Thirty One


I'm thirty-one today. I can't believe I've been alive on this earth for 31 years. I woke up this morning to my husband kissing me, wrapping me in a big bear hug, wishing me a happy birthday. What a lovely lovely way to wake up to another beautiful year of life! I realized that this was the first birthday that I will spend on Lake Michigan this year. in the middle of the North American continent. No ocean in site. 

That thought led me to do a ton of reflecting on all of my birthdays, where I've been, and why I love celebrating my day of birth so much. A message popped up on my Facebook from an old friend in Africa and a text came through from a friend I just met in Malawi last fall. I thought about how blessed I am to have known so many amazing people from all over the world. I saw a pattern when I started looking through all my photos from five/twenty. 

I'm usually at a beach, in the ocean, or near a waterfall. Always surrounded by best friends. 

I spent my 21st birthday around campfire with some amazing people in Zambia- my first trip out of the country and first voyage to Africa spent camping next to Victoria Falls. It will always be special because of that.

I spent my 23rd birthday in the Peace Corps at a beach in Ghana. with that beautiful purple cake you see above. A cake in the middle of rural Ghana? YES! I screeched with excitement when it was put in front of me. Lighting candles on the beach and a bubblegum chewing contest ensued. Entire pack of bubble gun later, I won. 

I spent my 24th birthday with my soulmate whom I had just met a few months earlier after returning home. I actually spent the day "working" collecting algae for a marine lab I used to teach at in the Florida Keys. My husband- then boyfriend later took me down to Key West where we had pasta, red wine, and went salsa dancing for hours. We bought a cuban cigar and just walked the streets breathing in the hot, humid air. We set the camera up on automatic, sat down on the sidewalk, and took 2 photos of ourselves that I treasure. I remember my 24th birthday was one of the best days of my life. 

I spent my 27th birthday completing my thesis, living in a small studio on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Twenty seven would later be the best year of my life. And went down in my history book as the year I started painting again. 

I spent my 29th birthday in the favorite place I've ever lived. Vero Beach, Florida at… you guessed it, the beach with all my favorite people. 

I spent my 30th birthday in between Australia and Fiji last year. I was feeling so reflective last spring leading up to my special day. I had asked a few very good friends to write a piece for this blog on "what their 20s had taught them". Wonderful stories, photos, and reflections filled up this space that month. I had every intention to conclude it all with my own thoughtful reflective piece on what my 20s had taught me in celebration of my 30th birthday. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I spent months thinking about it all. I never published it. Thirty came and went and I kept my reflections selfishly to myself. I couldn't bring myself to put my thoughts on what I learned from all those beautiful, hard, and intense moments called our twenties anywhere but in my own heart. 

Thirty for whatever reason was hard to swallow. Thirty one, on the other hand feels completely different. A wise man, 92 years of age, who also shares my day of birth told me last night that "We don't get older, we get wiser". He followed it up with saying he wish he would have realized that earlier in his life. Raised his eyebrows at me as if to say, realize it for yourself now.