at the gate of 28

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i know traditionally we wait until january 1st (or maybe december 31st) to reflect on another year, but on the eve of my birthday, i can’t help but feel a bit contemplative for what the last 365 days has meant for me -in terms of lessons learned, memories made, distances traveled, tears shed and laughs shared, and most certainly, cute outfits worn. when a mere hours separate me from the dawning of my 28th year, i want to take a look back to what 27 had to offer -the good, the bad, the awkward, and the ugly. it was a year of mount everest highs and death valley lows and almost every elevation in between. as far as ages go, i’d say it was one of my best for no other reason than for the fact that i finally learned how to parallel park, use chopsticks, and stick to a natural(ish) hair color.

and in addition to all of those things, 27 more that occurred prior to my arrival at the gate of 28.

(in no particular order)

one. i got published.in a real life, hold in your hands and smell the fresh ink magazine. “not o.k. with just okay” was published in darling magazine‘s spring issue and it was one of the coolest blessings i’ve experienced in my lifetime. even if my writing career begins and ends there, i will always be able to hold that issue in my hands and see my name in print.

two. i traveled a lot. like a lot a lot. from nashville (3X) to dekalb, illinois to las vegas and savannah, i logged a few thousand air miles in my tenure as a 27-year-old. i came [    ] close to having a really awesome meet cute, but the rule-follower in me got in the way of that one. failed airplane romance aside, i learned a few things from my frequent visits to lindbergh field-one, i may or may not have mastered the art of packing (hint: it involves rolling your clothes). two, i really love making friends with my row-mates on planes. three, don’t wear so many layers on departure day, disrobing for security lines is just really inconvenient. four, i’m getting better with the inevitable unpredictability of traveling. i’m not completely comfortable with that whole “we’re going to be delayed two hours” thing but i’m getting there. baby steps. five, i love exploring a new locale, plain and simple. it also really helps when that new locale also includes a best friend who just so happens to have taken up residence there.(because hi, two birds, one stone). and finally, six, no matter where i go and for how long, traveling has taught me that there truly is no place like home (insert dorothy heel-click here).

three. i got really good at bridesmaiding. in my 27th year, i had the privilege standing next to, not one, but two of my friends as they married their one and only. i danced my little heart out at the receptions and flirted with an attendant or three, too. i steered clear of the bouquet toss (terrifying), but listened intently as both couples exchanged their vows. yep, i still want that one day. all of it, the white dress, the hoopla, the really awesome playlist and a sinfully delicious cake, but each time i add another taffeta gown to my collection, i am reminded that there’s no use rushing fate. he’ll get here when he gets here, he’s just stuck in traffic.

four. i fell in love with my job again. complacency, and at times, straight up apathy were two words i’d never imagine finding in my vocabulary, but after five years in the same position, i had become indifferent toward the nuances (or lack there of) of my gig. but this past year, through a transformed attitude, a heavier workload, a strengthened rapport with the bossman, and in all honesty, a more fervent sense of self, i have discovered a resurgence of appreciation for my profession. and i must say, it has made a world of difference in how i approach every one of those 40 hours in my workweek.

five. i ate my weight in sushi. well, actually i ate my weight in a cornucopia of other food genres, too -mexican, american, greek, southern -you name it , i probably ate it, or at least had someone else eat it and then tell me all about it. through my unofficial restaurant reviewdom with Ask Miss A, i was lucky enough to chew my way around san diego county, and at some of the city’s finest eateries i might add. while i’ll still always opt for a simple dish made at home, i’ve learned that there really is something special about hanging up your oven mitts for the night in order to enjoy what the world of fine dining has to offer. plus, it means no clean up in the kitchen.

six. i redecorated my house. or rather, just decorated it, period. new carpet, tiled bathroom floors, a fresh coat of interior paint, and (finally!) hung picture frames, 27 lent itself to productivity in domesticity.

