I’m a day late with my birthday post this year. Mostly because I’ve been avoiding it. 23 was a roller coaster of a year - incredible highs and very low lows. But tradition is tradition, so without further ado: my 9th annual birthday post: (holy heck, I’ve been writing this thing for 9 years already!?)

Where to begin?

Twenty-three was really all about settling into adulthood. I’ve now been out of college for about 1.5 years and I’ve lived on my own in San Francisco for just over a year of that. That fact alone has been the impetus for most of the changes in my life. I’ve spent this last year trying to carve out a new “home.” To be honest, “home” is still on the east coast for me, but more and more I’m building a life for myself here. It takes time. (Aside: Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” just came on my iTunes random shuffle…cheeztasticly appropriate for this post).

Adulthood sort of smacked me in the face this year. There was no easing into it. I was totally prepared for things like needing to pay my own bills, living on my own, having a job, etc. etc. but the other parts that come with being an adult? Things like death? I don’t think anyone is ever ready for those.

That’s been the real driver of change this year. It’s the thing that changed me as a person in the blink of an eye.

To rewind: just after I moved out here in August of ‘09, my grandmother started to get sick. She was in and out of the hospital for a while, including on Thanksgiving. And that would be the last time I saw her. She died on 12/21 - a few hours before my flight back to NJ for Christmas.

I was essentially raised by two women: my mother and my grandmother. I was equally close to both of them and after my grandfather passed away my sophomore year of high school, it was just the three of us.

Needless to say, that was the lowest of lows for 23 - if not for my entire life. Not only did I need to figure out adulthood, but I needed to do it having just lost 50% of my support system. I lost half of my sounding board for all of the big decisions that I would have to make. And half of my cheering section for when things went well.

The good news is that when your low point is that low, everything else looks peachy.

Just before my gram passed away, I got a dog (who would be my Christmas gift from my gram). I named her Penelope Pixel Cheerio Vargas. Most know her as Penny. Penny has kept me company through all of this and has a pretty cushy life if I do say so myself. As I write this she’s napping upstairs. She’s not one for mornings.

Also keeping me company through all of this (though in a much geekier way) has been 101in365. It’s become a huge part of my life and I’m really enjoying watching it grow, dusting off whatever coding abilities I had before, and learning so much along the way.

I’ve also had a lot of adventures and new experiences: I went to Taiwan for a second time, back to Cornell twice (those last 3 trips were work-related), and I FINALLY got to go to Austin, TX for SxSW Interactive! Strangely, this year was all about trying new foods, too. I think it started out with the Taiwan trips, but since I moved to San Francisco I’ve changed my eating preferences almost entirely. (And for my friends who knew my previous eating preferences, I said ALMOST!) Dim Sum is now one of my favorite things to eat and I can’t even remember the last time I had spaghetti! I also tried things that I never thought I would - things like going to a shooting range. (another work trip… a weird one, I know!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I’m finally back to Flickr now. That was a much-needed change since my previous project was basically sucking the life out of me. And let’s face it, it’s where I’m supposed to be in the grand scheme of Yahoo! things. That’s also changed my life pretty dramatically in that I no longer have a ridiculous commute down to Sunnyvale. I can walk, take the muni, or if the mood strikes, ride my Vespa to work. Not to mention the team is amazing and I love getting to spend time with them every day.

So all in all, I’m actually still not sure where this year netted out. In the big-picture view, learning, growth, etc. aren’t really ever bad things, but when bad things force that learning and growth it’s tough to see the positive side of it. I’m still working on that.

I do know that I’m at a very different point in my life than I was this time last year. For better or for worse. And I hope that 23 was the lowest it’ll get for a while, because I’m really looking forward to 24. I have high hopes for this next year. Big dreams, huge ambitions, and more motivation than ever. I don’t want next year’s entry to be like this. I want it full of amazing adventures, friends, family, progress, good change, and real happiness. And it will be. Because I’m going to make it so.

So here’s to turning the page. Starting fresh. Moving forward. Kicking Ass. See ya, 23. It’s been real.

Past Birthday Posts: 23, 22, 21, 20, 19 (lost), 18, 17 (lost), 16