The Most Memorable Lessons from Every Year of Life

Each year my birthday rolls around, I like to look back and see all the new milestones and misfortunes I’ve encountered in previous years. This year is the iconic “golden birthday” for me, which gives me a reason to make a big deal out of turning a random age of 23. Psychology says that you remember significant moments the best because of how feelings associate with memory stores. While I don’t remember much before the age of 4; there are a few recollections I randomly have that I don’t understand the significance of at all. It’s interesting to look back at each year of your life and try to figure out why the moment that stood out the most did, because for a lot of mine, there definitely were a lot more important things going on in my life at the same time. With that, here’s a look into a memory that stood out from each year of my life (and perhaps a mini child psychology lesson on how the mind and memories change as we get older!)

1. Tantrums in public places are effective

I have always had a little bit of a stubborn side, even back to diapers. My location of choice to be stubborn has not always been the most convenient…for my parents. On this day in particular, shopping was not what I wanted on my agenda so I decided to crawl under a department store display table and started kicking and screaming and flailing my limbs. I wouldn’t let my mom get me out from under the table, it was my fortress, and no pacifier was working that day. I was just not having it with Macy’s new spring inventory I guess. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish, but if the goal was to get out of there it worked. If the goal was to embarrass my mom, that worked too.

2. Stubby legs are a hazard

It doesn’t seem like a slide would be dangerous, but when you take a two year old wth stubby legs down a curvy carnival slide at the county fair, we learned that’s a problem. My mom put me in her lap to go down the slide, not knowing that when we approached a turn my leg wouldn’t go the same way as hers which resulted in my little leg jamming into the side of the slide. I wasn’t quite at the conversational age yet, but I did manage to repeat “leg” over and over again to confirm my mom’s worst thoughts as she felt my leg do things it wasn’t supposed to.

3. Best friends go to the bathroom together

I don’t quite remember much from being three, except for Anna. Our parents may have been what brought us together, but it was our own doing of being the dynamic duo by being each other’s plus ones to our brothers’ birthday parties, ordering the same thing at restaurants when our families went to Red Robin, making up songs, wearing matching outfits every time we saw each other, and we even hopped on the trend of girls going to the bathroom together at an early age. This is the age that I learned what having a best friend looks like, and to this day, our friendship sets the bar very high and sets my expectations. Over the years, not much has changed except for the fact that her growth spurt started when mine stopped.

4. Gymnastics is not a french toast sticks eating contest

The day I entered TAGS gymnastics will always be one of the most monumental moments to me, which is why I probably remember this. When my mom told me I was going to be starting gymnastics, for some odd reason the “stics” part translated to french toast sticks in my mind. I liked my breakfast foods so I was excited to start this new competitive hobby. When she brought me into the building for the first time, I remember looking around and through the windows at all the mats and colorful obstacles to climb on everywhere. While I did not see any french toast sticks anywhere, I was still overjoyed by what I saw instead. The rest is history.

5. I do know my address, I swear

For those who read my embarrassing stories post that included the time I submitted “how to toast a pop-tart” to my kindergarten cookbook, this memory is a close second for memories that still haunt me from kindergarten. 5 year old Lauren was painfully shy to the point where I did not like to speak to adults on my own, let alone sing. I remember this moment because it was the first time I ever felt regret for not speaking up. We were given the assignment to memorize our address to recite to our teacher. My mom helped me at home to make up a song and I was really good at it! When the time came to recite it to Mrs. Tan, I got nervous and told her I forgot, even though I didn’t. I was too shy to sing my song in front of someone, and I could have spoken it, but I had never practiced it like that before. I was all or nothing back then, too. I took the L on that one, and my mom was not happy when I got home.

6. Small people propel easily

Throwback to Mother’s Day in first grade. It was also my next door neighbors grad party. We were only going to stay 20 minutes, but it only took 5 minutes for me to be propelled out of a tiny hole in the net, which sent me flying through the air onto the ground. My left arm broke the fall, and broke itself. The 5 minute bounce session resulted in 2 pins put in my arm and I remember ending the night sitting in the hospital bed apologizing for ruining Mother’s Day. I got a stuffed pink bunny from the hospital so it was obviously worth it all.

7. I’m not the best pet owner

Back in 2nd grade, we were given the chance to take are of a mealworm as a little pet to watch it grow. We got a few minutes each day to take our mealworm out and set it on a paper plate to see it move around. I on the other hand, had different ideas. I would hang my mealworm off the edge of the paper plate with the reasoning that I was training it to be on bars like I was at gymnastics. My mealworms (yeah my teacher gave me a few tries at it) did not live long.

