Thirty one years old.
 
I entered the new decade with high hopes. My thirtieth birthday marked a new beginning for me; a period of self-discovery, of self-love. I had no expectations other than hoping for happiness and a reignition of my inner flame which had dimmed throughout the past few years. What I received was much more than that. What I realized was, despite the ebbs and flows of life, I am blessed.
 
I am blessed with a family who loves me with every breath. A mother who would sacrifice her own health and well-being for my happiness. A mother who answers my phone calls with “kuzum,” a Turkish term of endearment which translates into “little lamb.” A mother who cannot go to bed without saying “I love you,” regardless of whether I am home or miles and miles away. A father whose voice escalates with excitement when he hears my voice over the telephone, who calls me his beautiful daughter on a daily basis. A brother, my childhood best friend, who has taken my hand through every life struggle. A brother who makes me laugh to tears, a comedic quality I always wished for. A brother who would fight for me, who has fought for me, who continues to amaze me with his charming personality and motivation to succeed.

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Cousins, my first friends and role-models, who I played Barbie’s with on Thanksgiving mornings and wished on clouds with, while lying on the front green of their Anderson Drive home. Cousins who sheltered me from life’s negativity at a young age. Cousins who, although some now married with kids, I can still count on.
 
I am blessed with a group of friends who, despite distance and time, are still available for a cocktail or a lending ear.

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I am blessed to have met my soul mate, who walked into my life on that warm July evening; the one who has made me smile every single day since we shared appetizers and stories on our first date; the one who has made this sometimes senseless world make sense – the one I will never let go of.

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I am blessed to have met his beautiful family. His brothers who I can share a laugh with while wearing reindeer antlers and singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus at Aunt Renee’s Christmas party. His father who has welcomed me with open arms. His grandparents who I proudly call “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” who beat me at bowling by double digits, who I love deeply like my own. His mother who I can sip pink moscato with on a rainy Saturday night, sharing laughs and stories over the kitchen counter.

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I reflect on the year’s beautiful memories which are firmly embedded in my heart. I thank God that I not only have another day, but another year. Armed with faith and excitement, I look forward to the future.
 
Here’s to thirty one.

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