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27 Years.

I turned 27 years old this morning at 6:49 a.m., and it feels really damn good. So good, in fact, that I hardly scoffed at the torrential downpour that completely soaked my pants on my walk to my office. The cards and daisies that littered my desk made up for it.

My 26th was a year for affirming and practicing my values. I narrowed my priorities, set goals, and focused on the things that made me feel the most whole. For the first time in a great while, I feel settled. And I have so much faith in 27.

I ensured my friendships remained a priority. My calendar is nutty, and progressively so. At any given time, I’m balancing a rigorous fitness schedule, a recreational coed sport, and an avalanche of social obligations, but that’s how I like it. When my closest girlfriends (and former coworkers) and I parted ways in 2015 for new career endeavors, we lost the convenience of using our 8-to-5s to stay dialed into each other’s lives, and that sucked. So we established a biweekly dinner date where we each take turns hosting an evening of eating, drinking, and bitching. We collectively refer to our sacred girl-night as “Lady Dinner,” though I want so badly to re-dub it “Bitch and Booze.” We stuck to it, and we spent more than 20 Lady Dinners together in the last 12 months.

I played more sports. See: “at any given time, I’m balancing a rigorous fitness schedule, a recreational coed sport…” Twenty-six welcomed my fourth anniversary playing with the same beach volleyball team (yay!), and a quick retirement from softball when a large man stealing second base succeeded in severely jamming my thumb. A line drive to the mitt the following inning sealed the deal.

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Unrelated, I learned to waltz and foxtrot.

I fell in love with my job. A public policy firm is the last place I expected to find myself employed, but alas, here I am thriving. It took a moment of feeling like I wasn’t fully tapping my designer potential before I could truly appreciate what I do. I am not a traditional creative—I get off identifying inefficiencies in processes and finding solutions.

During my second year as a senior designer, I helped create a more unified production team, and designed and implemented a system to streamline project requests, track project data, and reduce overall staff time related to project submissions. It completely revolutionized the way we work. I also played an integral role in executing our firm’s brand refresh, which required a complete redesign of every piece of collateral our company uses, including a new suite of Microsoft Office templates. Every notable project I touched offered a great deal of struggle, but I met each challenge with a lot of patience and an equal amount of grace. I finally understand the power of my strengths.

My boss says I view challenges as new dragons to slay. I agree with him. I also agree with my big, fat raise.

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I traveled to the West Coast, twice. In November, I attended Adobe Max in San Diego, California for professional development. Naturally, I invited my best friend to piggyback off my good fortune. I needed a partner in crime. The conference was incredible, but my fondest memory takes place outside an industrial freezer at a hip gastropub. Best friend and I learned of a tiki-themed speak easy hidden behind the freezer of the pub, and made a point to get there early to guarantee entrance. While waiting in line, two strangers unknowingly (or knowingly, who knows?) cut us. Before politely telling them to get-the-fuck-back-to-the-end-of-the-line-we’re-thirsty-god-damnit, we learned they were from Chicago and in true Midwest-fashion, we became instant friends. When we reached the freezer entrance, hula-hostess asked for a party of four, and a party of four we became. Best friend and I spent the evening barhopping with our new pals before parting for our dinner reservation. We’re still Facebook friends.

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My second trip out west found me in the desert of Washington. I learned hiking mountains isn’t my thing.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. See: I marched on Lansing.

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I celebrated my first CrossFit anniversary. I restarted my CrossFit career in November 2015 following a pretty trying bout with depression, and it lifted me more than I lifted period. In the last 12 months, I’ve made gains I didn’t think I could possibly make, including a 130-pound squat clean, and a 170-pound backsquat. But it’s only the beginning—I have high hopes for 27.

Following my first anniversary, I committed to competing in my first competition, a comp at my home box with a team of three. I nearly barfed in the car that morning. The Sweaty Betties placed seventh of 13 teams, but I couldn’t have been more proud of our performance.

What’s more, my mom, dad, brother, and fiancé’s family spent the entire day cheering me on. I felt so loved. It’s been a full decade since my mom’s last appearance screaming from the sideline, and that “proud-poppa” wink from my dad at the finish socked me right in the feels.

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I said ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal. Holy smokes! Fiancé made me breakfast that morning—sweet potato hash with eggs. I knew the proposal was coming because it was our seventh monthiversary, but it was sweet despite my knowing. It also guaranteed I’d have the engagement ring I bought for him with me when he asked. In a stack of postcards we created for family, he’d slipped ‘will,’ ‘you,’ ‘marry,’ and ‘me’ and asked me to sort them. He dropped to a knee, presented the ring, and I said ‘yes.’ And then I did the same. My ring is a beautiful trillion cut sapphire, but the man who gave it to me is far more valuable.

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I paid off my car. Two and a half years early.

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I marched on Lansing. Hilary’s loss felt like a personal failure, and I started questioning my lack of involvement in politics. More importantly, my lack of involvement in organizations and demonstrations that shared my values. I could’ve done more.

Post-election day was the first day I felt unsafe in my own country.

So I pledged to be more proactive, and I’m still trying. I participated in the Women’s March on Lansing, I wrote senators, I signed petitions, and I donated to Planned Parenthood. Standing side-by-side with thousands of women in protest restored my faith in people.

I moved downtown. Fiancé and I hadn’t planned to cohabitate so soon, but when our desired studio apartment became available in February, we initialed there, there, and there. We toured our tiny nest on a whim hoping the view was as spectacular as we expected, and it was. The floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious floor plan, pedestrian commute, and in-unit laundry sold us both, but the move required us to significantly downsize our things. We donated nearly nine carloads of possessions to various nonprofits, and if anything, it was refreshing.

I cut my student loan debt in half. Only tens of thousands left to go.

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I picked up my paint brush. And it resulted in the best painting I’ve created in years.

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