seven. i made new friends. not just the kind i make on the daily at starbuck’s and trader joe’s, but the share your life story with-write novel-long emails to-and-share three hour coffee dates with kind of friends. who knew at 27 you could still turn acquaintances into sisterhoods? but life is kind of magical that way. turns out, the older we get, the more we’re all just looking for someone to not think we’re crazy when we refer to celebs by their first names (as if we know them personally) or when we confess that we’ve spent the last four hours analyzing the underlying meaning in the guy we’re newly dating’s last text message. we’re all just looking for someone to pick up on our friends/mean girls/sex and the city references. and lucky for me, i kind of hit the jackpot this year with not one, not two, but five of those kind of gals. i’ve said it once and i’ll say it again -i may not have found “the mister” yet, but i’m getting really good at finding sisters in the meantime.

eight. i had my heart broken. twice. yep, heartbreak was so much fun, i decided to go two rounds with it in the ring. but maybe taylor swift is onto something because heartbreak is pretty darn good for my writing career. but inspiration aside, i learned that maybe i’m not superwoman (i know, too bad). and that maybe it’s okay to cry in the middle of your guest bedroom and then miss two days of work because your eyes are so red and puffy that you’d offend every last one of your co-workers if you decided to rally and go into the office. i mean hypothetically, speaking. because maybe love really does suck sometimes. but in the words of kelly clarkson, what doesn’t kill you [truly does] make[s] you stronger. and while i wouldn’t mind getting back the days, weeks, and months i spent pining over a broken relationship and shattered heart, i am grateful for who i have emerged as a result -a little more guarded, but in a good way. turns out i’m still pretty awesome (in the humblest of ways, of course), but i have a tendency at accepting less than awesome treatment of my heart. so as i’ve bandaged it not once, but twice now, i’ve made a pact to be more mindful of its care this next go around. whenever that may be.

nine. i made forgiveness and grace a priority. most certainly with others, but also with myself. i became more mindful of my pursuit of perfection and its futility in my life. i realized it’s high time i start embracing my flaws and that comparison is indeed the greedy thief of joy. i tried, and will continue to seek, becoming a first-rate version of myself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else. for i am a work in progress, and when i inevitably fall flat on my face, i must remember to extend myself grace, brush myself off, and continue on my journey toward becoming the best version of me.

ten. i went back to high school. i mean, not literally (though it would be kind of fun to have a chance to do it all over again –never been kissed style), but in the sense that i reconnected with a handful of people i had the pleasure of sharing sack lunches and algebra II with over a decade ago. while there may have been a time in my life where i would have run and hid behind the elliptical machine if i ran into a fellow class of 03’er at LA fitness (again, speaking in hypotheticals here), i’ve come to realize the beauty in re-converging paths with someone who knew you when your biggest problems were whether or not johnny was going to asking you to prom. i learned that after ten years, all of the crazy lies you told yourself about why you couldn’t hang out with so-and-so were just that, lies. and outside of the confines of adolescent hell, you’re able to come together as two mature (debatable) adults (very debatable), with unique life experiences of which to share and adult issues like mortgages and health insurance to commiserate over, too. though your journeys into late twentysomethinghood may look different, there’s a familiarity that remains. and being able to rekindle that burning ember is a rare gift. one that in my 27th year, i truly learned to treasure.

eleven. bacon is delicious and i should no longer deprive myself of its crispy splendor.

twelve. life is short, buy the damn shoes [dress, skirt, blouse, belt, insert garment of choice here]. i realize this may or may not be just what i use to justify my overzealous spending habits at j.crew, but this philosophy has really served me pretty well in the last year. i’ve found that i’ve regretted more the things unpurchased rather than the the items that have come home with me that day. sometimes you just need to treat yo self and ask questions later. besides, why do you think the return policy was invented? precisely.

thirteen. friday night lights and tim riggins are still two of the best things that have ever happened to me.

fourteen. sometimes less is more. for the queen of mascara, i’m beginning to appreciate the beauty of a bare face. i’ve done my best to enact and maintain make-up-less saturdays and in each passing forgoing of eyeliner and blush, i’m finding the charm of my fresh-faced freckled mug. sure, she might keep me from R-rated movies, but adolescent features will certainly come in handy in my 40’s.

