Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

The 80’s. Or, When I Was 19 and Knew Everything.

There was a time in my life when I knew everything. When I was 19 years old, I knew how to solve homelessness and poverty, where the best place was to get free beer, the liquor store least likely to card me, and where to bum cigarettes when I was out of them. I was usually out of them.

Back then, I knew fashion, friends. Seriously. Geometric-patterned sweaters, stirrup pants, and shoulder pads. I knew that showing your belly button in the company of strangers was something understood, even when not so much so by the adults around me. Check it out. The 80’s were glorious. I don’t care what they say. 

The 80

When I was 19, I was an adult. I voted, and everything. Or, I could have voted, anyway.

1980s walk of shame

We didn’t yet have cell phones or this selfie would have been better

I was experienced. I’d done the walk of shame, and traveled to New Orleans, asking that the Vampires Come Unto Us!


I’d traveled from San Francisco to Jersey by redeye flight, and by White Nissan Pulsar from Jersey to Virginia, Tennessee, the Grand Canyon, Texas, Las Vegas, and back to San Fran with my friend. Without cellphones. We survived driving through Georgia in the rain with no windshield wipers, a pervert blue van guy holding a photo of his penis out the window.

I’d lived through “No, you can’t take a shower! Just get out!” I’d soon live through the freak-out over Y2K.

When I was 19, I owned the world. Everything that mattered was ahead and behind and I could do whatever I wanted.

The 80’s. Or, When I Was 19 and Knew Everything. When I was 19, the 80’s were almost over, by the way.

Soon its fashion would be replaced by ripped Levis and flannel and Troll Dolls coming back. The fake tans from the tanning beds were still in, though, which explains my unnaturally-orange orange face below.



Back then, I wondered at how the world would change me. Today, I wonder at how to change the world for my little boy. I pray that he will change it, more than it changes him.

Today, I hope that he grows up in The Land of Empathy and Wonder.


I wanted to die young back then.
Today, I want to live as many days as I can and lie awake at night, thinking about my boobs, and cancer.

Then, I told my friend that I hoped I’d never have “a retarded baby.”
Today, I’d punch somebody for calling my baby the r-word, and feel like the luckiest mama on the planet. I am, after all. The luckiest mom. 

When I was 19, I thought period cramps were for wimpy girls.
Now, I realize that they’re nature’s way of making me realize that once, I knew nothing and that cramps and laundry are a pain in the literal ass.

When I was 19, I thought I knew Love. I thought I knew speaking out for what’s right.
Today, I know Love. And it wasn’t with the bad boy who wanted to have fun more than he wanted me.

When I was 19 and knew everything, I hadn’t yet met my son. I hadn’t yet met the woman who gave birth to me and gave me away. I hadn’t met my 1/2 sister, and I hadn’t realized that work takes work.

That life takes work.

That Big Huge Feelings do, as well.

When I was 19 and knew everything, I didn’t yet realize that the intense lights that come to us from inside -and out- would have meaning and import above all that I knew. Above all that I felt.

I used to tell my step-daughter, when she lived with us, that her life, in just five years, would look so different that she wouldn’t recognize it. Today, I think she sees that.

Today, I think that I do as well.

Yesterday’s thoughts of wishing the world would open up and swallow us whole become tomorrow’s stories of how “I once knew…”

Here’s to appreciating today, friends. To knowing that whatever we knew yesterday and that whatever we know today are soon tomorrow’s misconceptions.

Or, tomorrow’s foundations.

That choice. That’s the one up to us, every single day, whether we’re 19, or 47. What we do in the next five minutes. What we do in the all of the nexts. Matters.

and now, finally, I know love.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post with “When I was 19…”
This week:
Host: Moi
Mimi from Mimi Time at
and Vidya from Coffee with Me at

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  • Dana - Thinking you know everything is proof that you don’t, isn’t it? What you said to your stepdaughter is similar to what I’ve been thinking lately – how different my kids’ lives will be in five years. How different my life will be, although not as different as theirs will be.

    As long as Gwen never, EVER wears stirrup pants.November 5, 2015 – 10:05 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - So true Dana. The thinking we know is proof that we don’t! LOL to Gwen never ever wearing stirrup pants. What about shoulder pads?November 7, 2015 – 7:02 pmReplyCancel

  • JT Walters - At 16, I lived in Europe and thought I was so ahead of the curve living in Rome, speaking Italian, and completely immersed in another culture, country, continent and far away from my parents but at 19 I was in aerospace engineering school on an AirForce Base. All my classmates were Chinese and I was the only American let alone female including the professor who taught in a very heavy Chinese accent.

    At 19, I realize no matter how much you love something some dreams are just not meant to be realized at the time. Aerospace engineering for women in the 1980(s) was very difficult. But the minute I let go of that dream, I had another to pursue.

