30 Things I did Before my 30th Birthday (today!)

Today is my thirtieth birthday. Typing that sentence out was the first time it really, truly hit me that my twenties are over. I’ve always been an old soul so part of me has felt thirty for a lifetime. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to people generations older than me and could be found asking my grandma to fax me recipes in college and sleeping at my mom’s friends house to learn how to be a homemaker one day at 18. I’ve always been the mom of my friend group and married a man 9 years older than me at 21 years old so part of me has been looking forward to this for a decade. Another part of me can’t believe it.

My twenties were an absolute roller coaster filled with high highs and low lows but I’m so grateful to have been born in 1990 so I change with the decades. In reflecting on the past decade I not only get to look back on “the past ten years” but also the entirety of my twenties. Ten years ago I turned 20 years old, was playing college volleyball, was engaged to be married to O and living in San Francisco. I couldn’t see outside the fog of my insecurity of not feeling good enough for any title I held whether it be artist, fiancé, student athlete, or friend. I was doing physical therapy for my herniated discs in my back and learning to cope with a horrendous stomach bacteria and newly developed corn allergy. I was distant from the Lord and grasping for approval from all the wrong places. I was 20!

So much has changed since that time and I thought listing 30 things I did before turning 30 would be such a fun way to reflect. Some will be lighthearted things I just want to remember for myself, some will be quick facts and some will be the good fruit I’ve started to bear thanks to the work of the Spirit. Let’s dive in.

1. I got married at 21 and aside from loving Jesus, this is the best decision I’ve ever (ever ever ever) made.

2. I stopped being embarrassed about the things I have no control over about myself (I’m looking at you, enormous size 12 feet, six foot frame, deep voice and slight “Hilary from Fresh Prince of Bel Air” speech) Okay I can’t fully say I’ve stopped being embarrassed despite it being my life goal, but I’ve made exponential progress. Progress is progress!

3. I traveled. I traveled like crazy. O and I tackled about 13 countries, across 5 continents, countless American states (including Alaska and Hawaii) and many Canadian provinces.

4. We lived in both the East Coast and the West Coast spending a few years in California and seven years in Virginia but eventually moved to the South toward the end of my twenties all while having our lake house up North in Canada.

5. I gave up some heavy hitting sin struggles I’d held onto for years

6. I graduated college, even when it meant flying across the country for school for 24 hours a week so I could be back home with O holding down the fort while he was playing for the Redskins.

7. I met O’s family in their village in Nigeria and learned more about the beauty and richness of our Atogwe culture

8. I learned how to be a hostess. Really, I learned that being a hostess doesn’t look like having a magazine-shoot-worthy spread or the perfect soundtrack (though, those things are really fun components for me) but instead, making my home feel comfortable and welcoming and safe for everyone who comes through the door.

9. O and I hosted our first couple’s Bible Study and attended many others which was a gift to our marriage I’m forever grateful for.

10. I started creating and selling custom artwork- a lifelong dream come true

11. I learned how to cook at 20. I’d always loved baking and had done it all through middle and high school. While my favorite shows in high school were all cooking, baking and HGTV shows, (a hint to future me) I didn’t know how to cook at all until I realized I was marrying a professional athlete that truly needed his food to be fuel to build him up for his career. I made it my job to learn to cook meals we both loved that were clean and delicious and I’m so grateful for ten years of playing in the kitchen

12. I carried and birthed two babies. I’ve looked forward to being a mother my whole life and at 24 that dream came true.

13. I breastfed those two babies for a total of 29 months of my life. That’s a whole lot of months, friends.

14. I worked diligently and consistently to grow in the area of trust, grace for myself and grace for others and being slow to anger. These were what I like to call “biggies” for me and one of the most beautiful processes of sanctification I’ve walked through in my life.

15. I lost a baby and waded the murky waters of miscarriage

16. I found out I had the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease at 27. It rocked my world and completely turned everything upside down and has shaped who I am and how I live my life every day.

17. I met the majority of my best friends.

18. I spent 2 months in Europe. O and I had both been to different parts of Europe before we met and always dreamed of living there for a chunk of time. We wanted to take the trip before we started our family but ended up finding out we were pregnant halfway through our vacation. It is the sweetest memory and was one of the brightest and most special times of the past decade. We can’t wait to live there again for a while now that we have two (almost three!) kids.

19. I started this blog, Gold & Graphite, committing to posting thoughtful and meaningful content every single week. The community and opportunities that have come from this space are more than I could have ever dreamed and I’m so excited to continue to see how it evolves.

20. I worked as a stylist at Anthropologie which led to me styling clients independently. I’d still love to figure out how to do this more because it fuels me and lights me on fire to be able to help women feel their best through the art of getting dressed and building a wardrobe that caters to them and their lifestyle specifically.

21. I left home for college at 18 and since then have never lived back home again. I spent most of my twenties across the country from all my family which made it even more special and rewarding to move to Texas last year and be a quick drive away for the first time in almost a decade. The kids being able to grow up with their grandparents and cousins so close is a gift.

22.. I found a natural skincare and makeup routine I love. I think our twenties are all about experimenting and that can include a little bit of pushback against routines we know are good for us like removing toxins where we can. Due to my autoimmune disease this is a non-negotiable for me but I had been veering toward natural products long before I was forced to. What felt much too restricted and boring at first has become such a comfort knowing I’m caring for my body as well as the planet.

23. I’ve gotten better at saying “No.” What’s most helpful for me is remembering a yes to something is always a no to something else and I’ve worked to make my “yes” count in the past year more than I ever have before.

24. Accepting and remembering the boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places. Trust and resting in the Lord’s sovereignty have always been difficult for me. I spent a good chunk of my time so angry or disappointed when things didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped or planned but at the tail end of the decade I’ve truly grown in acceptance. There are no mistakes. His ways are higher, His ways are better, His ways are completely out of my comprehension and I trust Him above all. (Certainly above myself.)

25. I stopped being ashamed of my anxiety and fear and committed to facing it head on.

26. I learned the value of reading the Word every day. For the better part of my twenties I underestimated the importance and value of truly hiding His word in my heart. Nothing has been more transformative in the past decade than spending daily time in the Word and in prayer.

27. I perfected my favorite desserts. Whether it be mastering 14 layer cake I made O for our third married valentines or nailing down the world’s best “birthday cake” recipe, I made it my mission to learn to bake my favorite desserts-no matter how complicated-rather than feeling the need to buy them. Our food restrictions have thrown most of these recipes out the window but I’m always building our treat menu to serve our current needs.

28. I was vegan for 2 years. I only had to eat meat again to heal my thyroid (everyone approaches this differently but I trust my naturopath nutritionist wholly and completely and my health turned around when I added organic meats back into my diet.) I have spent my twenties varying between different food restrictions but for the last two years of my twenties I’ve completely given up gluten, grains, soy, corn, legumes, and most oils and almost always avoid all refined sugars.

29. I learned to let peace be my guide above everything else which led to 29.5… I stopped being afraid of changing my mind.

30. I shifted away from watching TV and fell head over heels in love with podcasts instead. Had to end with a bang.

I spent my twenties very differently than a lot of my friends. People told me I’d be “missing out.” I can confidently say that here on my very first day fo my thirties, I didn’t miss a single thing that was meant for me. The boundary lines have, indeed, fallen in pleasant places for me.

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