Birthdays are typically reflective times for me, moreso than any other time of year including Thanksgiving or New Year's. I usually write a list of all of the things that are great about my life in the past year and goals I have for the next year. In the past, this list has been in off-line journals or on my bulletin board but I decided I'd post my thoughts here this year.

A friend recently asked what my "before 30" goals where. I don't know that I really have any goals with that kind of a time frame. I never thought, "oh I have to do this before I'm thirty." There are, of course, goals like getting my Ph.D., traveling to Vegas, learning to cook more, etc. I never imagined my future in a time frame. I never, once, thought by the time I"m this old I'll own a house or by the time I'm this old I'll have that job. It's just not how I thought. Yeah, at one time I thought I might marry this guy and I imagined what my life with him would be like, but the longer I lived with him, the more I knew it didn't feel like my life.

When I entered the Master's program and then decided to apply to Ph.D. programs I knew it would be a while before my "career" began. I've never done anything traditional. I've been resisting expectations whenever I can. So my ideas of what my life, my future self, would be like were never typical. When I was five I told everyone I wanted to be a race car driver. At some point, I realized that that career path was unlikely to be successful for me so I decided I'd be a writer. I do consider myself a writer. I also consider myself a teacher of writing. I don't think the two are self-contained but rather dependent on one another.

If you'd told me when I was in my Master's program that I would fall in love with this bright-eyed girl who made me believe in love, in hope, in romance and in my own potential to generate all three and that I'd be in a deep and meaningful relationship with her for almost 3 years, I would've said you were looking in the wrong crystal ball. But what do we know about our own lives? Sometimes, very little. What I've found is that I know what I feel and that when something feels right, when I feel a connection to someone, I give myself over to it in ways I never thought I could actually do. What I've learned is that I surprise myself.

I don't know if this is where I saw myself at 29. But what I do know is that it's turning out to be a great place to be. I have friends who I adore, people I truly love and trust who make me laugh until it hurts. I have a family who, for the most part, supports and encourages me. I have an amazing group of professors and mentors who want me to succeed and who continually challenge and push me beyond myself. And most of all, I have someone who loves me even on days she doesn't particularly like me. I'm beginning to understand how to give that kind of love back. What I feel for her doesn't make sense to me. I can't quantify it or explain it. I can only live it. And I'm trying very hard to appreciate that.

My birthday dinner was great fun. I appreciate everyone who traveled near and far on a cold Illinois night to spend it with me.

I'll be posting pictures of the very cool "CSI" and Crime Scene Cake(s) Michelle made for me once I upload the pictures. Sadly, I'm crap at remembering to take pictures and therefore don't have any of the celebration or people who attended. But I know you were there and it meant a lot to me to have you there, all of you. You're the best friends and family and girlfriend anyone could ask for. I suppose 29 is the year of sappy and nostalgic sentiments for me. Get used to it.