It’s amazing how in one year so much can be different, yet strangely, so much is exactly the same. When I started this year, I didn’t really expect to be right back where I started, but that’s just sort of how things happened. This year has surprised me in many ways. A lot of it felt like it was on auto-pilot, but at other times it turned out to be one of the more self-reflective, self-aware, and transformative years of my life so far.

In reflecting on this year, I think it was one that sort of netted out at neutral. There were some crappy parts, some great parts, some parts in between. All in all, I think it was a successful year, but it wasn’t without its bumps. I don’t have any strong feelings about it - when I think back, my reaction is just sort of “meh. solid year. could have been better, but it’ll do.”

Starting with the positive, this year was one where I tried to push myself out of my comfort zone more than ever. I challenged a lot of the long-standing habits I’d developed and changed accordingly. Focusing on my health and the changes that came out of that were a huge part of my journey this year and it’s something I’m still working on. I think the sort of internal focus it takes to make serious changes in how you live and the choices you make surrounding your health and fitness inherently make you a more self-aware person. When I started this whole thing it was just a “let me get to a gym to feel more fit” situation, but about 7 months later it’s stuck and it’s really transformed the way I approach my life in ways that I totally didn’t expect. I still have a bit of a ways to go, but on the whole I’m pretty proud of where I am now and the things I’ve learned about myself along the way.

Part of the process of focusing on my health was deciding to keep a vegetarian diet. People ask me “why?” all the time, and do I feel bad for the chickens and the cows? Yes. Is that the reason I stick a vegetarian diet? Not entirely. I’ll probably go into it in more depth at some point, but for me it’s more about eliminating choice to help me make easier, better decisions.

It’s been an interesting transition. Those of you who know me more closely know I’m one of the world’s pickiest eaters. Or at least I was. As part of the vegetarian thing, I’ve had to break a lot of my rules around food. If a food I didn’t previously like is put in front of me, I at least force myself to try it before declaring, yet again, that it’s gross. This has really opened up a whole new world of broccoli, brussels sprouts, squash, cauliflower, eggplant, and more. I still have a long way to go in making sure I’m getting the appropriate nutrition on a vegetarian diet, but I’m getting there. Do I think I’ll stay vegetarian forever? No. And Thanksgiving will be an especially interesting challenge. I’m at least trying to get to the 6 month mark and then I’ll make a call. 1.5 months to go.

One of the other more tangible changes in my life has been on the social front. I’ve had a rule of “one social occasion per week, minimum” for a few years now as a way to force myself out of my introverted, hermit-ish ways. By surrounding myself with a lot of outgoing, social people, it’s become a lot easier and less draining to go out for drinks or dinner or karaoke multiple times a week without feeling completely dead by the end of the week.

An unexpected perk of working at Birchbox was developing some really amazing friendships that extended beyond the office. I was never one to have a ton of girl friends, but now I find myself with a whole bunch and it’s been a lot of fun. As someone who grew up as an only child, a tomboy, and never really into fashion, hair, or makeup, my repertoire for such things has grown dramatically. To the point where I was watching What Not To Wear on TLC a few months back and caught myself saying “oh, that’s last season’s Tom Ford.” and completely surprising both my mother and myself. I now know more designers, styles, make up best practices, hair tricks, and nail trends than I can count, which has been enlightening and entertaining to say the least.

This last year has felt like all of a sudden I gained a bunch of sisters and best friends who make sure I don’t walk out of the house looking a wreck and I’m fully versed in all things girly. Having a group of friends to be able to help you sift through dresses, makeup, hair products, or even liquor store shelves makes the whole shopping thing so much more fun. That’s not to say I’m not still a tomboy. I’d rather wear jeans, a t-shirt, converses, and a ponytail, but I think my wardrobe and general style has evolved a bit over the past year. A welcomed change. I think now that I’m not at Birchbox I’ll move to more of a middle ground, but things like skin care, eye creams, and wearing SPF daily will definitely stick around and my birthday posts 40 years from now will be thankful.

Another development this year was getting a roommate and moving to Manhattan. Now that I live on the Upper East Side, I find myself much more willing to go out and do social things in the evenings after work since I don’t have the 45-minute trek back to Brooklyn. To top it all off, Ioanna lives in the next room and Jimelle lives right across the street, so even when I don’t want to get dressed and go out, we can all just gather in the living room, order some take out, and watch Homeland. And then there’s the added bonus of Kate and Julia living two blocks away. I really have had a fantastic great year in terms of my relationships - I gained a whole bunch of new friends, strengthened relationships with old friends, and learned (I hope!) how to become a better friend in the process. When I look back on this year it’s the one thing that stands out above everything else: some amazing people have come into my life and I couldn’t be more thankful.

