34 + 1 day.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 34. I love my thirties, but I can't believe I'm 34. Life feels like a dream. So often I'll be out with my kids--no doubt looking ragged and tired--and someone will whisper to me, "Enjoy it all. Enjoy all the fingerprints. Enjoy the tiny, squeaky voices. Enjoy the noise. It will be gone before you know it. And it will be too quiet. And you'll wish for all the craziness again." I used to shrug and say, "I'm sure, but what I wouldn't give for a quiet moment now," but now I try to do as I'm told an appreciate all the chaos because my oldest baby is almost 9, and my youngest baby is basically off to college. Haha. But seriously. He's got such an old man face and demeanor that I see his life before my very eyes.

34. I am not who I thought I'd be at 34. I'm not sure who I thought I'd really be, but I'm sure I didn't see this vagabond life in my future. I thought back to when I turned 17--half my life ago--and I remember I could sense freedom in my veins. I turned 17 just before my senior year and felt like everything good was in front of me; I'd already dealt with my fair share of crap and figured it couldn't get much worse. I started researching colleges, buying color block dishware and stretching my curfew to new limits. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, but the only problem was that I didn't know who I was. I was a mix of the people I hung around with. I was whoever my then-boyfriend wanted me to be. I was what my parents wanted me to be. I wasn't me.

I remember the first time I realized I didn't know who the hell I was. My roommate was out, and I was alone, lying on the cot-style bed the university provided for us in the dorms. I looked at all the pictures I'd tacked to my wall, and I didn't recognize the girl in any of them. I was too many people, and I knew it was time to strip away all the layers and find me.

Because I knew that if I didn't know who I was, then I most certainly didn't know where I was going.

Now 17 years later, I know who I am, and I like who I am. I like my strengths and appreciate my weaknesses. When I see pictures of myself, I feel proud of everything I've become. I see hard work in my muscles. I see long hours in my wrinkles. And I see love in my smiles. I've learned to be flexible with my future plans--nothing I've ever planned has really panned out, so I'm learning to trust in a greater plan. It's worked out okay this far.

At 34, I am happy. I am incredibly in love and connected to my husband, perhaps more so than in any previous year. I feel comfortable in my skin 40%-50% of the time. I feel sexy when I'm on a date. I feel strong when I'm doing pushups. I laugh at my kids more than I ever have. I catch myself smiling at the little things so often through out the day.

Thirty three wasn't perfect; I doubt 34 will be either, but if I stay true to God and myself, I know I will continue to find happiness, even if I don't know where I'm going.

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