I celebrated my birthday last weekend.

Oh, birthdays. What fun they are. I love ’em. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s. When we celebrated Jill’s birthday, she talked about her word for this year. (Jill’s the bomb. Have I mentioned that? She is DA BOMB.)

As my birthday approached, I began to think more about what my word had been for the past year. And I have to say, FULL keeps creeping to the surface of my thought palace.

(My Italian Rachel used the term “thought palace” last weekend, and I can’t get it out of my THOUGHT PALACE.)

Every year, I have these goals of where I want to be at my next birthday. Sometimes they’re just that I want to be nicer to everyone and to myself. Other ones are more extensive.

I want to run 5 miles like it’s no big deal.

I want to sell a book.

I want to have skin that glows from my daily green smoothies.

I want to know the lyrics to every Beatles song.

And every year, no matter if I reach these goals or not, I feel like I’m not quite there.

Ah, the mystical land of There. The Hilary who lives in There has her act together. She’s super stylish and has managed to walk in heels like they’re flip flops. (She does something similar with wearing lipstick like it’s chapstick.) She finally has thin arms and well, thin everything, quite frankly. She gives Leslie Knope-level gifts and knits and has read all of Hemingway and knows how to use a straightener as a curling iron without scorching her hair, hands, or forehead.

Every year, I think, “This is the year when I turn into the Hilary of There.” She’s who I’m meant to be, after all. She’s who I saw myself growing up to become.

And yet, every year, I don’t quite make it, and I’m stuck scrambling together a few goals for the next big push into this adult me. “This is it,” I say. “I know you thought last year was the year for conquering the whole contoured cheek thing, but this is actually it. Pop open the blush and ruler.”

But this year was new.

23 was lovely. I decorated my first apartment when I was 23. (I had previously only just lived there.)

I had these super lazy days with my friends where we ate cookies and talked writing, and our preferred method of exercise was laughing hysterically.

Wolf, I gained weight from those cookies. (Laughing was not the calorie burner I had hoped it would be.)

I searched for a job. Found a job. Did a job. Quit a job. Got a dream job.

I learned how to work for 8 hours and still get up and do things after it’s over. (This took months of my life.)

I freaked out over student loans, and then freaked out over how God provides.

I watched my oldest niece lose her first tooth! I snuggled those girls like the treasures they are.

I played Pandemic with my family, and I never realized how alike we all are. We don’t like to lose. (Also, Thad is a cheater.)

I gained friends. These aren’t just numbers either; we’re talking 3 quality individuals who I’m so blessed to have in my life.

Jill and I ate ginormous slices of watermelon at the pool in the middle of a workday. (Hashtag unemployment.)

I graduated with my MFA. Hooray!

I grew out a pixie. Hooray!

I laughed so so so so so much. Hooray!

The night before I turned 24, I hung out with wonderful friends. Rob made the most fantastic breakfast (for dinner) of all time. We ate waffles and played board games and laughed and talked, and I found myself thinking that I didn’t want to be There anymore. I want to be here.

I think if a younger Hilary could meet me right now, she’d actually like me. I’m not perfect, and I have goals. But I prefer the Hilary I am right at this moment to the lipstick-wearing fantasy I have in my head. I do my best, I love people, and I feel so loved. I’m completely done with the obsession over There. I want Here to be the best it can be because it’s the real deal.

Here feels so full of people and color and love. Here makes me hungry for what 24 holds. (I think it’s going to be pretty fantastic.)

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