i love my birthday. for starters, it’s a national holiday. this is not my vanity talking. i was born on veterans’ day. so yeah, stuff shuts down on my birthday. you hear that? i shut it down. hehehe. but seriously, thank you to all of our service men and women. your sacrifice is a tremendous blessing to us and worthy of big time celebration as far as i am concerned. now, back to my birthday.
many women find it hard to celebrate their birthday each year the older they get. i’ve personally witnessed some fabulous women lose their mind about turning 30. they got depressed about reaching this milestone because life hadn’t turned out as planned. i know most women picture life at 30 to be filled with husband, kids, career, and happiness. what i’ve learned is life can be filled with happiness and pure joy (which is way better than happiness) whether things have worked out according to your plans or not. if there was only one path in life, it’d be a crowded journey. thank goodness i freed myself from that limited thinking, and let me tell you, i have been enjoying every single minute of life in my 30s.
as i turn 36, not only do i feel more confident, more courageous, more centered, i have never felt more beautiful and more comfortable in my skin in my entire life. reflecting on this truth for a moment, led me to think of all the things i’m truly grateful for as i start year 36 of this thing called life. here are the 10 things that make my birthday gratitude list.
1.a dream job: i have the privilege of waking up everyday and going to my dream job where i can directly impact the most vulnerable students and help them on their quest to graduate high school and go on to be successful in college and life beyond. it is the perfect merger of my purpose, vision, and passion. even on a hard day, i’m thrilled to be about the work of changing lives one student at a time.
2. walking by faith: before securing my dream job, i worked at a place that made me miserable. i’m talking about leaving work and crying on the drive home because i felt so beat up. i quit that job without a replacement. i stepped out on faith and believed God’s word that my gift would make room for me. it did. as hard as it is, i have learned to walk by faith.
3. not being limited by other people’s fear: speaking of stepping out on faith, i moved to seattle just over six years ago without knowing anyone, having a job, or having a permanent place to live. some people definitely thought i was crazy, but ultimately, i had to ignore them. i knew i was doing what i was supposed to do and i trusted it would all work out. i didn’t let their fear color my life experience. never let someone else’s fear stop you from living out your purpose.
4. international trips with my heartbeats: i made a promise to my nieces and nephew when they were younger that i would take them wherever they wanted to go in the world for their 16th birthdays. i can’t tell you how much of a joy it is to make the promise and be able to honor it! my oldest niece chose paris, and a day after she turned 16, we boarded an international flight to have a french adventure. we spent 10 days walking, eating, and shopping our way through paris. it’s an experience i’ll never forget and i’m so honored to have shared it with her. next up is my baby niece who chose italy, and then my nephew who chose china. cheers to international teens!
5. making dreams come true: in an effort to spread the wealth around, i wanted to make my mom’s dream of going to italy come true. she has sacrificed tremendously to raise my brothers and me, and sometimes we don’t give her the thanks she deserves. sure, taking care of us was her responsibility, but so many children are faced with the reality that their parents just don’t care, or can’t provide for them. it was hard but my mom did it and we all turned out great. so, this year, we packed our bags and took a culinary tour of italy. we drank wine, shopped, toured ancient ruins, ate incredible food, and even learned how to cook some standard italian dishes. i was just as happy the day i surprised her with the news as the day we landed in italy. seeing her face as we traveled through the italian countryside made me truly understand every good and perfect gift comes from above. won’t he do it?
6. finding my soul mates: for most people finding a soul mate is about finding one person to spend the rest of their life with. i have a much bigger concept of a soul mate. i don’t believe there is just one person on this entire planet perfectly suited for you. i believe there are a number of people who speak your love language and if you’re open to it, you’ll find those people in all kinds of ways. i met my soul mates in college. these four women have been my rocks since we started our journey to adulthood together at drake university. we have been through some ups and downs, but through it all, no one has had my back like them. i love them with every ounce of my being and i want them to experience the absolute best God has to offer. i will carry them in prayer, be present for their life milestones, and love them unconditionally. i fully expect to experience this same love with my future husband, but i’m not blind to the fact that i have that kind of love in my life now. you can have many soul mates and if you’re lucky you will find them in your spouse, family, and friends.
7. owning 100 percent who i am: i am not ashamed to say i struggled with serious self-esteem issues growing up. i never felt pretty, i was constantly teased, and i rarely felt like i fit in anywhere. the more i began to believe who God said i was versus who the world kept trying to tell me to be, the more in love i fell with my true self. i have embraced the truth that i’m fearfully and wonderfully made, i have unique gifts and talents, my voice is meant to be heard, and i’m destined to stand out. i no longer apologize for my greatness. i don’t make myself small so others around me feel comfortable, and i do not seek approval from anyone but God. i understand that we all have a leading role in our own life story and we need each other as supporting casts and crew. i fly my geek flag with pride, i spend my time pursuing my interests whether i’m doing it alone, or sharing those interests with others, and i laugh as much as i can every day. listen, this smile that is practically a permanent expression on my face is a result of finding joy in the simple, small things as well as the amazing, big things. i have more than enough reasons to smile and i’ll never forget that.
8. attracting like-minded people: no matter where i have found myself in residence, i have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing people. i’ve already shared with you that i met my soul mates in college. but in graduate school, i found community with some amazing men and women who i am honored to know to this day. (thanks social media for helping us to build connections across distance and time.) now, as i’ve made a home in seattle, i’m blown away by the men and women who make up my community here. from my sorors to coworkers to community group connections, i have been blessed to be cared for and loved by my seattle peeps. recently, i have felt a huge push to develop those same types of connections in my church community. it’s a work in progress, but i do know that in all things, when we do our part, He does His part.
9. not looking my age: i will never grow tired of hearing people gasp when i tell them my age. i know, i don’t look a day over 25. (don’t you just love that modesty?) seriously, i can’t help but laugh when i get carded at the show. you really don’t think i’m at least 17? apparently, the movie theater policy is to card everyone who looks under 21. so, i guess some days i look like i’m barely legal. i attribute my youthful looks to good genes, being a black woman, and finding real joy in life. i try to never take life for granted, laugh as often as i can, do things that affirm me rather than tear me down, and find ways to give back every single day. the moment you choose gratitude over complaining, you will see those wrinkles melt away!
10. i get to see another year of life: i’m turning 36. most people don’t think this is a great life accomplishment. i get it. when you’re young, your mortality is a distant concept. sure, we all die, but it’s usually after living a long, full life. after losing my sister to cancer, i have truly grown to understand how precious each day is. so, as i celebrate year 36, i am mindful of the reality that she didn’t see her 36th birthday. i’m aware that there are people in my life battling illnesses that can potentially end their lives early. and i’m aware of the very real danger that awaits us in our cars, at our places of education/employment, and in our communities. nothing in life is promised. i chose to celebrate my life completely whether i have all the things i want/desire or not. i am a blessed woman and i am immensely thankful to be celebrating my 36th birthday. happy birthday to me. thank you God for another year. i can’t wait to see what you have in store for us!
although it goes without saying, i want to say it anyway. i’m grateful for my family and all the love and support they offer me. i would not be the person i am without them. i love you guys so much!