I turned 35 years of age a few weeks ago. For years, this had been “the number;” the age that when I was younger, would be a determinant of the level of success I achieved and accomplished.  I just knew that by age 35, I would be happily married, have my four children and would be at the pinnacle of my career, either as a lawyer or some sort of community activist. I would have a house comparable to the childhood home where I grew up; complete with a family-friendly neighborhood and an ample-sized backyard where my children would be afforded the same simple luxuries I was afforded as a young girl. Swing sets, family BBQs and even a doghouse.

As it turns out, I haven’t actually achieved any of these things. I did have a marriage, but now I’m divorced. I have a son, but he is my only child. I have a mortgage on my own home, but it is currently a one-bedroom condo with a loft that I share with my kid. Co-parenting and condo living is not exactly where I thought I’d be at 35, but strangely enough, I am completely okay with this. Okay…maybe like 90-95% okay, because I still want the house for my kid (and more kids, to boot). Yet for all the fretting I had done about turning 35 and what that would mean for my life, when the moment actually arrived, I embraced it. I stepped into it. I owned it and silently said to myself, “35, I am here.”

I was fortunate to have my big day land on a Saturday, so I spent my birthday weekend with a group of cousins in Texas. This is the state where my mother grew up and where I have traveled to every summer pretty much since I was born. With this birthday, I knew I wanted to do something different. To be some place different. It wasn’t until I was on the plane to Texas when I realized the significance of being connected with my roots on the day of the celebration of my birth.  What better way to step into a space and embrace it while also being embraced by those who have always loved and accepted you? It was definitely a full circle moment. It was like coming home to who I am. It also turned out to be one of the best weekends I have ever had in my life, birthday or otherwise.

About a week prior to turning 35, my therapist asked me to take some time and reflect on what has been defined as a monumental age. She wanted me to think of all the experiences that I’d had up until this point in my life and how I could use those experiences to shape my life from here on out. Again, what stood out to me the most is the ease with which I stepped into the space of turning 35.

I realized this comfort came from surviving all of the experiences, good, bad and ugly. I did not reach 35 unscathed and instead of running from the challenges or allowing the challenges to prevent me from being my best self, I accepted them as life lessons. Building blocks that would only serve to make me stronger. I know that without these challenges, I would not be the woman I continue to become. I’ve earned my stripes and I wear them proudly. I have quickly learned one of the most beautiful things about turning 35 is reaching (if you haven’t already reached) that place where you begin to fully accept yourself for exactly who you are.

If you lined up ten of my closest friends, they would probably all describe me in the same way. Headstrong. Independent. Stubborn. Unnecessary worrier. Determined. Compassionate. Devoted mother. Talkative. Passionate. Intense. Overthinker. Kind. For a long time, I shunned my better qualities while erroneously telling myself doing so was a form of humility. Yet, I’d also be offended by the pointing out of the not so great stuff about me. Now I understand I need to accept all of the things that make me who I am. I can be proud of the person I am and the accomplishments I’ve made, and instead of being offended about the not so great stuff, I can do my part to not let it adversely affect others or myself. This is where my work in therapy comes into play, as well as my desire of continually striving to be the best me I can be.

While reflecting on turning 35, a video poem from Warsan Shire found its way to me. She is a beautiful poet based in London. I’d heard of her through tweets from one of my writing inspirations, dream hampton, but I’d never actually checked out her work for myself.  That is, until the day a friend posted the poem on her Facebook page. I was so moved by it, that I watched it multiple times and immediately shared it with other women friends who I knew would also appreciate the message. Being that ten of my closest friends would probably also describe me as a love junkie, there was something about the poem’s description of the strength of a woman’s love that really spoke to me. Through my work in therapy, I have come to understand how strong my own love is. Though I have had to learn how to be mindful of it in my relationships, it is also something I fully accept about myself. I haven’t reached 35 without experiencing heartbreaks and letdowns, but I am proud of myself for still being strong enough and willing enough to be receptive to love.  It is not always easy, but doing so will bring ease to my life’s journey from here on out.

When the video poem came my way, I knew it would have to be included in my next blog. I hope you enjoy it.

And cheers to turning 35.

Peace and Love.