I made this sort of post for the first time last year, and I actually didn’t think I was going to carry on the tradition until I started writing my “18 Things I’ve Learned at Age 18” post (coming tomorrow btw). I went back to read my past birthday posts as part of that process and I remembered how much I actually loved this post from last year. I think that as I get older and as the years start to blur together a little more, it will be so special to have these posts sharing however many specific moments that I find most impactful/joyful/special from that year.
So yes, as with pretty much everything I put on this blog, this post is made out of complete self-interest haha. Nonetheless, here are 18 of my favorite moments from age 18.
- Voting for the first time! I was so excited. Since voting is compulsory in Australia, no one gets the “I Voted!” stickers like they do in the U.S., and I was admittedly a little bummed about that (might sound shallow. I don’t mean it in that way. I have just always seen it as a symbol of exercising your political voice, so I was excited to be able to sport one. Until I realized they don’t do that lol). The Australian equivalent I suppose is a Sausage Sizzle which, let’s be real, is way better than a sticker. So I got all excited to go vote and get my celebratory sausage sizzle and I walked out of the polls, euphoric after putting my first ballot in the box, to find that the voting poll in my neighborhood didn’t have a freaking sausage sizzle set up! I know! Outrageous! So then I made my parents drive me to another poll to get the sausage sizzle haha. We also ended up getting a bag of candy and slice, because I mean, how could you refuse? Honestly, we must have looked crazy walking in and heading straight for the food without voting haha. All in all a great first-time voting experience.
- Watching the sunset over Athens with my best friends. This was our second night in Greece, and after dinner, we got some gelato in the Plaka and climbed up to this lookout near the Acropolis. It was so beautiful! It was one of those moments that feels extra special because you just know you’re never going to forget it– almost as if you’re living in a memory (if that makes sense?).
- Beach days at my Mom’s childhood camping spot. As a kid, my Mom and her family would go camping up at Mungo Brush every year, so we always make sure to do at least a few beach days up there for nostalgia but also because it’s a good time. The water is super shallow (and warm) so Gabriel and I usually spend most of the day playing some sort of game with a ball in there or trying to catch fish. Anyway this one day we brought my Grandma’s favorite pool float, a pink flamingo named Frida (yes, she had a name), up with us because it was big enough for us to lay and float around on (also it looked the best for pics lol). After spending literally the entire day on Frida, Gabriel got up to reposition himself and he BROKE HER. I just heard this rip and knew it was the end. Gabriel and I are then causing a scene since we’re both screaming and laughing in disbelief at once, to the point where my parents (who are out fishing probably about 400 yards away) are thinking “yikes what’s happened now”. It was seriously the funniest, most shocking moment where we were all dying of laughter but also dreading having to tell my Grandma. So we did the only thing we knew to do– Gabriel and I held a funeral march and we threw her in a dumpster LOL. OMG also that same day, I had to RUN from the most aggressive Goannas I’ve ever encountered. They were straight-up trying to run off with our bags and my parents were still out fishing and I didn’t know if I was supposed to stay still or run away so I kind of just did both and then ended up knocking over the esky and everything fell out onto the sand. Yeah. Wild times.
- Warm spring nights in the South of France eating homemade pizza on the balcony with some dear family friends. Felt like a freaking dream.
- A very normal sleepover with Catherine and Sophie to kick off grad week. 2019 was a bit of a weird year in that I rarely saw my friends (since I was literally on the other side of the world for most of the year lol). Consequently, any moment I had with them felt special. Cat, Sophie, and I had a lot of pretty cool moments together this past year but one of my absolute favorites is this night back in May. Less than 24 hours after I had landed back in the city for graduation, I was on a train up to Westchester to go see them. We drove around cute neighborhoods, ate our classic diner meal, got ice cream, watched TV, stayed up too late talking, and basically did all the things we had done so many times before. It sounds so normal, so familiar, and I think that that is why it felt so special. I was deep in a season of change and so much newness, and so stepping back into a rhythm of familiarity felt unbelievably comforting. I remember only about 5 minutes after they had picked me up from the train station, Sophie said, “it just doesn’t feel like you’ve been in Australia for five months, Maddy”. She was totally right. It felt like no time had passed and it was just another weekend up in Westchester. Another element to all of this is that it was also our last weekend of high school; we were ending one season and about to step into the next. I’m really glad we got to do that together. It makes my heart swell just thinking about it.
- Full family gatherings at my Bubba’s (great-grandmother) house. I don’t know if this is the same for other families, but for my family, my Bubba’s house is kind of the hub where all the extended family activities are held– everyone ends up at Bubba’s at some point on every holiday or even sometimes just a random Sunday. Before this past year, it had been a long time since we got to be at a full fam event at Bubba’s, so it felt really special to be able to that this year. I got to look through old photo albums and be with all my cousins at once (!!) and eat all my fav. Macedonian food (nbd but my Bubba is 87 and still makes the best Maznik in the game). Such a blessing.
