I’m turning 30 at the end of this week and 30 is a big milestone, it’s a new decade full of fresh opportunities and it feels magical. And yet a part of me is a bit nostalgic for my 20s. I feel like my 20s were full of adventure and almost wide-eyed curiosity. I managed to fit a lot of wonderful things that helped me grow in 10 years. I thought it would be a great way to say goodbye to my 20s if I did some self reflection, went down memory lane, and listed out the monumental changes and events that happened in the last 10 years of my life.
So hold on to your hats folks, we’re going down memory lane and it’s going to be a wild ride! I do have to note that while I was doing some mild research for this post, I couldn’t help but cry — in a good way! You see, once you go back through old facebook photos you realize how blessed your life was even in the darkest of times. I gotta say, I’ve lead such a magical life and have managed to make so many of my dreams a reality which I am so grateful for. My only regret in these past 10 years is that at my lowest point and in a fit of rage I deleted every single thing I ever posted on Instagram haha, but other than that I feel pretty happy looking back. Ready? Let’s dive in!
I would also like to point out that we lived in dark times where photos were taken by old cameras and Blackberrys so most of the photos are gonna be awfully old haha!
HIGHLIGHTS: SUMMER DESIGN COURSE IN LA
When I look back at my life, one of the biggest choices that I made was when I turned 20. I was going to college in my hometown in México pursuing a Marketing major and was utterly unhappy. It took me a while but I fought my way into a Graphic Design career (which you can read more about here). Once I found that path I decided to take a summer program that was offered at my current University to take some design and typography classes at the Art Center in Pasadena, California. Now I had never been to California other than to Disneyland with my parents as a baby, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew deep in my heart that I needed to take this course. Needless to say that I fell in love with both Design and California.
It was the one week trip that changed my life. Once I got back home I told my parents I wanted to apply to colleges in Los Angeles and get a real design education. So at twenty years old I decided to move my life away from my family and friends, my culture, my home and everything I knew, to pursue my passion in California. You can say all I had was a suitcase and a dream.
HIGHLIGHTS: STARTED COLLEGE + MET MY FUTURE HUBBY
I cannot stress this enough, but I seriously LOVED college. I loved all my classes and I thrived. I was that kid. I was teachers pet, I got best of quarter on all classes and honor roll every single quarter. I had them all proudly displayed on my dorm wall. I was probably a little bit annoying haha. I also happened to meet the love of my life and my future husband at 21. We met at a lemonade stand when trying to raise money for the Graphic Design department. He says that he fell in love with me at first sight. You can actually kinda tell in the photos from that day since he’s holding me tightly around my waist. I don’t even remember because my mindset was just set on this new independent life and living alone for the first time.
HIGHLIGHTS: GRADUATED + GOT A JOB!
It took me only two years to finish a 4 year college. Partly because of all the credits I had transfered but mostly because I took on more credits per quarter than normal (I’m telling you, I was that kid). I was just so excited that my life and career were on the right track that I was just eager to learn. I also had two internships back to back which I LOVED. I worked for a while at Maesa, which was my first real life experience in the beauty packaging world. I got to meet Drew Barrymore and work on her Flower line and even a Taylor Swift perfume! After that I had another internship at BIW and got to work on some pretty cool merchandise design for Warner Brothers which meant I got to work on Harry Potter stuff briefly. All in all, I was having that ~Los Angeles experience~ and I ended up graduating at 22.
I moved in with my boyfriend after graduating — but not before going back home for one last time since I had gotten a job offer where they were giving me a work visa. After my paperwork went through I officially decided to stay and build a life in the States as opposed to moving back home to México.
HIGHLIGHTS: I LIVED IN THE ADVERTISING WORLD
I was a working woman! I was so proud of it too. I was given the title of Jr. Art Director at my first job in the real world. I worked for a hispanic advertising agency in Santa Monica and got to meet a bunch of cool people that I am still friends with today (hi, Diego!). I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun diving into the world of advertising.
I helped shoot commercials for Honda at basically every movie lot in Los Angeles. My favorite memory was shooting around the water fountain that is at the intro of Friends. I liked my job, getting to go on location and sit in “the village” on my own little director’s chair was a cool experience. But it wasn’t all that magical even though it sounds like it. You see, I wasn’t designing at all. I wasn’t working on packaging or logos or branding — I wasn’t being a designer. If I got to design, it was those annoying side banner ads you get on your browser and that’s it. It didn’t take long for me to eventually start feeling miserable.
