Man, that number doesn't feel real. I always forget my new age for awhile, a lot like I forget how to write the correct year for the entire month of January (you feel me right).
Here's how I celebrated: spent a lazy morning lounging in bed, skipped my 8:30am Saturday class (I deserve one skip, right?), scored a free birthday cupcake at Sprinkles, treated myself to a massage at my favorite little place around the corner, watched a movie in bed, took a delicious nap, spent the evening out with some favorite friends where I ate and drank and talked and laughed until my face hurt......in short, perfection.
Entering the 4th decade of my life first turns my thoughts back toward the last 10 years.
Looking back on my 20s, it's best defined as a decade of "figuring out." My teenage years may have brought an awkward phase in the physically-growing-into-myself department, but my 20s brought a similar deal on the emotional side. 10 years ago, I was a staunchly religious child (yes, child). My view of the world, and of myself, was small. I had a lot of answers, and even more blind spots. I listened to a lot of people and authority figures, and didn't listen to myself nearly enough. I apologized a lot. I was also a bright-eyed little idealist. I was on the cusp of discovering my first career moves, in which my heart would lead me straight to nonprofits and my bank account would wonder how the hell that was ever going to last.
In the ensuing years, I'd meander between jobs and industries. I'd write, professionally. That was the realization of a childhood dream. I'd realize, slowly, that the things you love are not always what will fulfill you professionally. I had many roommates. I thought, knowing the path I'd been told was mine, that I'd get married and have a few kids....any day now. I'd feel guilty, often, when it didn't quite add up and I wrestled with a quiet voice that just didn't want that, not then.
Eventually, the emotional unrest would lead to physical unrest and I'd pick up and move to California. Four years. It's been almost four years since I crossed that state line, and I haven't looked back.
I came to California, and I found myself.
I found people who thought like me, loved like me, put no restrictions on me and allowed me to think and see freely. I found, in myself, a solid moral compass with a needle pulled only by my own inner voice. I realized, slowly, that being driven by fear is no way to live, and inflicting fear in other people is no way to love. I learned, slowly, that I had a goodness in me I never had to earn and never could lose. I learned, ultimately, that there are things I stood to learn that I didn't know that I didn't know. That's what happens, when your brain is not your own for a long, long time. I embraced therapy, and healed my mind. I embraced myself, and started healing spiritual wounds. I'm embracing, currently, the courage to put words to that truth when I know there's people in my life who won't understand it. I wouldn't have understood it either, until I finally saw it. And then the lies were terrifying, and naming them was painful, but ultimately brought the sweetest relief and freedom I could ever ask for.
I applied to and started graduate school. I'm almost halfway done with that MBA. I bought a car, and I learned to drive stick. I found my voice as a proud feminist. I found my footing in the professional sphere. I learned to hustle. I learned to ask for what I want. I survived (and am surviving) the tricky balance of full-time work, full-time school and full-time life. I got on planes and explored the country. I got myself a passport and explored other countries, several times.
I am 30, and I am proud of myself.
Though I have my moments like any human, I no longer make a habit of nitpicking, questioning, apologizing, submitting, veiling or diluting myself. I feel a force and a permission inside of me that no church pew or patriarchy ever gave me. I feel a well of replenishing, life-giving water that springs up inside me and runs over the edges. I feel the hands and hearts and support of the many wonderful, beautiful people in my life, thrumming like a vibrant vein of oxygen to my chest. I recognize clearly how capable I am of standing on my own feet and using my own brain, but also, how much I do need and want my support system.
I feel holy, and I feel whole.
And so, to the years where I learned myself, to the years where I drained myself, to the years where I lived and laughed and loved and rejoiced and wept and embraced and left and all of the above many times over.....thanks for the decade of figuring out so much about myself and about my life.
Now here's to a decade of being me, and living my life, on my own terms. Here's to a decade of being a woman who knows herself and knows what she wants, and isn't afraid to ask for it, and is so, so done apologizing for it. The next 10 years look promising and mysterious and bursting with both endings and beginnings, but also calming and settling and deliberate and cozy all at once.
And, truly, all that unfettered, uncaged living looks nothing short of electrifying.