I feel grateful.

The last 5 years (why 5? 5 was the breaking point between ‘college me’ and ‘new, as-yet-undefined me.’ 5 years ago, I think I celebrated my actual birthday in a Minneapolis hotel room, but I knew I was moving to California and was going to get to start over. I was single for the first time, really, ever. I was on the cusp of no longer being a consultant, and therefore no longer being in the safe world of well-defined expectations, clear status as an overachiever and a path to stay there — with a free 2-year vacation, to boot! — and a culture that did its best to replicate Finals Week in college. Work your ass off, drink your ass off, you’re all in it together & it’s all so much fun. Stepping out of that culture was a bigger and more important step than I realized.) So, looking back, the last five years have been more of a whirlwhind and a period of change than the five before them, even. I’ve called three cities home. I’ve traveled to 17 foreign countries. I’ve worked for six different companies. I met, fell in love with, and married a man who continually surprises me with his capacity for patience, love, and selflessness…whose best qualities that first night I met him are dwarfed by the small and constant flames that I see every day. The ability to stop me in my whirlwind and say hi at the end of a day. The little frown of concern that maybe the gift he picked out isn’t the right one, and then that self-satisfied half-smile when he realizes that I love it. His ability to appreciate the tiniest moments. 5-years-ago self would not have believed you if you told her that a kiss on the forehead at the right moment could feel as good as the best sex of her life. (And that it could come from the same person!)

This year has been a tough one for me. For the first time, I stopped sprinting, looked around, and wondered how I got here and where I’m going. And for the first time, I couldn’t come up with an answer that sounded good enough. I now believe that this is a great thing; finally, I’m forcing myself to define what I want in terms that are both authentic and realistic. I’m pushing myself to acknowledge that big dreams take hard work but that the necessity of hard work doesn’t negate my ability to accomplish big dreams. (But what are those dreams?) These are new shoes that I wear — unsure of myself, my plan, my path, and my ability to define any of that. Unworthy in comparison to my accomplished and impressive peers, according to me. Though I haven’t actually come to all of them yet, I get the feeling that I’m coming to some important terms, at 30.

Fact: I can’t make everyone happy, even my closest of friends and biggest supporters who I would love to make happy. Some of my decisions will make people sad. It felt different in New York, where you have to own your own jungle (and where you’re 25, anyway, so it’s easy to make new friends, and where people make you sad all the time so you just roll with all of the punches, make a sarcastic remark about it, tell a great story over brunch, and spend more time with your new best friend at work, and maybe become best friends with his friends, too. 8 million people on one island creates an unrealistic amount of opportunity.) We have to embrace the fact that we’re going to create our own path that looks like nobody else’s.

Fact: You’ve gotta love yourself, girl. That’s something I used to feel intrinsically — for better or worse, like when I justified hurtful, deceitful decisions with the mantra, “Hemingway did it.” Who the fuck, in any era, has the right to justify their own actions by Hemingway’s? Hemingway was not a role model of career or relationship. And yet… he was my role model, in a time when I felt the most confident in myself. There’s a lesson there.

Fact: It’s been a humbling six months, going through all of this self-doubt, and I have to believe that humility makes me a more understanding, more empathetic, more in-tune-with-humanity type of person. I needed some of that.

So why do I feel grateful? I’m grateful that, despite my down-est moments and those dark times when I’ve been unable to feel joy for myself or others, I have friends who support me. I have family with whom I’ve never felt closer, of whom I’ve never been more appreciative. I have best friends whom I’ve now known for half of my lifetime, who live all over the world, who would say I’ve inspired them. (They’re crazy, but it’s what I love about them.) I have my soulmate whom I’ve known for 15 years now, who today tells the world-via-Instagram that I push her to “risk greatly, love outside of boxes, not take anything for granted and live life to the fullest.” Life is such an adventure.

I had hoped to achieve some vague sense of ‘having made it’ by the time I turned 30 — a hazy vision that included smashing career success (CEO? 30-under-30?), a home-yard-dog-kids-picture-perfect domestic life, and lots of world travel. You’re never going to be able to achieve the dream that you can’t articulate, and you’re never going to be able to articulate the dream that isn’t yours. Life’s full of trade-offs. How many times in the last 5 years did I sit back and think to myself, “everything is absolutely perfect right now?” (A lot. Usually on a sunny day, while biking somewhere.) And it was, even though it wasn’t identical to that picture.

Plus, didn’t I accomplish at least 70% of that hazy dream of 30? (Well yes, if you look through a regular-colored glass instead of filtering it with comparisons to the amazing people I went to school and work with…) The next 5 years are going to be an even greater adventure, and I hope I’m able to define my goals a little more specifically so that I can celebrate hitting them a little more definitively.

But yeah. I hit them. I turned 30 with a pretty hard workout, foie gras cake batter, Pacific Northwest salmon under a carpet of salsa verde, and two good ass friends. And it tasted sweet.