I recently turned  30.  To many females, this number equates with a coming-of-age.  A number that we’ve had in our heads since childhood as a benchmark by when we’d like to hit certain goals.  For many, those include getting married and having kids. For me, those were never the goals.  It’s always been things like becoming financially independent, finding and developing a career that utilizes my skills, learning to be present in the moment, accepting a compliment when given, and being there for the milestones of my loved ones.  So, as this day approached, I felt nothing but excitement about the fact that I got to start fresh with a new decade, one that I hope will exude the mantra I’ve chosen on which to focus: wholeness.

For me, my twenties felt frenzied.  Not at every moment, but certainly in many.  So much self-doubt, criticism, and yearning for definitiveness, meaning and answers.  While I know there will never be an extended stage of life that is “easy” and in which all things are working smoothly (when I say “things” I mean health, relationships (friends/family/romantic), housing, spirituality, work, money, etc), I do feel that I’ve created a strong enough foundation for myself during my 20s whereby I have the strength and self-awareness to better handle the inevitable challenges that will come.  I also feel that I’m better suited to now approach my day-to-day life from the perspective of wholeness.  To simply be less less hard on myself.  To be gentle in the moments where I was once so self-critical. To find time for things that often get pushed to the bottom of the priority list, but make me happy. That is my aim for wholeness.

Each year it’s become my tradition to use my birthday as a moment of reflection. To give myself this time to look back over the occurances of the year and pat myself on the back as well as count any battle scars.  It’s become a practice I love and would recommend to others because I’m learning that as we age, time feels as though it passes more rapidly (although clearly time passes at the same speed) and as I get busier, it’s more challenging to remember or take time to appreciate the progress, the moments that mold me, and the things that felt like hurdles at the time, but now are just another story to tell, or better yet, a vague memory.

I kicked off the year with the typical review of my previous year’s goals and was pleased to tweak them for the new year. I chose the following words to be my themes for the coming year: clarity, success, happiness, peace, love, abundance and positivity.  Soon thereafter, I jetted off to Davos, Switzerland to participate in the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub elbows with the powerful, rich, famous, and genius, as well as was able to form relationships with 49 other young people (“Global Shapers”) from around the world. I felt inspired by the collaboration and innovation that is happening world-wide, reminded that we are a part of Global ecosystem.  I was also motivated by the level of energy, enthusiasm, and capacity of the other young people I met.

I flew to Baltimore to surprise my mom for her 65th birthday, drove to Charleston to celebrate my one year anniversary, headed to San Francisco to reconnect with my favorite US city, then stopped off in Austin to see my twin and his then girlfriend (now fiance’) and check out South x Southwest EDU and got to hear from Bill Gates.  Visited NYC, Sacramento and San Francisco again.  Went to the US Open in Philly, took a relaxing weekend in Pensacola, headed north to Chicago before the cold came in, at which point I migrated south to Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate the reigning in of the 30th birthdays of 10 of my best friends from high school, drove to South Carolina to celebrate a great example of true love at a friend’s wedding, then to Nashville to step out of my normal course of study at a digital marketing conference, then Charlotte for a baby shower, and lastly, closed out my 20s in Orlando with 12 wonderful friends. (Intended run-on sentences to make you feel as tired as I do.)

watched someone I love get hit by a moving vehicle and subsequently took my first ambulance ride. I saw a rainbow the next day. I remembered to be thankful and have hope.

I welcomed many “nieces and nephews” (not bloodline, but those of close friends) to the world.

29 required me to say some important goodbyes.  The first to my older brother, sister-in-law, and nieces as they departed Altanta to move to San Francisco. The second to my  boyfriend of almost two years.

At the start of 29, I faced a huge upset with one of my businesses, realizing that the trust I’d placed in our primary vendor partner had been broken. Yet, I also accepted the single-largest check I’ve ever deposited as a result of that. I had a byline in publications like Forbes and Little Pink Book, and was quoted in or written about in everything from Inc, to The Huffington Post, Mashable, and Amex Open Forum.  I even conducted a video interview with the BBC.  I vowed to better learn the ins-and-outs of my accounting. After a lot of headache, I am now proficient with Quickbooks and it’s enabled me to begin strategic planning for the ‘franchising’ of one of my companies.  I celebrated a 4 year business anniversary, now almost at 5!  Learned a lot about marketing, social media, and public relations.