8. When in doubt, run killers

In 3rd grade, I was no Simone Biles that was born with natural talent. I worked hard to do what some of my other teammates easily completed. I remember clearly being called out in a team huddle one day that I wasn’t good enough and probably wouldn’t make it as a gymnast. That lit the fire in me to use what I did have- my competitiveness, and the ability to push myself. That day, I out ran everyone in killers by a landslide, and finished first in the conditioning contest. That same coach came up to me after conditioning and told me “you surprised me Casey, way to go.” I truly believe this grit mentality that was created in me since then was why I did make it so far in gymnastics.

9. I’m a poet and I didn’t know it

What I remember most about 4th grade, is that it was the year I knew I liked to write. My love for writing did not wait to surface until high school, it started in Mrs. Angermeyr’s 4th grade poetry unit. I don’t know what it was that drew me to it; the freedom she gave us to write about whatever we wanted, or the fact that we got to print it on pretty stationary. That year, our whole class wrote poems to submit to a poetry book to be published. I thought that was so cool, and the fact that my poem was in a book gave me the confidence to keep writing. Who knew a poem called “July” could have been the reason I loved AP Lit, CIS composition, and started my blog!

10. I chose my college major in 5th grade

For those who regularly read my posts, you already know my FND story and that it started at the age of 10. While most of my 5th grade year was filled with a lot of traumatizing memories, my love for psychology stemmed from it. When people ask me how I was so confident declaring my major September of my freshman year at a liberal arts college; I tell them it originates from having to learning neurology since 5th grade (that I ended up learning again in college psych). I liked hearing new theories and new facts, and I think my love for the brain made the fact that I wasn’t living the life as a typical 5th grader a lot easier to handle.

11. Life is better without bangs

By the time I got to 6th grade, I was till mourning the loss of my “signature look.” I soon came to realize that my life greatly improved by growing my bangs out since thick headbands, sparkly butt jeans and Aeropostale shirts was the “in look” to be cool at middle school. It also made life easier when I didn’t have to deal with sweaty bangs back in the day of having gym class smack dab in the middle of the school day, or blowing them out of my face at gymnastics practice.

12. Stress leads to my success

I am sure a lot of important things happened in 7th grade, but at this time in my life, gymnastics was my life. I needed to learn how to do a cast handstand on bars in order to move up to Level 7. I had every other skill, but that one. If there was not a skill I could conquer at practice, I would spend all day at school stressing about practicing drills at home, and visualizing it in bed until I got to practice to try it again. One random Tuesday night, my coach told me it was time to pack up my grips and go home after spending all of the hour bar rotation trying to do it. He insisted I could try it again tomorrow, but I didn’t get off the bar. He stood there with his arms crossed trying to coax me to go home, but I told him I could do it. I somehow casted right to handstand and he looked at me shocked. I moved up to level 7 the following week.

13. There is such thing as too many back bends

In 8th grade, out of fear of learning to do a backwalkover backhandspring for my tumbling series on beam (silly me, scared to do a flip on a wood plank), I settled with a backwalkover-backwalkover which resulted in a stress fracture in my back from so many reps. It landed me in a brace for 3 months that I could only take off to shower, and took me out of more than half of my season only giving me 1 week to learn how to swing 360 degrees around the high bar in order to qualify for state (I did it). That’s what I get for trying to go the easy way out.

14. Representing my region

9th grade was my busiest year. My balancing act between all honors classes in school, and all the time working towards my goal of qualifying for Regionals didn’t leave much time for a social life. When I couldn’t go to my friends, they came to me and cheered me on at my meets. There were many nights spent eating Culver’s cheeseburgers or leftovers from dinner at 9 PM and finishing my homework at midnight because of my daily 4:30-8:30 practices, but I didn’t mind. I learned a new backhandspring-backhandspring tumbling series to avoid literally breaking my back again, and a new bar dismount that no one had competed at state, except me. My hard work paid off and I got to represent Minnesota at regionals in St. Louis that year which was the peak of my club gymnastics career, and my last hurrah which I wasn’t aware of yet.

15. Hockey breezers are great for beam

The most significant moment of my sophomore year was making the decision to stop eating Culvers cheeseburgers at 9 PM. By this, I mean I left club gymnastics to find more balance in my life in high school gymnastics. In the gymnastics world, this is a huge change. But to my surprise, I loved the shift. I was able to spend more time with friends and be more of a typical high schooler, all while still trying to reach my dream of college gymnastics. Competing in the varsity lineup for my high school was so much more rewarding than competing for myself. I’ll never forget the time I used random hockey breezers I found outside the gym one day to conquer my fear of missing both feet while learning a front handspring on beam and breaking the fall with my crotch. I ended up competing the fronthandspring as part of my tumbling series through college.

16. No coughing during floor routines

Most people’s most memorable moment at 16 is getting their drivers license. While that is still significant for me, sections junior year is even more memorable to me. On the morning of sections I woke up sick as a dog. I had myself convinced that I was not going to compete that day, but what kind of captain doesn’t show up to sections? I remember being in the middle of my floor routine trying not to cough, then wondering if I would get a deduction if I did cough. Surely there is a deduction for coughing if there is one for your underwear involuntarily popping out. By the end of the meet I was at a fever of 102 and to this day I still have no clue how I made it through.

