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You @ 25: Surviving the Worst Days

ROI Solutions | You @ 25 Michelle Barnes

I turned 25 on March 11, 2020. You may recognize that date as the day Covid-19 was officially declared a global pandemic or the day the NBA and the NCAA canceled their seasons. You can refresh your memory of that day with the episode from ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast titled “MARCH 11, 2020.”

What I remember most about that day is standing in my mom’s dining room, reading my rugby teammates’ increasingly frantic Snapchat messages as we realized that our season was over before it had begun and that we likely wouldn’t see each other again. That’s when the full gravity of the situation truly dawned on me—nothing would be the same again.

Birthdays have never been a big deal to me. I don’t really ask for presents or a party or anything; it was always enough to have a nice dinner with my mother and brother and call it a day. The day simply marks another year since the last time I reflected on my age. But that year, that birthday, 25, marked the end of a significant chapter in my life. It was the end of the pre-Covid world and the abrupt end of my undergraduate college career, which had spanned seven years, three schools, and two medical leaves of absence. It felt like I had struggled so much to crawl across the finish line, only to find that everyone had gone home and just left a participation ribbon for me to find when I got there. It felt strange to celebrate anything as news of people getting sick, dying, and suffering flooded the media. So that year, instead of finally celebrating the successful end of my grueling journey to a bachelor’s degree, I finished my last class online and logged onto job search websites, desperate to find anything that would give me an income and somewhere to go as I tried to figure out how to spin my math degree into a career in data.

Through it all, I found myself turning to the phrase, “You have a 100% success rate of surviving your worst days.” I’ve always felt that very deeply because I’ve had many days that have felt like the worst ones yet, but the fact that I’m still here to look back on them is a wonder in itself. While the year I turned 25 was bleak, it set me up for the most personally and professionally consequential and successful years of my life in 2021.

Michelle, at 25, couldn’t have imagined what was coming next, and she couldn’t imagine where I am now as I stare down at 29(!) in 2024. I’d love to go back and tell her that although the world was kind of ending, the next part of her life would still come. She’d end up using the hard-won skills and knowledge she’d picked up over the years to do work that supports others doing good work across the globe and move out of her mother’s house and experience the independence that comes with stepping into that part of adulthood.

But, assuming that time travel technology is primitive and I’d only have a limited amount of time to get a message across, I’d tell 25-year-old Michelle to heed the words of one of the greatest philosophers of our generation – “every day above ground is a great day, remember that (dale)!”

This is part of an ongoing series of You @ 25 blog posts where ROI Solutions staff, clients, and partners reflect on lessons they learned at 25 (or through 25 years of professional work) that still guide their path today. Do you have a story to tell?  Email [email protected].

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