It’s no secret that I’m a list person. That’s proven on this blog again and again and again. Yet the day before my 25th birthday, I can’t help being a bit haunted by the “25 Things Anyone Who is Even Remotely Successful and Worthy of Living On This Planet Must Do Before 25” type of lists.

to do

I know it’s not conducive to our happiness to live within such strict time measures, yet I can’t help but have some of those “by the age of–” goals floating around in my mind.

What did I want to accomplish by the time I turned 25? Where did I think I’d be at this age? Those who are older than 25 are likely laughing, but as a little girl who spent all her time dreaming dreaming dreaming of the future, these questions are relevant. At the very least, they’re real.

I managed to keep and finish three full journals in my adolescence, a surprising feat when compared to all those I started and abandoned. The first journal is absolutely brimming with hope. I didn’t know what exactly I wanted in my life, I just knew that I wanted it bad. I simultaneously tore myself down and psyched myself up about my dreams. I explored what those dreams actually were. I made lists of aspirations.

It’s a testament to my stubbornness that the ideas of 13-year-old Gina were not abandoned. Rather, I carried them with me all the way to 25. Some things listed? “Live in another country” and “learn another language (or 2 or 3 lol)” After that entry I complain that mom’s plans to go to Europe don’t include taking me. How could she? I’ve been dreaming of going to Europe since 4th or 5th grade! (I was in the 8th grade, at the time…). My plan of attack was to wait until high school, then go to Italy with my Italian language class. “Then I can marry an Italian!!!” I wrote.

Creepy, right?

When I first came to Italy it wasn’t such a decided move. I didn’t come with the firm mentality that I’d be moving forever. I came to Italy telling friends and family, “I’m going, we’ll see what happens. See you soon!” Then of course I got married, began teaching and moved into a house.

All the tenuous images I could have created for myself while in college have since been shattered and I’m left trying to figure out what the new images will be. All my dreams are reforming like clouds after an airplane passes through. Will I teach forever? Should I be doing something different? Is this the path to “success”?


At the National Honor Society’s graduation event in high school, we had to introduce ourselves to the parents sitting in the bleachers and express our plans for the future. Of course I had no idea what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” My more intelligent peers went before me to read out the prestigious college they would be attending, followed by their career path: “neuroscientist” , “CEO of UNICEF” , “The President, bitches!” Coming late in the pack with an M last name the principal read, “Gina isn’t sure what she wants to do with her future, but whatever she does, she hopes she’s happy.

I was proud of my snarky response. Those other suckers would be miserable CEO-scientist-Presidents!

People change and so do dreams. So for my 25th birthday I’d rather not make another list. I unsubscribe from the “25 before 25” society. Instead of focusing on what I should accomplish, I’d like to focus on all that I already have accomplished. Who knows where I’ll go from here (if there’s anything I’ve learned from my short time on earth, it’s that no one really knows). So here’s to starting 25 with another kind of list!

25 Things I’m Really Freaking Proud Of:

1. The numerous books I’ve read. The books I’ve devoured and those I struggled through. In my childhood books saved me, as an adult they nourish me.

2. Learning how to cook and being able to take care of myself as a result.

3. My independence.

4. Finally being able to ask for help when I need it.

5. Each and every day I teach and for all the days that I’m able to succeed in doing so with love and patience. Did I say days? I meant moments….seconds really. I SAID SIT DOWN! Oh, I meant, You’re fantastic! Now sit down, please…

6. Opening up to love – something I didn’t actively search for and wasn’t sure existed in such a state.


7. Learning a language, using the language and knowing better than to stop studying said language…

8. Attempting to learn Spanish as well, even though I’m completely overwhelmed when I think about the years dedicated to learning Italian and the eventuality that –¡Dios mío! – it might be the same for Spanish.

9. Keeping a blog and publishing on Mondays for the past 2.5 years, through writer’s block, birthdays and deaths. Even if no one reads, I’ve shown commitment, I’ve practiced my writing and I stuck with it.

10. Studying abroad.

11. Starting to run.

12. Riding my bike to work.

13. The possibility that I’ve developed even an ounce of my father’s storytelling skills.

14. Each and every hike I’ve ever completed. While it’s a completely normal activity to some, I grew up in the flat flat flat land of Ohio and each mountain hiked is a freaking accomplishment.

15. Moving abroad.

16. My travels. From raising the money to volunteer in Ghana on my very first international trip to navigating Indonesia on my latest, traveling is difficult and important and wonderful, and I’m proud I’ve made it a part of my life.