17. Go for comfort not fashion

I am pretty basic in the sense that Senior Prom night was my favorite part of senior year. It was the last time to be together before we all parted different directions for college. So with this, I wanted to look stunning for the big night and I wanted it to be memorable. I got brand new black heels that were taller than any pair I have owned because my date was a solid foot taller than me, and they matched my black number of a dress perfectly along with the tan I went to Wisconsin for every week since tanning under 18 is illegal in MN (I was dedicated). The night’s lineup included the dance hosted at International Market Square featuring the Johnny Holm Band, and a party bus for the night. While all of this lived up to my high school musical expectations, the pain from being in the tall heels is what I remember most, and I only lasted an hour in them. I haven’t touched them since.

18. Dreams don’t only come true at Disney

My goal to be a college gymnast began when I was 8, and seeing my name on the Gustavus gymnastics roster freshman year was a moment I will never forget, as well as the feeling as being mildly disappointed that I was second shortest on the team rather than the front runner. A lot happened freshman year, including having to quit gymnastics from injury; but being able to say that I made it, even if it was for a little bit, overpowered it all. I loved the team dinners, high energy meets, brunches at coach’s house, and dressing up as a Taco Bell hot sauce packet (I was short and spicy) for halloween with the rest of the freshmen specifically stands out to be during this time, because why wouldn’t it?

19. Everyone could use sisters

Starting out sophomore year with no gymnastics was really hard on me, but I found a new community to devote myself to and found more time to do other things such as going to France over J-Term. While France was awesome, the biggest highlight this year was being a Tri Sigma because it is when I met my Big, Perry. This sorority filled a lot of voids that I didn’t know needed filling once I had to stop gymnastics, and Perry was my biggest role model all throughout college. The day the sorority knocked on my door and sang loudly in my face to let me know I was a part of the sisterhood was something I didn’t know I needed until that moment.

20. Eggs are in everything

Junior year was not the greatest for me; I lived in an office (only could fit a bed and a small dresser in there), dealt with more health and mental health issues than ever before, and had to cut out gluten, dairy, soy, and egg from my diet to heal gut issues. I really thought that gluten and dairy would be the hardest ones to avoid, but there is egg in literally every food I wanted to eat at the caf except for the salad bar. My nickname that year was “rabbit girl” by the cafeteria ladies. Junior year was kind of a blur for me, but I was pretty great at throwing sorority picnic potlucks despite the fact I couldn’t indulge in any of it.

21. Work perks work

My favorite and most significant memory from senior year was my internship with the VP of HR at Gustavus that landed me my job at Boom lab in October 2019 before Covid kicked me out of school. I was sent on a quest to network with 15 different people at 15 different companies all over the cities. Most of my semester was a big field trip to check out the culture and what kind of company/role I could see myself in. I would not have guessed that Post had a wall of cereal and a cereal and milk bar for their employees, Cantel had a full sized basketball court, QBP encouraged bringing your dogs to work, and Boom Lab had a fridge specifically stocked with all Bubbly to go with their rooftop patio area. Psychology never said that bribing your employees doesn’t work!

22. Any year after 2020 is an improvement

Everything about being 22 was great. There wasn’t one moment that stood out more than the rest (except Covid, finding out I’ve had Lyme for 16 years, and finally having commencement), but rather, who made those moments great.

23. The golden year

While it literally is my golden year, something about this year feels more “golden” than most. I am creating a career path that I love, started up a young adult community at my church, am almost done with my Lyme Disease treatment that will hopefully complete the birthday wish I’ve made since I was 10 that my FND would get better, but most importantly, I discovered Trader Joe’s. I don’t want to speak too soon, but this golden year might just be the year that I overcome all the things I have been enduring and working towards for years….and maybe learn how to cook after saying I would for a year now!

As I was writing this and I started to write about my more recent years, I started to realize a shift and I felt like I was going off topic from the title of this blog. As I tried to reel it in, I realized that I couldn’t because my last few years were filled with a lot of milestones, but it’s more of a collective effort that makes the year memorable, and WHO I was with. Adult Development Psychology says that as we get older, the things we start to remember more have to do with people rather than specific things we did. This is along the same lines as “it’s not about what you did for someone, it’s how you made them feel.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I realized that as I’ve gotten older, my focus has broadened more, and I am not thinking about gymnastics (or french toast sticks), being perfect in school, achieving things for my own advantage, or bad events that happened to me like breaking a bone. Now, I’m focused on connecting with my coworkers to make a difference in someone’s day, who I want to spend my time with, and what moments have made me into the best version of myself. I have no clue what this next year holds for me, but as long as it doesn’t involve any more pandemics, ticks, department store tantrums, back bends, or singing my address- I think I am on the right track.

Have a golden rest of July, friends!