Helloooooo 26! I decided to write this post in celebration of my birthday. Today is my 26th birthday and I still can’t believe I’m pretty much in my late 20’s. I remember being a teenager and feeling like this point was light years away, but it’s come and gone so quickly.
I wanted to dedicate this post to being thankful to see another year and appreciate all the good things that have led me into my 26th year of life.
The past year has been a whirlwind of experiences, precious moments and even tragic losses, but I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I had and the things I learned along the way!
26 Good Things
01. I Spent Quality Time with My Big Brother
Family has always been important to me and growing up, my brother and I didn’t have the greatest relationship. We were never close, but as we got older we started to grow closer. We became even more close when he moved to Germany.
I got the opportunity to go back to Europe to visit my brother. Although a huge condition of me going was to help him after his surgery by cleaning and dressing a surgical wound, it was a great trip nonetheless. My brother and I spent a lot of time together and did a lot of really cool things and I’ll forever be grateful for all of it.
02. I Visited My Ancestral Home of Selange, Belgium
This experience was a once in a lifetime experience and it was very emotional for me. When I went to Europe the year before, my Grandfather asked me if I could make it to Selange. It was the place that my family came from and I would have been the first person in many generations of our family to go there.
Nobody living right now had ever had the opportunity to go there, so when I got the chance to go back to Europe I knew that I needed to see it or I might never have the chance again. So my brother and I drove there and he took a picture of me standing in front of the town sign.
It was a surreal experience and to be honest, I cried a little bit because I was so happy and I knew that it would make my grandfather happy.
03. I Moved to East Lansing
Moving to a city where I had no friends or family was an eye opening experience. It was crazy to just move to a place where we didn’t know anyone and I think that everyone should do this at least once in their life. Moving away was really cool and it taught me a lot of things about myself.
04. I STARTED THIS BLOG
I STARTED THIS BLOG AND I ACTUALLY STUCK WITH IT. I’m so proud of myself for pushing through the dark days and the days filled with self doubt because it led me to the point that I’m at now.
05. I Found Out I’m Going to Be an Aunt
I have two siblings and none of us have children….at least not for another week or two! I found out that my baby sister is pregnant! I’m going to be an Aunt for the first time and I am so excited about it! In all fairness to her, I shouldn’t call her my baby sister because she’s 24 and about to be a mom, but I can’t help it. She’ll always be my baby sister and now she’s going to have a baby of her own.
06. I Flew to New Mexico to See My Mom and My Family
My trip to New Mexico was rooted in sadness and grief. My cousin passed away unexpectedly at 23 years old. It broke my heart and it shattered my family. But in losing him, I gained a relationship with my aunt and uncle who I had rarely seen growing up. I got another opportunity to fly back to the place I came from, see my mother after an entire year and be with my family at the moment we all needed each other.
It was a very sad trip and I wish that I had never been given that opportunity because it would mean that Aaron would be here today. But I am grateful regardless because I was able to be there for the rest of my family and celebrate the life of a truly incredible, beautiful human.
07. I went Canyoning in Portugal
This was another really cool experience I had with my brother. We stayed on the Portuguese island Sao Miguel for about a week. We did a lot of cool things while we were there, but one of the coolest was canyoning through the jungle!
It was freezing, terrifying, exhilarating, and so much fun!
08. I Worked as a Bartender
To some people this might not seem like a good experience or something to be grateful for, but it was. I actually really enjoyed bartending. I learned how to make some really good drinks and I met some really cool people.
I met three of the nicest men I’ve ever come across. They were older gentlemen, all best friends. Two of them were actually brothers, but they were so incredibly kind to me. They laughed, joked, talked with me for hours during my shift and left me with some great advice and restored faith in human kind.
09. I Tried a White Russian for the First Time
As a bartender, I made a LOT of White Russians. I’d always heard about the drink and seen people drinking it, but always wondered what it would taste like. I finally got to taste one on Thanksgiving and I can’t believe what I was missing out on! Which brings me to my next thing…
10. I Discovered Dairy Pills!
Finding dairy pills was a blessing to me. I am allergic to dairy. It causes terrible stomach pains, horrible cystic acne and breakouts, my body can’t digest it properly, and it makes me feel really sick. I found out that there were pills for people like me that help and I was skeptical about them until I finally tried them.
It was amazing! For the first time in my life I didn’t get sick after eating dairy and I realized that’s how normal people feel after eating dairy! The pills don’t completely erase the effects dairy has on my body and it only works for small amounts, so I still try my best to avoid dairy as much as I can. But now I know that if I do want to indulge, I can help my body feel better!
11. I Started Learning About Photography
It’s always been a dream of mine to own a camera and take photos and I finally got the opportunity! Combined with lots of research, a strong desire to learn, and an early Christmas present from my mother (a camera) I was able to start pursuing that dream!
12. I Officially Visited 8 Foreign Countries!
When I first went to Germany in 2017 that was my first time ever leaving the U.S. In face, it was my first time every flying on a plane! By the end of my trip in 2018 I had visited a grand total of 8 countries:
13. I Re-Branded My Blog (Twice)!
When I originally started this blog, it was a travel blog called Wayfarer Wanderlust. I quickly re-branded it as a lifestyle/travel blog called What in the Hello. After that I finally re-branded to Chantel Elizabeth. With each re-brand, it opened up new possibilities for me and it made it that much more possible for me to achieve my dreams.
