A couple of weeks ago I turned 31. It’s a pretty inconsequential birthday really, but I love all birthdays equally; to me, they’re a better time than new year’s to reflect on the past year and imagine what the next one will hold. I think they mean more to me because they seem like an achievement – I’ve made it to a whole new number in life! I’m also lucky to have family and friends who spoil me. I got gardening supplies from my MIL (all in purple!), the traditional assortment of cards and a new laptop (!!!) from my parents, a card from my grandpa (and the funding behind this blog – I use the money in my card every year to renew my domain name and buy myself some new camera stuff), and Kyle arranged an epic cheese and brewery tour in Milwaukee for us (complete with a schedule. He really does love me.) I also got a card and candle from my coworkers, and lots of calls and texts and facebook messages. Presents aside, birthdays are a great reminder of the community around you, and in my case also how far-flung your entire friend group is.

When I turned 30, people told me that I was basically entering the best kept secret of aging. After 30, you get to completely stop caring about what other people think, and fully settle into your own skin. This advice was completely spot on – I feel like in the last year, I’ve owned up to my personality, the shape of my body, what I want out of life. This ultimately meant changing jobs and cities, and I couldn’t be happier with that choice even though it meant leaving friends who have become family. I’ve stopped apologizing to myself for the way my brain thinks, and have channeled my competitive, bossy tendencies in more productive ways. I’ve accepted how scary it is to take risks, and now have enough life knowledge to know that even if everything goes sideways, I can find my own way out of it. While I often look in the mirror and wonder when exactly I started to look so damn old (eye wrinkles?!?), I’m able to remind myself that any flaws I might find are a result of a life well lived. Age may just be a number, but 30 has been totally liberating.

With any luck, 31 will be even better.

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