Looking back, I love that I was able to have such a stable job that was interesting. Although I wasn’t designing, I did get to write my very own commercial and saw it come to life on tv. I even got to work with Diego Luna since he directed a BIG campaign for Honda so that was cool. Most important of all… Keal (my then boyfriend, now husband) gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received… a Disneyland annual pass.
HIGHLIGHTS: GOT ENGAGED + ADOPTED PANCAKE
24 was a BIG year for me. So much happened in both my personal life and my career. The first thing to point out is that because I wasn’t designing at my full time job, I decided to start freelancing. This was the start of my business! I was doing the side-hustle and learning how to navigate that. Then, luckily enough, my company decided to send me to the HOW Design Live conference in Boston and… get this… Keal was being sent too by his company! We literally had a full week vacation 100% paid by our companies — and got to surround ourselves with design! That right there was a turning point for us.
Going to that design conference gave me the courage to really pursue freelancing seriously. I was so determined to design that I started my very first blog called HelloDesignSugar. I didn’t really know what I was doing and remember feeling very lost. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and the pressures of my full time job were getting to me. I was stressed all the time and would cry on the floor of my tiny LA apartment a lot. One day I decided I wanted a dog. I remember laying on the floor and looking at the ceiling and saying ‘I wish we had a dog that could come lick my face and make me feel better’, and Keal simply responded by saying ‘and we could name it Pancake!’.
So we got our Pancake! She was a tiny little thing! Also, shoutout to our old LA apartment haha! 24 was a good year, while in it, I remember feeling super lost and stressed out all the time. But when I think back on it now… I technically started my business at 24, got the best dog in the world and ended the year by getting… engaged!
I always tease Keal that he should have proposed at Disney but he says that would have been super predictable. My 24th year ended with me getting engaged in Las Vegas in a Helicopter tour and with my best friend beside me. I know that sounds weird but remember that I left home and all my friends at 20 so having her there to celebrate with me was one of the sweetest things my husband has ever done for me.
HIGHLIGHTS: GOT MARRIED + LIVED IN LONDON
Ok thinking back… 25 was an amazing year too. I got married at Disneyland and Mickey came to my wedding. I got my dream of riding in the Cinderella carriage and honeymooned at Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii. I also… quit my job! I didn’t want to be stressed out while planning my wedding so, after saving for months, I quit and freelanced full time! I didn’t make much money, but I was happy.
Life got interesting at 25. Because I had quit my job and I had no routine or habits to keep me busy, coming back from our honeymoon was rough. I didn’t have a clue how to fill my days and my freelancing and blogging was kind of all over the place as in — I had no idea what I was doing. I did know I wanted to use my newfound freedom to travel. Our apartment lease was up and so we decided to sell everything we owned and live out of suitcases! We dropped Pancake off with Keal’s parents and went to live in London for a while. We stayed with a friend of my new mother-in-law’s sister so money wasn’t that big of an issue. With freelancing I was able to get by because I didn’t have rent or bills to pay.
Living in London is one of my fondest memories. We got to travel around Europe when we could and ended up visiting Disneyland Paris. After London we rented an airbnb in New York and lived there for a while. It was one of the most amazing times I have ever had in my life. I do have to note that Keal did have a full time job that gave us some steady income. He was allowed to work from home but was constantly stressed out because it was a very demanding job. We managed to figure out a life of adventure, but he burned out quickly and we had to make a choice.
MOVED TO AZ + STARTED KEMY STUDIO!
I think by this point I’m starting to see that my twenties were full of drastic changes. I feel like it’s a decade where you’re constantly searching for something. After traveling and juggling work I asked Keal to quit. He was miserable and I could see it. So we packed our suitcases and left New York. While we decided the next step in our life, we crashed at his parent’s house in Santa Barbara, California. I remember making lots of pro con lists. I was still freelancing, but did not have enough clients to support us so we were trying to figure out what our next step was.
At 26 is when we decided to leave Los Angeles and move to Phoenix, Arizona. We mainly chose this state because Keal’s brother lives here along with our niece and nephew and we wanted to be closer to them. I struggled with this choice for a while but ultimately felt it was right — we needed a fresh start away from the hustle. Keal found a job where he could work from home and we also decided to start a new business together: Kemy Studio.