14. I Loved Myself More
I learned to love myself, be confident in myself and stop caring what other people thought of me. Growing up I was always a very self-conscious person and I still have some of those tendencies, but I’m growing and learning every day how to let go of all the doubt and love myself for who I am. To be quite honest, this blog is a huge reason that I have grown so much and learned to be happy with myself.
15. I Chopped My Hair Off
My hair used to be really long. It was so long that I didn’t know how long it truly was until I cut off over 10 inches. It had been years since I cut my hair and I didn’t want to let go of my beautiful hair, but I had damaged it so badly from hair dye and bleach that I needed to cut as much off as I could bear and start over.
16. I Went to a Michigan State Basketball Game
As a lifetime MSU fan, I’ve always dreamed of going to a Spartan basketball game and I finally got to go! It was a really great experience.
We went to the last home game of the season and got to watch Miles Bridges play his last home game as a Spartan. To some people it might not seem like a big deal, but to me it was an experience of a lifetime.
17. I Went to a Minor League Baseball Game
I’ve been to baseball games before, but the reason this memory will always stick with me the most is because I got to experience it with Trav and he got one of the home team players to give me one of the game balls!
18. I Watched My Cousin Graduate from MSU
Growing up, my cousin Sydney and I were always very close. To be honest, it was more like we were friends than family because I’m about 3 years older than her and we were much closer than my sister and I ever were. I was so proud to watch her graduate and see her accomplish her goals.
19. My Brother and I Took a Road Trip to Slovenia
I’m a road tripper. I would choose a long, fun, eventful road trip over flying any day. My brother and I took a road trip from Germany to Slovenia and it was a really cool experience. We had driven to France a few times the year before and had driven to a few places in Germany, but this was a true road trip filled with lots of stops, lots of cool photos and seeing two countries I had never been to before!
I still miss this insanely beautiful view from our AirBnb.
20. I Saw Dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean
I saw the ocean once when I was in Florida, but never like this. When my brother and I were in Portugal we hopped on a boat and went whale watching in the Atlantic Ocean about 900 miles off the coast of Portugal. I got to see dolphins close up and truly appreciate the beauty of this earth and all of the things on it.
21. I Appreciated the Value of Family More
Besides losing my cousin, I also lost one of my Aunts. Their deaths weren’t far apart and it was very difficult for my whole family to stay strong for each other. Death is hard when we’re the ones left in the absence of someone we love so much.
I’ve always felt strongly about family. Blood is thicker than water. But when Aaron passed away it was an absolute tragedy. And when my Aunt Pat passed away, it was another terrible, difficult loss for everyone. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever taken family for granted, but now I’m placing much more value on making sure I’m there for my family because I don’t want anyone else to go without knowing how much I love them.
22. I Reconnected With Old Friends
I reconnected with some friends that I hadn’t talked to in years. It was nice to see some of them again and remember our friendship growing up. Growing apart from friends sucks, so it’s always awesome when we get the opportunity to become friends again and meet back up on the same path, even if it’s just for a little while.
23. I Got Back into Running
I’m a runner. Always have been, always will be, but there was a very long period of time where I stopped running and neglected my health. I started running again and I’m so glad because even though you might think I’m absolutely crazy, I love it.
24. I Stuck to a Real Skincare Routine
I never really established a skincare routine for myself, but after spotting some very noticeable wrinkles on my face, I decided that I needed to start following a skincare routine. My skin condition greatly improved, my wrinkles started to fade significantly and I wished that I had started following a routine ages ago!
25. I Moved Back Home
Moving back home was a tough decision and the circumstances behind moving home are still a touchy subject and something I’m ready to talk about yet. But moving home brought more opportunities. I really missed home while I was gone.
I loved living in East Lansing, but I knew deep down that I missed being home much more. My family was there, my friends, my whole life!
The rustle and bustle of the city just wasn’t for me and I feel so much better in this tiny corner of the world that a lot of people don’t know about.
26. I Found Myself
Last, but not least throughout everything that has happened and all the experiences I’ve had, I finally found myself. I found out who I truly am, I learned to love myself, I realized what my goals and aspirations truly are and I started actually pursuing the dreams and goals I’ve always had for myself.
For a long time I didn’t know where my path in life was headed. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, or who I was, but somewhere along the way I found myself. I’ve never felt more in tune with who I am and I owe it all to the incredible experiences I’ve had and the harsh lessons I’ve learned along the way.
If you were to ask me three years ago on my college graduation day what I would be doing in three years, my answer would have been much different. I didn’t know at 18 who I wanted to be, and I didn’t know at 23 either, but I’ve finally found myself and at 26 I know exactly what I want and I’m going to make the best of my 26th year of life and do everything I can to pursue my dreams and accomplish my goals!
Happy Birthday to Me! Here’s to another year filled with priceless experiences, pursuing my dreams, accomplishing my goals and lots of lessons learned.