17. Learning how to drive stick shift on the narrow, dangerous Italian roads.

18. My ambition. The big dreams I have and what I’ve done to make them come true, whether they have or not. (yet!)

19. The time I’ve spent with my nephew and niece.

20. My wonderful friends and the realization that those who don’t lift me up, inspire me and push me aren’t really friends.

21. The patience I’m slowly starting to gain, the cattiness I’m slowly starting to lose and the confidence that has grown as a result.

22. Creating a home – the one I’ve always dreamed of.

23. The work I did in a wonderful school like DeSales and a college like Ohio University. They are complete opposites in personality, but both were fundamental to making me who I am today.

24. Every job I’ve ever had, from threatening to stick my head in a deep fryer each time I left for work at Bob Evans to finding joy in teaching swim lessons, from helping students fulfill their study abroad dreams to exploring the Big Apple with IBM and now back to teaching. Not to mention the many other short term jobs and internships that fill the gaps!

25. Getting married to someone whose love and presence in my life has entirely shifted my state of being. Most people would say, “Damn I’m lucky” but I prefer to just be damn proud!


Now, if I had to give an update to my high school NHS speech it would probably be:

“Gina still doesn’t know what she wants to do, but she sure is happy.”




This list isn’t just for me. Share in the comments 3, 10 or even 25 dreams you’ve fulfilled that you’re most proud of! 

Written by ginamussio



This is beautiful and I think you have every ounce of your dad’s storytelling skills.

A few of mine…
1. Building a more happy and healthy relationship with my mom in my adult years
2. Living by myself in my own apartment at 21 – even if I did overflow the washer and dishwasher in the first week
3. Learning to stop apologizing and feeling bad for being “skinny”
4. Working full-time and going to school full-time at the same time
5. Always being devil’s advocate when people complain or gossip, even when it makes them mad that I’m “not on their side”


I love this, Amanda. Thanks for actually sharing! Everything on any of our lists could have multiple “even if I did overflow the washer and dishwasher” moments, but the important thing is that we did it! Also, you truly have always done number 5! haha good for you!


This was such a fun read! And since it made me realize the importance of positive reflection and self awareness–here’s a few of mine.

1. Moving out of my hometown to a city where I barely knew anyone and staying there for two years (and counting!)
2. Doing so without relying on the financial support of my parents.
3. Graduating from college, and being the first in my immediate family to do so.
4. Planning a wedding without running away to Vegas (or the courthouse) to elope.
5. Making plans to go to the Grand Canyon–and sticking to them even though it was outside of my comfort zone.
6. Building a home and a life with Stephen that makes me happy and proud every day.


Way to go Liv!! Far too often 20-somethings feel shitty about where they are in their life and careers etc., without ever stopping to realize about where they came from! First to graduate college – that’s not nothing! Also, I had no idea that the Grand Canyon was out of your comfort zone – but good thing you went anyway Miss-soon-to-be-Mrs Olivia!

Cliff Snyder

Great post. I particularly love “publishing for the past 2.5 years [despite complications]…Even if no one reads”. I fail at blogging – I’ve tried the “post once every X” thing more than once. The Internet is a little like the Field of Dreams; if you Ship It, they will come. Keep it coming. :-)

I also love that Amanda responded and to be frank I probably wouldn’t be commenting if she hadn’t. She’s more brave than I’ve ever been in a lot of ways. At any rate, here are some things I’m proud of *besides* my amazing sisters:

1) Making my way in the world in spite of a constant crushing sense of self-doubt (see: imposter syndrome). Projecting confidence is Hard Work for most human beings.
2) Raising 2 children 2500 miles removed from any friends/family. They say “it takes a village”. We haven’t one at present.
3) Doing the best I could to take care of my mom through radiation treatment/chemotherapy.
4) Doing the best I could to take care of my mom and sisters when dad died.

Apologies for taking this comment in a heavy direction. My point is this: my proudest moments mostly revolve around “triumph through adversity” – like “my washer broke”, just in a different frame of mind. Take “Life is Good” as a given and continue to update your mental model of what that means based on the cards you’ve been dealt.

Disclaimer: I’m completely full of shit and nobody should listen to anything I have to say. :-)


Overflowing washers are serious business when you live on the second floor, but my proudest moments definitely look like small potatoes to yours. I am only who I am because of you. I love you.

Ps. Check it out. My brother the blogger:


Thank you for commenting Cliff! Every list is so unique I think it’s important to share it — for others but also just for ourselves.


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