    Ironically, aerospace engineers were making approximately $250k annual at that time. Now they are making $25k. Things sometimes turn out for the best even though we might not see it immediately…in my opinion.November 5, 2015 – 10:15 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - WOW JT your 19 sounds incredible!!! And yeah, you’re so right. Things often do turn out for the best although it’s so so hard to see at the time. Thank you!November 7, 2015 – 7:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Vidya Sury - Ooh, hugs, Kristi! I love how we swim through different perspectives. Besides obviously adoring how you looked then, my heart melted as I read your words… what a way to embrace life!

    I know that the picture of your son sleeping is going to be etched in my mind and I’ll smile whenever it comes into focus. Hugs!

    I found this post a little hard to write because I couldn’t seem to stop – there was so much to say – I have a feeling I must have come across as a little stilted. Too much happened when I was 19.November 6, 2015 – 5:19 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Vidya,
      I’m so glad that you co-hosted with us this week and loved your post. The things that you were doing at 19 are amazing! You were so mature-seeming compared to me! And you’re right – so much to say about 19. Maybe I’ll do another prompt soon about a teenage year, or one in our early 20’s?
      And you didn’t come across as stilted at ALL! Thank you!!!November 7, 2015 – 7:05 pmReplyCancel

  • A;;ie - A part of me wishes I’d known you and lived close when I was we were nineteen – I think we would have had a lot of fun. And then I wise up and realize that it may have been a dangerous thing. And look at you smoking-bad-ass self, with the Goldilocks:)!November 6, 2015 – 6:22 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - OOOH we’d have had FUN!! And maybe been arrested, so there’s that. But yeah, we’d have had fun. LOL to smoking-bad-ass-self. Ha!November 7, 2015 – 7:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Bev - Your cartoons are amazing and hilarious!
    When you’re 19, you really do think you know everything, as I’m sure I do now as well, and I’ll look back in a decade or so and realize how much I still had yet to learn.November 6, 2015 – 6:41 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw thanks, Bev! It’s so true that at 19 we think we know everything. It’s funny to look back and see how naive and YOUNG we were huh?November 7, 2015 – 7:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Yup, at 19 I totally thought I knew it all and was invincible, as well. Now, at almost 40, I know that not to be true and even know that I still have so much more to learn and am thankful for each day as it unfolds, even the craziest of days. So here is to continually learning and knowing that each and every day matters and is a blessing, too.November 6, 2015 – 6:55 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - LOL Janine! I guess we all did then – think we were invincible and all of that. And yes, completely agree – here’s to continually learning and knowing each day is a blessing.November 7, 2015 – 7:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - “her life, in just five years, would look so different that she wouldn’t recognize it.” – you used to tell me that, too. And I figure I still have about two years left on the five, and already you’re right. You were right then, too, but you know that (stop looking so smug).

    Life can change in years, in days, in a moment, without us ever expecting it. And I have a future of Nows and a lifetime of Nexts to enjoy. I hope I get the fulness of them.

    I hope you do, too.November 6, 2015 – 7:13 amReplyCancel

  • Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom - Here’s to a land of empathy and wonder!

    I think what you’ve shared should help me face my kids’ teen years. We were all young and hopeful and stupid and hopeful and happy and stupid as teens.

    The 80s were so rad BTW!November 6, 2015 – 9:25 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Katy, love the way you phrase it. “…young and hopeful and stupid and hopeful and happy and stupid…” YUP! And oh jeez.. The teen years for our own kids. Gulp.November 7, 2015 – 7:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - At 19 I knew my life would be different than I imagined it – I just didn’t know how different! Such a universal theme you’ve highlighted. 🙂November 6, 2015 – 10:02 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It really is universal, isn’t it. Such a strange thing perspective is. And wonder at the future. Thank you.November 7, 2015 – 7:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - Oh now you were one of the cool girls that I was SO SO SO jealous of, Kristi. Man alive girl. I was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. “How old are you?” was my nemesis. However, athough I still looked 14 when I was in my early 20’s I did get up to a little bit of mischief, every now and then. Oh alright. A Hell of a lot of mischief. My best pal and I look back on those days and agree that we are SO lucky to still be alive. You’ve no idea.November 6, 2015 – 12:05 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kelly! The whole looking back on the days and realizing that we are so lucky to be alive! Funny that you mention that. I remember once, when my friend (the one that I went to the grave yard in NO with) and I were talking and laughing about that night, her older brother (we were visiting him in New Orleans) said “we were lucky to be alive” and we rolled our eyes, thinking how old and whatever he was. Now, I cringe that we even went there! LOL 🙂 And I’ve no doubt that you had your mischief. Whether you found it or it found you!!November 7, 2015 – 7:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - I tell ya, I wouldn’t want to go back.. for more than a day or so. I miss having dark under circles that would go completely away from one night of good sleep.
    And I thought I knew SO MUCH. I still do. But one day I’ll probably realize I knew nothing at 19 and nearly nothing in my 30’s!November 6, 2015 – 12:52 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - OOOH I miss looking great from just a single night of sleep too. But yeah, I thought I knew everything too. And did when I was older than 19 and will again, I’m sure. Good point.November 7, 2015 – 7:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - For me, it’s strange to think back to when I was 19 because a) I feel like I don’t remember so much from that time and b) my oldest dude is almost that age now…yikes! It makes me look at him and wonder if he’ll do the same stupid things I did (I know the answer – yes) and yet as parents, we sort of have to let them do those things in order to learn…we can give all the advice we want, but I know he’s only half-listening…sighNovember 6, 2015 – 2:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Emily,
      Yikes is right and yeah, you’re wise in knowing that we have to let them do the stupid things so that they learn. I hope that Tucker is less, um, adventurous though than I was for SURE! xoNovember 8, 2015 – 10:53 amReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - I love that last part. I was just talking today with a group of women and we were saying how different our perspective is at 40-ish than it was even ten years ago – much less 20+. Like someone else said, I think once we realize we DON’T know everything is when we have really reached an acceptable level of maturity.November 6, 2015 – 4:35 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - So true Lisa! Makes me wonder too, if at 60, we’ll look back and think how much we still had to learn at 40-ish. I know we’ll think “we were so YOUNG!” Sigh. xoNovember 8, 2015 – 10:54 amReplyCancel