- Swimming in waterfalls in Fiji. I honestly cannot express how beautiful this was. We drove around to the other side of Savusavu and met the village first. I really love getting to do things like this– getting to see how people of different cultures actually live. I had a few moments during this trip where I was struck by how simply they live. Everyone we met was so kind though; I’m convinced that Fijians are the kindest people on the planet. Anyway, so we went on from the village and walked this short trail to the waterfall. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say it felt like we were in the freaking garden of Eden. Yeah. Next level. Literally every single thing about this was perfect. I expected the water to be freezing, the rocks at the bottom to be super slippery, and for the actual waterfall itself to be too forceful to swim under– but nope! The water was the perfect temperature, we all had no trouble walking around or getting in and out, and we could swim under the waterfall for as long as we wanted– no issues at all. There was also no one else there. It was just the most incredible experience– it just felt like everything was working together in perfect harmony.
- Meeting Mormon missionaries in Athens. Oh my GOSH you guys, this was one of my top 10 best moments of the decade. I’m pretty sure I shared this story in my Greece post, but one night in Athens, my friends and I were walking back from Sintagma Square and we walked right into this group of Mormon missionaries. For context, Sophie, Catherine, and I are fascinated with Mormons– we talk about them so often and follow so many on Instagram haha. We had all obviously seen Mormons separately before at some point, but there was just something about seeing them when we were all together that hit different. Anyway, we started talking to them and they were so nice and it was just the best time ever. 10/10 would recommend.
- Picking fresh flowers in the fields in the South of France. And then stopping to play with the neighborhood horse and donkey, Ginger and Papito. Like just straight up too good to be true.
- Rainy boat ride in Fiji! Before we went back to Fiji this fall, my whole family was hyping each other up about what fish we were going to catch. After a bunch of attempts, however, we never had the right conditions so we always came back empty-handed. Despite this, we decided to give it another try on one of our last afternoons as a sort of last-ditch effort. As soon as we got out there, however, it started raining, and we were all “yep let’s go back”. So we start speeding back in the pouring rain, bumping up and down the entire way, and Gabriel and I started belting the High School Musical 2 soundtrack. Honestly, just a super fun time to be alive.
- Playing golf! I played a bunch of golf this past year with my family since my uncle and aunt are pros! And by “played” I mean I drove the cart, hit a few balls every now and then, danced (a lot), and listened to the HSM2 soundtrack (can you tell I love that movie?). If you’re in the Newcastle area, go to Charlestown Golf Club! It’s perfect for any of the activities listed above.
- I really loved all of the Greek Islands we went to, but there was this one moment in Santorini that really just felt like the sort of moment you tell your grandkids about. Sophie and I were walking and (I don’t even really know how/why/when) started singing and dancing to some ABBA song in the middle of the street. I’m sure my friend Valerie has the footage somewhere on her GoPro, but it was just one of those moments that feels like you’re living in a movie.
- Celebrating Christmas with my family! I’ve mentioned this before, but this past Christmas was so special. For the first time ever, my entire family got to celebrate Christmas together (since Cohen wasn’t born yet for our last Christmas in AUS). We’re yet to have an actual Christmas day all together (soon!), but nonetheless getting to spend that time in the Christmas season with them was so so special. I’ll always be thankful!
- Graduating high school! And deciding to take a gap year! Yeah! That happened! Getting to walk in my high school graduation was a rite of passage I assumed I wouldn’t be able to do due to a separate personal situation. But then God moved as only He can and just 10 days after I had returned from Europe, I was on a plane back to the other side of the world to go graduate. Needless to say, being back in NYC, and back in my school for graduation and week leading up to it, was a miracle I will be thanking Him for every day.
- When I came back for graduation, my Mom and I were crazy jetlagged (more than I have ever been!), and so we got up our first morning in the city at like 5:30am and went for a huge walk around the park! We were so early, we had to wait for Starbucks to open haha. It was such a nice morning though! We just walked and chatted for hours. Sweet, sweet moments.
- Saturday morning açaí bowls. This is a weekly tradition that I think will forever be synonymous with this year– I’ve never eaten so many açaí bowls. I got one way more than just on Saturday mornings, but the Saturday morning açaí bowl was an unmissable event for my family (one time, I got a bowl every day for 8 days straight. That’s problematic!).
- Karaoke on the cruise ship in Greece! Everyone from my school got so into the karaoke on the cruise– it was a nightly event that really made me wonder why I don’t do karaoke more often. It’s so fun??? One night, all the seniors sang “One Time” by Justin Bieber together as a sort of class song. It was a great time. There was just so much love for life, the trip, each other, and old school Justin Bieber. We must’ve been quite the sight– I mean, this group of 30 18-year-old girls jumping and screaming with a nun standing front and center in the audience with her camera, taking pictures. Wouldn’t change a thing!
- Getting to go to the New York Stock Exchange! Twice! I’ve spent a good deal of my gap year pursuing my interest in trading, so getting to be on the floor of the exchange always feels surreal! I remember standing 20 feet from Jim Cramer, staring up at the screen as the dow ticked over to 29,000, and thinking to myself, “I’ve been trading for less than 6 months; how the HECK did I get here?”.
Part of me feels a little sad to say goodbye to 18; it’s been a dream come true. The best is yet to come though. I believe that. I’m thankful for that.
Thank you to those who gave me these moments (and so many others) that I will cherish forever. I adore you all.
All my love.