I drove by a large, paint-chipped sign on the high way.

Its haunting, red lettering looked as if it was shouting at me while I drove my little Honda with my hot coffee in hand.

“DON’T LOOK BACK. YOU’LL MISS WHAT IS IN FRONT OF YOU.”

Don't look back. 

It's an anthem we all hear. 

The world shouts: 

Leave those people behind that will not help you, who have hurt you…”


”Forget the past. Move forward.

And I am flying down the interstate as if to say: Take that, world. I'm moving ahead.

Yet, I can't help but keep looking back in my rear-view mirror while glimpses of my past flicker in front of me like an old horror film, my parents told me not to watch.

_______________________________________________________________________________

I turned 27 yesterday. 

For the first time in my life I finally feel my age.

My smile deeper from many late nights with girlfriends & laughter that leaves deep imprints on the face and soul.

My voice not as scared to speak because I found it and am not willing to let it go. 

Welcome, 27, & thank you for these great, many years.

My life is beautiful. 

What a ride it took to get here in this moment with you, 27. I've been on a journey. I've seen some things now. I'm still learning about myself and who I really am --- like how for the first time in my life I like red onions on my salad. I am living proof people can change their ways. Yet, I am still the young girl who once believed the world was her oyster.

Here I sit in my Honda moving forward with my coffee in hand. The coffee that I finally know how to order after all these years at Starbucks wondering if I had commitment issues or decision making problems. I finally found my favorite blend. Thank you, 27, because at 22, I was still wondering if I would ever find my coffee soul mate or keep running off with Chai Tea during the weekends. I am so glad we found each other.

I want to move forward. I do. I have big plans. I am not just creating a savings account for my trip to Bali with Isaac during our retirement years, but I want to create a life. A life that is not about who I know or how much I have, but how I made people feel around me. A life centered around wholeness. A life that lost itself in loving the rich, the in-betweeners, + the poor. A life that seeks to find my own voice + speak it bravely untainted by others. A life that learns the art of loving one man all the days of my life + the joy of creating a life together. A life that shows my daughter what it means to be a strong, kind, independent woman in a world where it seems, women are just told to become a  pretty face + not a brilliant mind filled with ideas + passions.  A life that honors the legacy that has been passed down to me from the generations of the great love I come from.

Oh, I have plans, 27. I do.

But, for some reason I can't help but keep looking back at my rear-view mirror, remembering my previous years. I pull out my past like an old, worn friend wanting to have a late night chat about our scars + triumphs. As I pull, memories race through my mind - the ones I wish never happened, the remarks that sting, or the times where I failed. They pop out like ghosts on Halloween night searching to scare me in my own discovery. But, then I look in my rear-view mirror once again + the past speaks kinder now:

Remember the mountains we have crossed?

Remember the wild places. The unexpected turns + paths we took together? The places that showed beauty - a new beauty- you would have never known or understood had the wild places not brought you.

Remember the years that brought you here: the mistakes, the unpredicted loopholes, the monsters that turned out to be just trees + the friends you found yourself in those mountains with. The friends that taught you the redeeming song you now sing.

Remember the past. Live in it awhile. Let it marinate the blood that flows through your veins. You know why? 

You made it through.

The scars you wear are a badge to say to the world:

This is my story + I fought recklessly for it.

You reached the tops of some mountains with bloody knees + a new famous limp, but you conquered it. You were stronger than you ever dared to believe.

Look back and see the mountains you crossed. The fear that was smaller than the bravery infested in your bones

I pull the car over + I look back a good, long while. I am not afraid of looking back or looking ahead any more. This is my story. I've gained strength + wisdom in secret places.  It's filled with adventure + a character who grew. All the turns brought me here. 

The past is not to be a voice that haunts, but rather the script we all read and shout:

Look at the mountains we have crossed.

Here's to you, 27. Look how far we've come.

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