  • Louise - Oh this is fun! If I have the energy once the kids are in bed I may join in.

    I was 13 when I knew everything but much of this rings true. I’d like to think by 19 I was getting it together – but I suspect my parents would disagree 🙂

    I love the old photos!November 6, 2015 – 6:54 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - So glad you joined in, Louise! LOL to your parents disagreeing how much you knew at 19. And yeah, 13 is a good one for “know it all” too right? 🙂November 8, 2015 – 10:55 amReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Oh gawd I miss the 80s. My hair was curly then not this ridiculous old lady frizz…sigh…but yes, I know where you’re coming from. But still…we got to show our belly buttons! How awesome was that!November 6, 2015 – 8:18 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It was awesome showing our belly buttons! LOL
      Also FYI tried to subscribe to your feed but got a 404 – can you add me? Hope you’re ok and that your weekend is going great!November 8, 2015 – 10:59 amReplyCancel

  • Scott Hansen - I was a few years behind you, but just as misguided and confident. Great post.November 7, 2015 – 12:42 amReplyCancel

  • Mimi - I loved these comparisons between what you once knew vs. now. And then that wisdom at the end. So true. Powerful stuff ! And loved the trip down memory lane. 🙂 xoNovember 7, 2015 – 12:58 amReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - As always- this speaks to me on so many levels Kristi. Oh to be confident and clueless yes? But your wisdom and insight oozes from this post, even through the humor and the pictures that totally cracked me UP!! Yeah- I always tell people (and myself) when they are hurting and making BIG decisions- think about five years from now- what would you want to look back and see? What would be most important to you in how you handled this- not in this moment, but five years from now?”

    Yeah… I had no clue at 19. Madehuge mistakes. I was so lost… It would take more than five years for me to learn how to live.November 7, 2015 – 3:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily Nichols Grossi - Ah, the beauty of perspective! Youth versus the wisdom we gain in leaving it. Lovely, lovely!! xoNovember 7, 2015 – 4:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Angel the Alien - When I was 19 I thought I was a grown-up… and now that seems so young to me! But in the 80’s I was a happy little kid and loved Rainbow Brite and Punky Brewster and He-Man and Care Bears and playing outside in the sand and swinging on my swingset! It was a fun time to grow up! I don’t think I’d want to be a little kid in this day and age.November 7, 2015 – 6:36 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Oh I loved Punky Brewster! I’d forgotten about her! And yeah, it does seem scarier to be a little kid these days.November 8, 2015 – 4:42 pmReplyCancel

  • My Inner Chick - ***What we do in the next five minutes. What we do in the all of the nexts. Matters.***



    PS. the 80s is my fave. decade.November 8, 2015 – 12:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Nina Badzin, Writer - This was a great finish the sentence! I’ve loved reading the answers. Seriously, how did we do so much without cell phones? I wonder if some ways we did MORE with less distraction and experienced things different (like road trips) with less crowd sourcing ahead of time.November 8, 2015 – 2:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Mike - Hi Kristi! I wanted to stop by for a little hello on your blog (I just emailed you before this ironically) to see latest post. I see you have that magical touch as always! For me, that horrid, false-sense-of-omnipotence and knowledge started at 15 years old when I get my first car. When I was 18 and moved on my own to Reno I got a huge crash course in reality. That QUICKLY snapped me out of it and began a really good life path. As I reading your post it also made me reflect on today’s youth oh lordy do we have our work cut out for us if we are going to have any positive influence in bringing them to the realities you and I (and millions of others through the generations) discovered. Think of you always and love you so much! 🙂November 8, 2015 – 10:25 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Mike! What fun to see your name here, my sweet and amazing guy! I agree that we most definitely have our work cut out for us and I’m glad that you figured out your own reality early on. Sooooo so glad you stopped by. I’ll check email again now. Love you!November 9, 2015 – 3:25 pmReplyCancel

  • Eli J. Pacheco - it’s been incredible reading everyone’s stories of 19. So different than mine. You were the cool kids, apparently. But we all made it here.November 9, 2015 – 3:13 pmReplyCancel

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