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To say that 2020 has not been kind to us is an understatement. Between the politics, COVID-19, quarantine, unemployment, student loans and everything in between, celebrating a birthday in the COVID-era seems odd. Yet, I’m still excited about my own. Amongst all this chaos, you may be wondering how I could still feel so passionately about my birthday.

I'm a birthday person — always have been, always will be. I champion the notion that a person has one day allotted to them out of the entire year that is 100% dedicated to celebrating their existence. For those of you winter babies who had the chance to celebrate your birthdays before COVID, I tip my hat to you. I'm one of many who have either had to change or cancel my birthday plans in order to keep myself, family, friends and the general public safe. It's not a unique occurrence during this time to have a socially distanced birthday party with limited people, elaborately decorate your home with balloon garlands and streamers or round up all your friends for drinks and having a virtual game night.

Many ‘90s babies like myself are experiencing the milestone birthday of turning 30 this year, which is the end of one era and the beginning of another. As I approach the big 3-0 in about a month, I've found myself getting more and more excited at the prospect of leaving my 20s behind, as crazy as it may sound.

Some people's 20s are the weird mix of college life, post-college life and then this weird transition of youth to adult (that in my opinion, happens somewhere after 25). For me, I can almost splice up my 20s by hallmarks that were split between undergrad in San Antonio, graduate school in Chicago and adjusting to full-time work life. All of these eras represented a different period of challenges and triumphs, from getting my degree, doing my own taxes, buying my first car and living my own.

At 29, when I sit thinking about those long nights when I was able to stay out all night, drink copious amounts of alcohol and work three jobs while surviving college, I cringe and marvel at the same time. I remember getting my first full-time job and learning the art of an eight-to-five schedule supported with copious amounts of coffee. Your 20s teach you all these fundamentals of living, and you learn how to inherently survive on your own. You become responsible and accountable for yourself, whether it's going to the doctor and paying a co-pay, or acknowledging that you can't drive a car until the wheels fall off without preparing to pay some hefty repair costs.

My 20s were an interesting blend of blessings, hard lessons, growth and transformation. All of those manifested differently, whether it was learning when to walk away from a job I enjoyed but wasn't paying me my worth, or accepting that no matter how hard I try to hold on to everything, I can't take everyone with me on my journey. For me, I could professionally hustle and grind with the best of them, I could blaze my own trail in another state and I could even learn to not be ashamed of going to therapy. (There is 100% nothing wrong with it.) However, some of my greatest trials came from my losses. Man, nobody can prepare you to take the type of Ls that life will give you in your 20s. And that was OK because whether I was the victim, villain or something in between, there is something inherently poetic about getting dealt a bad hand and Rubix cube-ing yourself back together. I personally don't think that's applauded enough and it should be.

I'm in no way saying that my 30s, 40s and on won't bring me strife, but I can say I'm better equipped to deal with it.

The years leading up to 30 had me wide-eyed and frantic for all the hallmarks of #adulting, like buying my first car, introducing my then-boyfriend to my dad because I thought he was going to be my forever person, being a maid of honor, coordinating bachelorette parties and baby showers. I feel like 29 was the year I was truly tested professionally and personally, because everything I endured required action or response, whether that was internal or external.

I entered 29 sobbing on the couch drinking tequila at midnight because the guy I was seeing bailed out on visiting me at the last minute. (If that wasn't a precursor of what was to come, I don't know what is). I metaphorically and emotionally said goodbye to my best friend as she got married, thus separating us for the first time in over a decade, which forced us to rewrite our friendship for the first time. I buried my grandma and then found out I had a miscarriage within days of each other — and that type of loss is one that stays with you like a burn mark seared on your skin. I lost my grandpa at the peak of COVID and managed to dislocate my rib, which left me immobile for almost two months. I said goodbye to childhood friends because I realized that just because we've known each other forever doesn't mean we function well in each other's lives as adults. I had my first encounter dealing with the police in the rawest way possible, filing a harassment report as the new wave of social justice breathed life into our summer. But I endured. Through all the tears, anxiety-filled days, grief and countless moments on my knees praying to God for relief, I endured. The best thing my 20s ever gave me was my newfound relationship with my faith and developing my own relationship with God.

My existence is the sum of so many experiences, and I'm ready for the next chapter of my life. I'm not scared or afraid because I feel prepared for 30 and the new challenges it will bring. I feel like the age of innocence for me is over, and I can walk proudly in my faith and identity knowing who I am as a woman, fully embracing the gift of living.

I'm not perfect — I never have been and I never will be. The good lord knows I've made so many mistakes that have helped shape my path, but coming out on the other side has been my win. So, hello 30! I'm welcoming you with open arms.