This is 31

In a few short weeks, I will turn 32 while celebrating with a dear friend on her stomping grounds in Austin, Texas. As I reflect on the year gone by, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead…

This past year has been similar to a picnic after a storm with a rainbow at the end. The storm was tumultuous and damaging at times, but then there were great periods of joy and rest in between. The past two months in particular have been incredibly stressful, and I have seen just how much I need to say the word “No” more often and learned to take better care of myself.

A lot of people may find this hard to believe, but at 31 I have learned that I am actually an introvert. I love people, and I love spending time with people, but time with people depletes my energy tank pretty quickly and it takes more time for me to fill that tank back up. The way I usually explain introversion vs. extroversion to clients is that social time is very expensive to introverts. To an extrovert, a party or a dinner out may give them energy, or cost them very little in their energy tank. To an introvert, this same social interaction is a very expensive withdrawal from the energy bank account, and it takes some time to deposit that energy back in to the tank.

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What I have learned this year is that I can’t make plans for Friday evenings. By Friday, my social interaction account is completely depleted and I have nothing left. I also take Mondays off. As much as I love my work in the jail, it definitely depletes my energy account to the point where I can hardly function around other people on the next day.

My social time looks quite different at 31. Last weekend, I had some friends over for dinner. I made a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs from scratch. They brought an appetizer and dessert. My intention was to share a relaxing meal and catch up on everyone’s lives. What really happened was this: I was in my pajamas when they arrived, my house was a wreck, and my friends ended up cleaning my room for me because my mom and grandmother were coming in town in a few hours and, in the course of dinner, I received a work phone call and an important family phone call, which rendered me distracted and far from present with my friends.

In the past, letting my friends clean my room, much less not being a good hostess, would have sent me into crazy town. It would have not even been an option. Over the past year, I have learned to let people help me and to invite them into my mess. I have learned that relationships are far more meaningful when I am just real with people, even when “real” looks really, REALLY messy.

When my mom came in town to visit, I meant to offer a perfectly decorated house with all of my boxes unpacked. That wasn’t the case either. My mom spent an entire day in Orlando unpacking boxes in my room and organizing my closet. I would have NEVER let her do this in the past, because I would have been too concerned with entertaining her, rather than letting her do something that gave her joy and let her be a mom.

At 31, I have learned that I will double book clients, say something stupid at least twice a day at work, spill food on myself whenever I wear a white shirt, and sometimes have a tennis-ball sized hole in my pants and not realize it until the end of the day. I have learned that real friends are the ones who will show up on your doorstep 30 minutes before a first date, who will laugh or cry with you regardless of what state they live in, and who will step in when you feel like you are about to break down completely. I have learned that new friendships take time, a LOT of time, to build and maintain. I have learned that it is not only ok but completely healthy to have needs and to express them. I have learned that sometimes you just need to dance in the rain with a friend after happy hour. I have learned that I need to spend money on my heart, even if it’s just enough gas money to get to the beach and a $3 ice cream cone.

At 31, a wild night out looks more like sharing a meal and some wine with a few good friends and staying up until 2am watching a stupid movie or laughing over mistakes we have made during the week. At 31, sometimes I pay for gas in quarters and check to see which restaurants are offering free deals this week. I have stopped checking my credit score every day and resting in the fact that all things will come together if I just make good decisions every day. And things will still be ok when I make not-so-great decisions.

At 31, I am starting to accept that I am equal parts my mom, my dad, and my own unique person. I can appreciate the gifts my parents have given me and grieve the hurts and wounds as well.

I still dream of being a wife and a mother, but love being able to sleep diagonally across my super comfy bed and cooking whatever I want for dinner as well.

At 31, I would say that life is good. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t what I dreamed it would be. But it’s good. And I look forward to 32.

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