Today, I am 35.
I feel simultaneously very old and very young, which, depending on who you ask, is exactly right. I feel grown up, but not all grown up. I feel like I’ve done a lot, but I know there’s still a lot left to do.
The day I turned 34, I hiked into the Grand Canyon then took myself to dinner in Flagstaff. I told the couple next to me, newly retired, that it was my birthday and we talked about growing up and aging. I told them how much I liked my 30s, how I gave fewer fucks and didn’t spend my days stressing about inconsequential bullshit, how I really liked the woman I was becoming.
“Just wait,” they said. “It keeps getting better.”
“I hope so,” I said.
I thought about this conversation when I was in Death Valley National Park back in October, all alone in the middle of the desert, perched on top of a mountain overlooking the Racetrack. I hadn’t planned to climb that mountain, but it happened because I saw a trail and took it, gleefully scampering up and up to the very top, chattering and singing to myself, the occasional lizard and the cactus I passed along the way.
That moment – sitting on top of that mountain alone in the middle of the desert with a beer in my hand and a Pringles can at my side – is maybe one of the best moments of my entire life.
Sitting there, I thought about that birthday conversation in Flagstaff. I thought about how right they were, about how much better things had gotten in the past few years, about how safe and good it felt to be and go alone, about how happy I was to have climbed a small mountain and been able to toast myself at the top. I thought about all the ways I’d been held back, about the people who had kept me from doing the things I wanted to do, the people who said I couldn’t or shouldn’t, and I thought about the ways I’d held my own self back, about the ways I’d limited myself with can’t and won’t. And I thought about the people who supported and encouraged me on the journey to get to that mountaintop, the women who told me to go, to do the thing that scared me, to be the wild woman I am.
And I howled. I howled a lot.
So here’s to another year of that. Here’s to another year of howling on mountaintops, singing at the top of my lungs, driving with the windows down and dancing in the street with the wildest and best lady friends a girl could ask for. Here’s to going to feral in the desert and the forest, to getting stronger and braver and better. Here’s to going and to me, at 35.