I continued to follow the intersection of my skills and passions which center around people (primarily connecting them and bridging gaps), travel, efficiency, and creativity.  I often felt blessed (and continue to feel that way) that I’m able to independently work and make a living by utilizing and tapping into these skills and passions each day.

I read a lot. I even read a couple fiction books which is a divergence from my love of non-fiction. One of the books I read had my name on the cover. I read it to lots of kids from pre-K to 5th grade. I even signed them for 200 kids and once for some parents (in the rain).

I lost a roommate and for the first time as an adult, intentionally lived alone with no plans of getting a future roommate.  After years of banging my head against the wall with mortgage lenders, I finally refinanced my home and was pleased to find that I’m less up-side-down than I once was.

I reaffirmed the belief that people are people, regardless of title, wealth, or power.  This lesson was reenforced not only in Davos, but again this summer when I was invited to speak on a panel on behalf of Millennial entrepreneurs for Coke’s senior leadership and dine with them that evening.

I tried going gluten free for two weeks. I decided that I like gluten and gluten likes me. I continued to practice yoga and tried to take in the small moments, reflect on my gratitude for things big and small during the day, and learn to breathe. I  worked to focus on the things I can control, rather than focusing on the things out of my control like how others act or what others think of me. After years of saying that “therapy shouldn’t be stigmatized and everyone could benefit”, but never doing it myself, I finally took the leap and starting going. I also committed to visiting a holistic doctor.

I auditioned for Shark Tank.  And no, you won’t be seeing me on the show, at least this season… 

I attended my high school reunion…and had a blast!

I sought to find a female mentor and realized that the best way to find one was to organically let relationships develop.  Without even realizing it, I found an incredible female business mentor who has challenged me yet gently encouraged me. I made mistakes and failed. Some more publicly like expanding a business into other markets unsuccessfully (so far) and others more privately. I started going to church online. I worked on loving myself, inside and out, rather than pick myself apart. I helped several people find jobs, significant others, and customers for their companies. Did my first “mind-mapping retreat” and when I saw my brain on a whiteboard, understood why I’m always so tired.  I became more confident in the kitchen, actually being told I’m a good cook, which is a far cry from my early 20s when cooking consisted of heating up a can of soup. 

Did several home improvement projects which included a bedroom redecoration, garage organizational system install, and kitchen backsplash. Made an ‘old college try’ at gardening. Grew a couple baby tomatoes and some basil. Killed some thyme and cilantro.

Had a flattering article written about me by my alma matter’s magazine. Also sat my first full year on the board of said alma matter.

Perhaps saw my last Brave’s game since they decide to quit the city of Atlanta so I plan to quit them going forward.

Congratulated my parents on 44 years or marriage. Wished my nieces a happy 2nd and 4th birthday.

Was reminded that some people are takers in this world. Makes me grateful that most people I know are givers.

I’ve always said that my biological age felt decades behind my mental age, so as I’m getting older, I look forward to it (so far).  It’s really wonderful to have moments to reflect and remember. To see the changes over one year, but more so, over the last decade. 10 years ago, I was in college. I had no idea what my professional life would look like. No clue that “networking” was a skill, that entrepeneurship was a viable way to make a living, that I could own a home at 23, and make a name for myself in the professional community in Atlanta.  I also had no idea what lives my friends would lead or how great it would be to watch their growth and divergent paths.  To visit them around the world, celebrate their successes, and be there for each others challenges are all pieces of the memories that will mark my 20s.  It was a wild ride, one I won’t get to do again, but one of which I’m certain has set me up to be exactly where I need to be to enter into my 30s.  I truly believe we all take the courses in life which are necessary for each of us to learn the proper lessons that we need (and we each have different lessons). For that reason, I’m grateful for the turmoil of my 20s and in turn, anticipate the journey ahead. Thanks for taking the ride with me.