Neurobiology and Behavior Self Care

Turning 28

Today is my birthday.


For most of my life I’ve struggled with birthday expectations (and later, mother’s day expectations). I know I’m not alone here – it feels good to be celebrated and especially good when someone else did the planning.


Last year I wanted things to be different. I began asking myself what a really good birthday celebration would look like – one that isn’t all about getting a break from responsibility or attention from others.


Birthday tradition: How did you grow in the last year? What new skills or experiences made the year unique?


What I came up with is a simple tradition I’ve now enacted on my own birthday as well as mother’s day and my kids’ birthdays: How have you grown and developed as a person? How has the last year been put to use? [On mother’s day I ask myself that question with special focus on how I’ve changed in motherhood – the effects my kids have had on my life and who I am because I’m a mom.]


This is designed to be a gratitude practice. And what I found last year was that my daily work, that was still there even though it was my birthday, became a worshipful experience…it all became a way to see in detail how I’ve used the last year to be more of who I want to be.


Secondarily, it has helped me become more comfortable with celebrating myself rather than waiting for someone else to do it for me. Last year I made my lists intending to share them but never getting around to it – despite no one else seeing them, I felt more satisfied on my birthday than ever before.


I thought I’d share my list this year. My 28th year was very different than any other year…so this list will reflect some of the shifts I’ve made:


  1. Competing in my first Crossfit Open – overcame a lot of mental and physical barriers in the last year and I’ve gained a lot in terms of conditioning, skill, and strength, grateful to get to test it now.
  2. Strength: Overhead squat 145lbs, Snatch 115lbs, Clean 160lbs, 15 strict pull ups, 1 strict ring muscle up, 12 strict handstand push ups, Deadlift 300lbs, Back squat 255lbs, 60lb DB snatch, 140lbs Split Jerk.
  3. Physical skills: handstand pushups, handstand walk, chest-to-bar pull ups, double unders, 1 kipping ring muscle up.
  4. Learned how to wake board and ice fish.
  5. Uncovered the bigger vision I’ve been working toward the past handful of years – now able to take more deliberate steps toward making it reality.
  6. Translated that vision into writing to be seen by graduate admissions (super challenging and vulnerable)
  7. Submitted applications for PhD programs – and endured one rejection after another.
  8. Developed a deep interest in technology – and acquired capability in 3 programming languages.
  9. Uncovered previously-unrealized patterns in my mental health and have been able to reach a new level of mental and emotional strength.
  10. Grew a successful garden – we are still eating some of the surplus!
  11. Strengthened my internal work ethic – less reliant on imposed expectations or pressures.
  12. Becoming a better + faster learner – more focused on personal understanding and identifying essential ideas.
  13. I’ve reached the “competent” level of development in my ability to clear my mind when I sense overwhelm or anxiety. Less likely to sit in it, proactive in regaining my footing.
  14. Along with that I’ve grown in how I communicate about my internal environment – giving those around me a way to interact with and support me when I’m in a state of anxiety or depression.
  15. Also related: relationship with Eric and my kids has gotten richer as I’ve continued working on overcoming barriers to connection.
  16. I’ve leveled up on home management – where I can stop thinking about some things and they still run in a state of control…particularly personal habits like house cleaning, budgeting, meal planning and preparation. Always room for improvement but it’s continued to develop since last year and I’m very happy with the track I’m on.
  17. I have become a significantly more positive person. Still a long way to go in developing this skill but so grateful for the changes that have already happened.


I intentionally only gave myself 30 minutes to do this – I wanted to make sure it happened but also have many things to do today. This year has been very full – I’m grateful for the experiences that continue to shape who I will become and for the growing sense of power I have in directing my own evolution.