fifteen. speaking of faces, i started a wrinkle-prevention routine. i figured 27 was a good of age as any to start taking my collagen levels seriously, so thanks to the fine makers of bare escentuals, my skin is slathered with anti-wrinkle cream and cell renewal oil on the daily.

sixteen. never underestimate the power of an encouraging word and/or smile. it’s simple, it’s free, and yet its impact can be monumental. i may or may not come across as creeps mcgee a time or two in my pursuits, but i assure you, the sentiments are pure. and considering the fact that no one has alerted the authorities of my over-eagerness to accost near strangers to tell them how great i think they are, i have to believe it is always well-received.

seventeen. in addition to a trip to trader joe’s, there are few things that a walk along swami’s in cardiff can’t fix. a wink from a hot surfer is just icing on the cake.

eighteen. treinta ice waters are GAME CHANGERS. venti’s are just child’s play at this point in time. i like my h20 in a receptacle that holds more ounces than the human stomach. that’s just how i roll. hydration nation, y’all, population: me.

nineteen. emojis are one of my love languages. use them properly, and sing it jason mraz, i’m yours. 

twenty. speaking of jason mraz (terrible segway), in my 27th year, i discovered tristan prettyman and my music repertoire hasn’t been the same since. if her voice alone isn’t reason enough to form a mad girl crush on her, then her soul-speaking lyrics certainly are. considering the fact that she lives in north county, one of my goals for my 28th year may or may not be to “conveniently” run into her. see #15.

twenty-one. cooking for yourself (like really cooking, not just hitting the “baked potato” setting on the microwave) is highly underrated. from making my own salad dressing, to perfecting my use of the food processor (and not slicing my finger in the process), playing chef for one has been good for my future-wife skills and my belly.

twenty-two.  we’ve crossed the threshold in shower genres -from bridal to baby. yes, we’re in that stage. in the last year, i have joked with some of my childless married friends to refrain from drinking the water because everywhere i looked, someone was growing a fetus. and i mean, this whole baby boom currently encompasses my sistah and one of my best friends, so i’m getting to solidify my “cool auntie shawna” role really well now, but you know, it’s just crazy to think some of my babes are having babes of their own.

twenty-three. speaking of families, this past year has further convinced me of my own family’s superiority over all of the other families in the universe. yes, that’s as lofty as it sounds. deal with it, this is my list.

twenty-four. turns out, i can survive without coffee. but define “survive.” if it entails being snappy to my co-workers and hallucinating iced venti americanos, then that’s hardly surviving. starbuck’s, i don’t know how to quit you. and i don’t ever care to find out.

twenty-five. when in doubt, wear tights. it may be hot when you get dressed in the morning, but chances are, once you start driving westward, there will inevitably be a marine layer and sub-zero temperatures waiting for you. don’t chance the goosebumps, throw on the pair of tights, you’ll thank yourself later. that, and you’ll get away with one more day of forgoing a leg-shave.

twenty-six. too much of a good thing can still be a good thing. in my 27th year, i rang in my second anniversary of attending up to five pure barre classes per week and i’m still as in love with the workout (and in love for what it has done for my body) as i was on day eight. i say “day eight” because the first couple of classes were a bit rough and i momentarily contemplated retiring my grippy socks for good. but though i persevered, i will always despise the chair position.

and finally, twenty-seven. i truly believe the best hasn’t even happened yet. with each passing year, i’m getting there, catching snapshots and glimpses of what’s to come, but at the end of the day, i still believe my best years are ahead of me, not behind.

so twenty-seven, i bid you adieu. you’ve certainly made your mark, and for what the last 365 days have taught me, i will be eternally grateful. we’ve had a good run, you and i. but i think it’s time to move on. 27 may have been good, but i have this feeling that 28 is going to be great. 

marilyn blowing out candle

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