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I’d been planning my 30th birthday for over a year now, and since the birthday shenanigans have come and gone, I’m ready for the adventures that are waiting for me to uncover. I have new grey hairs, smile wrinkles, creaky ankles, and a number of imperfections on my skin.

Looking back on my past 29 years, I see a woman who has gone through a remarkable transformation. I was never the one to wait around for the caterpillar to turn into a beautiful butterfly; but, as I got closer to 30, I slowed down a bit, I became more aware with my surroundings, I poured more effort into my friendships, and I spent a lot of time being still. This evolution could fill a book of unflattering, messy, and painful memories. Sometimes I closed myself away from this world, cocooned in my own chrysalis for what seemed like the last years of my youth.

I am not the same person that started this race. There were the days that I doubted I was able to get to the starting line. Even as I moved forward, as the past fell below the horizon, I held on too tightly to the memories that evoked sadness and anger. I was surrounded by a sticky, humid mess of little forward progress: slowing me down, pulling me back, weighing me down. There was no poetic justice. Heaviness dragged like an oversized necklace on my head already held down low. The thin walls in my head that held onto memories were waiting for an additional thought to offset the already overstretched, sensitive seams that fictitiously appeared to hold me together.

Many days I would apologize for being a huge wreck. The once full reservoir would empty with a deluge of tears, just enough for me to lift my head. But, I have found the freedom of vulnerability; it is here where compassion flows freely and swiftly. A small pity party of tears and a very long nap gives me a temporary relief from the freshly minted stains in my life. The rainbows that ensued remind me of hope. There will be many more lifting of the floodgates in the months to follow, which means more rainbows.

The once heavy steps are light enough for me to jog. My hair is a bit shorter to add an extra bounce in my step. The road to recovery is like a multi-day hike; it is not a sprint, though at times I would convince myself it could be, only to realize I was no where near the finish line. So I commit to training instead, to prepare myself for the next uphill battle. Fueling my body properly and rolling out the small buildups of tension becomes routine. I am a more self-aware form of me, a more compassionate form of me, and a more patient form of me. I am strong, but only because I have stronger friends. I can stand at the starting line knowing I am ready for this race, knowing that I am built for this, knowing that I have supporters on the sideline ready to encourage my every step. Even in the last leg I will be smiling for the journey is a sweet one, filled with many memories, many adventures, much laughter, much hope, and many bowls of ice cream.

I am unfinished, a beautiful work in progress.

In no particular order, things I have learned and will take with me into my 30s:

  • It is in possibility that significance is born.
  • Take every opportunity that warrants a bit of love making. From David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary “encroach, v. The first three nights we spent together, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t used to your breathing, your feet on my legs, your weight in the bed. In truth, I still sleep better when I’m alone. But now I allow that sleep isn’t always the most important thing.”
  • I used to be impatient until I realized what the rush wasn’t about. I find that my most peaceful times are on planes, airports, and sitting in traffic.
  • Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.
  • I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at any of this. Stress can bring back old habits, but believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others and myself feel puts things into perspective.
  • “Shit that only can be created if you go through it.”―Drake
  • I bounce when I walk, like on a trampoline.
  • “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”―Anthony Bourdain
  • Even if I love you, if you are gonna keep me from growing, I have to grow.
  • Sometimes feel like a small child, exploring this world in a state of wonder.
  • You can afford to build the wrong things. However, you cannot afford to build the right things too slowly.
  • Sometimes the things you get made fun of in the past become something worshiped in the future, like Birkenstocks and plaid. Be yourself.
  • To be unemployed by choice meant I’d have no baggage and be free to learn a new way to be―Scott Berkun in The Year Without Pants.
  • Consider the evidence from the past, but go bravely where others have not been.
  • Share your stories. Support the next leaders in their brave pursuits.
  • Truly astonishing impact the little things done exactly right can have on this world.
  • Eat with friends. Watch people eat with friends. I am inspired by the many immeasurable expressions that come from the necessity of nurturing our bodies and soul.
  • “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”―Haruki Murakami
  • Find freedom in third choices, a compromise between two choices.
  • The difference between good intentions and great leadership is the courage and commitment to stay the course, no matter how difficult the path.
  • Hang out with your best friend, especially if that person is your sister.