The idea was to take my freelancing and make it something bigger. By opening up a design studio together since he can code we could offer up websites and make a bigger income. Life was good for a while but we kind of hated living in the desert and tried to move back to LA 3 different times — somehow Arizona always pulled us back in. Twenty six was challenging because it was the first time I had to sit down and take being an entrepreneur seriously. I closed up shop on my blog and started a new venture with Kemy Studio which came with a lot of challenges and it took a hit on my mental health.
BOUGHT A HOME + STARTED THE KEMYSTRY SHOP
By the time I turned twenty seven I had figured out the “getting clients” part and I had a steady stream of income. We also decided that we were better off in Arizona as it allowed us to have the lifestyle we wanted while building our business. (Note that we never cancelled our Disney annual passes and still make trips to Cali every other month!). This was also the year we bought a house… and got a mortgage.
On the business side, I was having a hard time finding my focus. I had clients and I was designing but I still felt like something was missing. Suddenly I felt like I was back in my full time job, stressed all the time. At 27, we decided that since we had more space in our new home, we could start a shop and sell designed merch to creatives. We called it Kemystry (because Keal + Emmy= Kemy, and together we have perfect Kemystry! Get it?). Ultimately I still felt like it wasn’t me and while we had fun doing it. We closed up shop in less than a year and I kept blogging on the side under Kemy Studio.
HIGHLIGHTS: EMMYGINATION WAS BORN!
I remember feeling pretty badass at 28 (which was not to long ago ha!). I had a beautiful home I was slowly decorating to my taste. Keal had a job he loved and my business was slowly growing. I had learned a lot and started to buy a bunch of e-courses that helped me figure out my business. One day, Keal and I were sitting at our usual spot at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney talking about life and my business. I was venting my frustrations that something didn’t quite click with me and my biz.
I had always struggled with labeling myself a design studio or a lifestyle blogger. While talking, I decided I wanted to create something new that was more ME, and that’s when my brilliant husband came up with the pun name Emmygination. I remember feeling so giddy and excited that I quickly took out my phone to secure @Emmygination across all social media channels as he bought the domain — all while Disney-goers were buzzing all around us.
At 28 I also dove deep into the wellness world reading every book I could get my hands on in an effort to better myself and my mindset. I was determined to make this business stick and to be my #bestself, and you know what? I totally did. Not to mention, Keal was so supportive with my new business direction that he built me my own home office! It was the first time I would have my own space to dream and work.
I also started to create roots and made new friends that supported me and were going through the same journey of self awareness (Hi Theresa!). All in all, 28 was a year of personal growth.
HIGHLIGHTS: MINDFUL LIFESTYLE + SELF CONFIDENCE
When I turned 29 last year I decided that I wanted to take charge of my health. Since quitting my full time job and diving into entrepreneurship, I put my own health aside. I started binge eating and developed some awful habits. I wanted to finally be successful at losing all the weight I put on and be healthy and fit. I invested in a personal trainer and have never felt stronger. This choice also lead me to make new friends (Hi Mari!), and form a little family here in the desert.
This last year of my 20s has been pretty great. I went to Japan and Tokyo Disney which had been a dream of mine since college. I feel so confident in my skin and so happy to be me that I honestly feel so damn magical. I focused in on a business that I love and feel like I finally tapped into something. I have a good routine and some habits that help me balance my business and my personal life. My long-distance relationship with my parents has never been better! I have learned to step out of my comfort zone to the point where this year I launched my very first e-course. And even in my bad days where I feel a little lost, I still feel pretty grateful.
My Hopes For My 30s
This post is all about self reflection and I truly enjoyed going down memory lane and seeing what I was doing every step of my 20s. There is something so pure and powerful about looking at a whole decade of your life and see how you grew and ultimately ended where you are in this moment. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I am so happy to be starting this new era of life armed with self confidence and clarity.
I hope that I get to live out my dreams and get to help millions of women with my message. I hope that I get to become a beacon of hope and magic. I hope that I grow more and step into my true Self. I hope that I stop giving a shit about strangers on the Internet and just do me. Whatever I end up doing, or whomever I end up becoming, I know that I will be 30, flirty and thriving.