Thirty Three.

I’m not sure if I ever really thought I’d be this old. Not because I was sick, or I didn’t have goals… I just sincerely didn’t see myself beyond my twenties. It was all unknown for so long. Here I am.

32 was a difficult year. It was 365 days where I ached and longed for things that couldn’t happen. No more babies. A broken engagement. A failed fellowship application. Career set-backs and a beautiful, determined launch that was so prolific- I still can’t believe how it came together.

32 was invigorating. For the first time, in a long time- the year settled into me deeply. I lived and worked harder than I thought was possible. I wrote powerpoints for the National Library and a past President. I worked on a Shark Tank launch with hopeful glee. I I ghostwrote two novels and dozens of articles. I landed Hallmark Channel and Good Morning America, Fox News and many others. But most of all,  I fiercely committed to my community in volunteering and finding a niche in wanting to help organizations that led with heart and integrity. Just a year before, everything was different and I viewed the world through frosted glass with my nose pressed firmly onto the surface. I peered, when I so wanted to go outside. This year- it happened. I broke free.

Freedom wasn’t in finding a particular job, client or purpose- it really was in finding myself- without apologies. That meant, some nights, I was lonely. The house was emptier and I was left to figure out if I made the right decision- which sometimes was a resounding “yes!” and others a very quiet and sheepish, “I don’t know.” Freedom came in learning to accept defeat and rely on myself and myself alone to make things possible- which was terrifying and humbling. I had spent so many years assuming I needed to prove my worth. This year, I let go and simply just focused on what I needed to.

I helped raise a beautiful, baby boy into an incredible and rambunctious toddler who asks me every night to crawl on the floor and play, “Mommy Monsters.” This little boy teaches me the art of play and growling with laughter. We stomp around the room and sing songs that we make up while clapping our hands. We’re silly and perfect and happy. Daniel pulls down my hand to the floor where his cars lie scattered and says, “MAMA. Come.” And I do.

With tired knees, I often creep downstairs to see my little girl who is becoming even more thoughtful, intelligent and gorgeous. She runs her fingers through my short hair and tells me stories of her day. Sometimes, I catch myself, “Mmmhmm-ing” too much and Ava says, “Mom! Listen. This is important.” And when I do, I’m reminded how as an adult I so want someone to understand the important in my own life. Ava reminds me so often to simply love- not because she hugs or kisses, but because she takes time to look me in the eye and remind me to listen and feel.

For some, birthdays start at 12am. For me, I’ve had multiple reminders throughout the year that I was becoming and growing more than ever before. 12am happened when I looked at the calendar and remembered- it had been a year since cancer. I re-learned what being a woman was, or is- and all the convoluted messages society tries to stamp in our heads.

12am happened getting off a bus with #GNLV2013 and #GNLV2014 delegates and knowing that when I returned to my home, everything was different. I couldn’t live the way I was. I couldn’t work mindlessly for money, I had to work consciously for a difference.

But most of all- 32 was a year of women. We are a brilliant bunch. Some are clients, friends and others have become family in a way that when I say I love them- sometimes without even knowing what the inside of their home looks like- I know I mean it. Some of them, I’ve spent years conversing with online or by phone- with the truly meant promise that we’d see each other soon.  Brittney, Anita, Patti, Tamika, Raquel, Dania, Elizabeth, Dara, Jamie, Heather, Christie, BreAnna, Amy, Susan, Mnar, Charlene, Sandy, Kim, Becky, Susie, Sarah, and Amazing Kate- (and every woman from this year,) you all have been SUCH an inspiration to me. We’ve sat and discussed children, jobs or difficult transitions. I have been unimaginably blessed to know you and share with you. At 32, I found girlfriends and purpose and really… I just found more of life than I ever knew existed before.