The Last Day of My Twenties


The big one. 3-0. The one that always seemed so “old” and the one that I have relentlessly teased my brother about since he turned 30. Thirty, flirty, and thriving? How about thirty, global pandemicing, and barely surviving the mountains of stuff on my to-do list? The amount of big and small life moments that have happened over the last 10 years is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

Turning the legal drinking age, an undergraduate college degree, marriage, house, car, graduate degree, and kids.

I’ve been lucky enough to check off the milestones I wanted to have accomplished by now. I have a job that I love (most days) and a wonderful family (also most days). I’m fully aware that I’m still young and that I have a lot of life ahead of me.  I get to enjoy seeing my two young children grow and learn new things all the time. 

My twenties were a time for me when I accomplished a lot of the goals I had set for myself when I was young. I’m now a mother, wife, and teacher. The three things I’ve wanted to be since probably second grade. I’ve learned so much about myself through these different facets of myself. I have learned how to completely give of myself to other human beings in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I have learned to wrangle 30 kids into learning how to write a paragraph and do long division.

The power of words

Most of my twenties I sought out praise and accolades from others. As someone who’s love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service, I now realize that I only felt accomplished when someone else told me I did well. I thrived on hearing from a professor or principal how well my lessons went or how creative I was. I never believed I was good at my job, even though I was hired in an extremely competitive district right after college. After 4 years in that role as a 3rd grade teacher, I took a leap of faith and applied to be a STEM teacher at the future intermediate school in my district. When I applied and interviewed I didn’t think I even had a shot. In fact, I thought I might get hired to fill the position of the person that I was certain would be chosen instead. But, I did get the job.

I have gained so many new skills and abilities over my last 3 years as a STEM teacher. I had never done robotics, 3D printing, or laser cutting before. Teaching sixth graders was also something new to me. And I never had over 200 kids in a single day. To say I was overwhelmed at first is an understatement. But I kept pushing through, showing up, and doing the work. I feel confident in the program I’ve helped develop at my school.   I’ve learned to become proud of myself, what I do for my students, and the work I do to help support our staff. I’m starting to learn my value, even if my heart still glows with pride when someone says kind words to me. 

Becoming engaged in the world

Like a lot of college students, politics wasn’t big in my mind. I played in the pep band when John McCain held a campaign rally at my alma mater, Otterbein College, in the fall of 2008. Other than that, I didn’t hold strong political leanings. I was ambivalent about the world and the country around me. During the 2012 election, my then-fiance and I had started to really talk more about politics. Since the 2016 election, I have learned more about our political system and how it works. I won’t delve into my political beliefs, but it’s become something that I am proud of and something that I feel a sense of peace about. I still don’t know a lot about foreign policy and would rather watch Top Chef than a debate, but I feel more informed and engaged now than I ever thought I would be and that makes me a proud citizen of this country. 

Looking towards the future

Through my job as a teacher and writing for Toledo Moms over the last few months, I’ve developed a big sense of joy in helping other adults and moms navigate this new role. I want to continue to help support moms, moms-to-be, and women. I’ve been working on setting new goals for myself as I look towards my fourth decade on this planet. I hope that I continue to be confident in myself, to raise my children to be kind and thoughtful people, to be a supportive loving wife, and to help my community by educating others. 

Last picture of my twenties!

Note: The wine glass was full when I started writing this post

So I guess, in conclusion, maybe turning 30 isn’t going to be so bad after all. 


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Julia Whalen
Julia resides in Perrysburg with her husband, their three children (Ari (6), Annie (3), and Jonah (9 months)), and two cats (Godric and Cali). Her children are the most amazing, funny, lovable, and crazy little humans she’s ever met. Julia moved here from the Cleveland area right after college. Some of her favorite things about living in NW Ohio are being able to do legal U-Turns and going over 25 mph on a main road. When she is not fulfilling her Ravenclaw dreams of working as a STEM teacher or moming, Julia is most likely rewatching The Office or rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time. Her favorite places are Target, Starbucks, and Disney World. Feel free to follow on Instagram @jwhalen1


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