In looking back on last year’s post, one of my goals was to travel out of the country. This has been a lingering goal since 2010 and I finally managed to make it happen. Jimelle and I went to Japan for 2 weeks and had an amazing time. I had a lot of time to reflect (hello 13+ hour plane ride) and to distance myself from my daily routine and look at it more objectively. The trip reminded me how much I love to travel, how much I love to learn and be challenged, and how comfortable I’d gotten in my current life. It prompted a whole lot of change upon my return home.

And that’s where things sort of cycle back to just before my 26th birthday last year. I find myself newly funemployed and feeling like I have the world of possibility laid out in front of me and am completely paralyzed by the need to choose a direction. Despite reminding myself that I don’t need to choose just one - that I can try multiple things and see which work the best, being completely free to do whatever I want next is an incredibly thrilling, daunting, and lucky place to be. I truly didn’t think I would be taking another break from the 9-5 world so soon. Things just sort of happened that way. For the most part, I was happy at Birchbox. But I still felt incredibly unfulfilled. I don’t know that I’m designed for the corporate world. Maybe someday in the future, but at this point in my life I think I need to fend for myself. I want to figure out what I can make out of my life using my own skills, determination, and imagination.

It’s different from the last time. When I left Etsy, I had a very specific reason: I was going to work on This time around is still in the picture in some form, but I like the idea of not knowing what’s next and freeing myself to be open to possibilities instead of hopping from one thing to the next in a calculated move. I’m lucky enough not to need to work for a few months while I figure it out, so I’m looking forward to a few months of exploration, discovery, and finding some direction.

As a part of that, I think reflecting on my current location and the possibility of moving has come up a few times. Last year, I absolutely loved living in New York City and there was nowhere else I’d rather be for that point in my life. It still holds true for the most part, but these days I find myself wondering if there are other cities that might pique my interest or challenge me in new ways. I don’t see myself leaving NYC for a little while at least - I think it will continue to be my home base - but I’m not closed to the possibility of trying something new. Maybe it’s LA, Nashville, Austin, Boulder, London, Berlin, Tokyo, who knows.

Looking forward, well, that’s a bit tougher. I have a pretty clear picture of where I’d like things to be in 3-5 years, but reeling that back in to a 3 mo, 6 mo, 1 year timeframe becomes tougher. Honestly, I’m so up in the air right now about what the next year of my life could look like that it’s tough to nail down some goals for the next 365 days, but thematically I hope they include:

  • Travel. A lot of travel. Domestic, international, intergalactic, whatever.
  • Continued growth in relationships with friends and family.
  • Measurable career progress - either an amazing full-time job or crafting a successful independent life. I hope for the latter.
  • Improved and sustained health. I hope by this day next year I'll have reached my fitness goals and am successful in maintaining them.
  • Have done something with a positive impact - maybe work with a non-profit, maybe through teaching, maybe building something that improves people's lives. I want to do something of consequence.

It’s funny, looking back on my posts from the past, and seeing how my goals for each coming year have changed over time. They’ve gone from very specific experiences or milestones (“Graduate from Cornell”, “Travel to Europe”) to more general sentiments. If I were taking my own medicine, I’d say these goals weren’t SMART, but I like to think of them more as mini mission statements. I can build a plan from there. Hopefully.

I’m pretty curious / excited to see how this next year will turn out. I like to think that this year will be anything I want to make it into - if I want to open a tea shop, go back to school, start a company, go work for The Man, throw my life into a backpack and fill up my passport, or a combination of those things, it’s the first time since I was a kid where I really feel like the world is my oyster (another food I’ve added to my repertoire) and it’s up to me to shape it into the reality I want. It probably sounds pretty self-important or self-centered (dare I say “typically millennial”), but it’s the truth. It’s the first time I feel unencumbered by fear, self-esteem, expectations or external pressures and am ready to tackle whatever challenges or opportunities come my way. It’s a great feeling and I want to make the most of it.

Past Birthday Posts: 26,25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19 (lost), 18, 17 (lost), 16