s word and grow my spiritual health. Even in the toughest moments, I saw and see so many blessings.

At the end of June, I returned to Argentina. In July, a major snowstorm hit Bariloche that kept most people without power and water and transportation for a few days.

In August and September, I devoted myself to my work and short documentary. I made some insanely challenging decisions. I’m still not sure they were the right ones.

I bought a car and moved to my own apartment. [I’d always been renting people’s places through them and not through an agency. So this was different.]

In September, I traveled to Santiago, Rancagua, Pichilemu and unexpectedly Osorno. I arrived back to Bariloche via bus through a massive snowstorm in the Andes while sick. At the end of the month, I skied at Cerro Catedral with Juli.

In October, I went back to Michigan. It was my first time home with my family all year. I savored Northern Michigan in autumn. My favorite time of year there. I celebrated Carly and Alex’s love at their wedding and reconnected with some of my best friends from high school.

On my last day in Michigan, I went for a color drive with my family. Kathryn went to the ER. Mom hit a low. It was a tough and bittersweet last day and night. A lot of questions raced through my mind and heart.

I drove to Birmingham the next day, where I spent a final night at Lisa and Glenn’s Kennesaw house. [They moved to Florida a week later.] I organized a ton of gear for travel and then flew from Detroit to Kathmandu. I spent two exhausting but beautiful and humbling weeks uncovering story after story in Nepal while filming a short documentary with some incredible people. Arc’teryx joined our project as a sponsor.

I flew to Florida. Exhausted. Wiped out. I spent a week there with my mom, grandparents and aunt and uncle.

Mid-November, I returned to Argentina and sank back into community. With regard to Dad and his cancer, we got the best news ever the day before Thanksgiving. I hosted my third Thanksgiving dinner – and celebrated my fourth Thanksgiving overall – here.

In December, Teva joined our documentary project as a sponsor and Arc’teryx upped their sponsorship. I traveled to Piedra Parada with Juli during Christmas and then hiked Paso de las Nubes with her just before 2020 set in.

I tried to take January a little easy, while still devoting myself to the documentary and three stories for publication. I applied for a temporary assistant editor job at Alpinist; had two interviews and great convos with their editorial team; was asked for references; but ultimately ended up not making the cut. Bummed all around.

On January 30, I crossed to Osorno, Chile for a night and returned to Bariloche with my friend Bruna. On February 1, I celebrated 30 with Bruna and friends here in Bariloche before then heading south in my car with my Chilean bestie on a Patagonia road trip.

I can’t even begin to make sense of the past year of my life. It’s seen me at some of my lowest lows as well as some pretty high highs. But for most of the year, if I’m being honest, I think I’ve actually been quite numb. Have you ever felt that way? I think it’s the result of a self-protection shield of sorts that started forming years ago and that really grew thicker last year, as I’ve tried to “stay strong” for myself and my family, friends and community.

I feel as though I’ve lost a part of myself in recent years. Somewhere along this journey, I think I’ve tried fitting into this mold of what I think my life should look like or how I think I want it to look. This year, I want to recommit to living my life for God and for me. I want to recommit to living my life from the heart and soul of who I am. I want to live in abundance. I want to surround myself with people who believe in and respect me and my dreams and who approach life with a positive, “can do” attitude.

29 saw me split more time than ever in recent years between Michigan and Patagonia. In a really weird way, I’m nostalgic for a lot of this past year – the ways in which it brought my family and our community closer. I’m grateful for friends near and far who stuck by my side when I wasn’t physically present. I’m grateful for friends who showed up after quite a while without contact. Some friendships drifted away this year. Many grew stronger. And some long-held friendships that had been dormant for several years came alive again.

29 saw me tackling my biggest personal passion project yet. It saw me making some of the toughest decisions of my life to date. It saw me let other people down. It saw me be let down by others. And it saw me let myself down. Perhaps more than anything, it’s taught me resilience.

29 saw me through poor treatment from others. Disrespected by others. With no apologies in sight.

29 saw me move into a new place in Bariloche, the first time I’ve actually had to decorate my own space here. It feels like a bit of a commitment. What am I even doing?

29 saw me buy a manual car in Argentina – that I didn’t fully know how to drive at the time of purchase. 29 saw me stall out plenty of times. It also saw me navigate conversations with mechanics in Spanish, when I don’t even speak “car” in English. [Side note: I pride myself on being a good driver and have managed to master driving stick shift. Also, the trips to the mechanic have been routine.]

29 saw me grow stronger and fall apart – again and again and again. I suppose resilience could be a word for 29. Perhaps 29 showed me just how resilient I am.

29 taught me a lot. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite year, but I’ll take it for what it was, all that it gave me, all that I gave it and all that it taught me.

Life is tough and tricky, and these days, I often don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going. I’m looking forward to 30 – I don’t fear it – and I hope it’s a year of resetting and coming back to the heart and soul of who I am, stepping further into God’s purpose and vision for my life and re-calibrating with my true north.

29 was good, but I’m content at moving forward.

March 28, 2020

Note: All of this was written around my birthday in February. I’m just getting around to publishing it in the midst of the current global pandemic.

One thought on “a look at 29

  1. Carol McKee

    Enjoyed your introspective blog for a tough year. You were my rock – could never have navigated all the uncertainty, caregiving, and emotional ups and downs without your support.

    Love you.


    Sent from my iPad


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