I started off 2022 with a lot of joy. Many things I had worked toward for months or years paid off and I realized with clarity that the confidence and hope I felt weren’t manufactured or willed. They blossomed exactly as everyone said they would.

By mid-March, it had all been swept away. It would take nearly six months before anything resembling stability existed. I was, and am, still too sorely battered by the devastation 2022 wrought to say that I have hope, but I do have plans as a result of that stability.

I have no desire or intention to do a full retrospective of this year as it was one of the very worst of my life. It wasn’t just the chaos, pain, regression, and loss. A simple but devastating comment from someone I trusted in late summer threw a curveball right into my face.

It took a few weeks for it to hit but when it did, I suddenly understood with a sickening jolt that no one, not a single person in my life had ever truly cared about me—just what I could do for them. I hadn’t been making it up or keeping the blinders on: I was truly alone, and no one was coming. No one would show up if I made the call—because I had been the one responding to everyone else’s calls my whole life. I had put years of work into fighting that painful belief. I made incredible progress. But one comment shifted my perspective on every single relationship I had, and it was gutting.

The pain of that epiphany is still a healing wound, but it opened the door to something I had done little to nothing of the whole year: practicing self-love. In a whirlwind of inspiration in the week before Christmas, I realized I needed to something radical for that before the year ran out. I needed something to come full circle for myself. So I bought myself a plane ticket.

A white woman with blond hair tucked up into a clip and glasses wears a maroon jacket, blue jeans, and Teva sandals. She's posing with a silly grin in front of Big Ben in London.
2009. The hair is still there. It’s just hiding :)

That’s not all that special in the grand scheme of things. Plane tickets are purchased every day. Every hour. Maybe even every minute. And they are purchased for all manner of reasons: business, leisure, tragedy, celebration… it goes on.

In this instance, they were purchased for no other reason than for my own satisfaction. Not to run to the aid of someone in distress, not to provide another person a single thing. They were for me and myself only and because I wanted them.

There are three things I have ever truly wanted to do with my life. Things that I know I could make happen one way or another. They are, in no particular order: to live in Los Angeles; to write; and to travel.

The first two I have accomplished. They are ever-changing. I do not just live in Los Angeles; I am a full-fledged Angeleno—it is as much a part of me as I am of it. I do not just write, I bring thoughts and feelings to life in ways that resonate with and speak to others. Both are things I am proud of: to have done and to be simultaneously.

But for the past eight years my passport has sat expired and neglected. When I was able to renew it in early 2022, the USPS temporarily lost it on delivery—what turned out to be a portent of misfortune that would plague my entire year.

A white woman with blonde hair in casual dress looks over her shoulder at the camera. She is riding a horse. Another horse is farther off down the trail. The backdrop is of the Andes in Ecuador.
Somewhere on Mt. Tungurahua in Ecuador.
It had erupted just 5 weeks prior!

Despite many other things crumbling around me in my life, I refused to give up hope that I could pack up and go the way I had so many times in the past. In my early adulthood, if my car wasn’t in the garage for a tuneup before a roadtrip, I was often scouring the internet for the best flight deals. I had places to see, people to meet, things to learn. And for awhile I was able to do that exactly the way I liked.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2014, I knew that I would sacrifice many things I valued for awhile and that travel was one of them. I have no regrets about it. I now live in a place that eliminates post-trip blues. I am equally as excited to return home as I am to embark on an adventure. But I longed for the days when I could stamp my passport again (and again… and again…)

And those days are returning, even sooner than I planned. While I have been slowly compiling an itinerary for three to four weeks in the fall of 2023, my birthday has been on my mind.

My birthdays—March 6—have generally sucked. Since 2020, it’s been tainted by the general anniversary of COVID-19 dominating the world. Twice before the age of 20, my mother ended up checking herself into rehab. During college, no one ever wanted to do anything because it was too close to midterms and spring break. And the gold star of them all: my 35th birthday this year was capped when the morning after I found out that I had unwittingly been someone’s affair partner for years.

A white woman with blonde hair stands in front of a Mayan pyramid in Guatemala. The photo is composed to show the height and size of the pyramid (approximately 100 feet in height) compared to its visitor.
Tikal National Park, Guatemala.

To say that I deserve a fantastic birthday in 2023 is an understatement. I deserve something where I have full control of the situation (as much as I can, anyway), where I am the one making the decisions, where I am doing something exactly for myself and the way I want it without having to think of a single other person in any way.

A golden birthday is when one turns the age of their birth date. This marks a unique time in any young person’s life, as most of the major milestone birthdays we experience are before the age of 30. My golden birthday was in 1993.

But 30 years later, I’ll turn 36 on 3/6 (the superior date format, I will die on this hill) and I decided that since I am going to spend a week in Ireland to celebrate it that it will be my emerald birthday: a much harder substance and far more resistant to damage.

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