Friday, February 28, 2014

On Turning 30 {Birthday Reflections}

Today is my thirtieth birthday.

There have been a few significant birthdays before, but this one feels especially important to me. Starting a new decade with confidence and grace inevitably invites reflection on the years that have passed. So on this day, I'm sharing a little bit more about me (plus a few pics of me through the years) as I cross into a brand new decade of Ashley.

It's cliche to say that time moves pretty quickly, but being on the threshold of a new decade has really struck me for some reason. When this age was a far off vision in the horizon, thirty seemed like the time when adults 'got it together' and finally fully embodied the person they intended to be. If that's the case, I don't know if I'm ready for thirty.

But at thirty--and certainly for about the last year or so--I'm pretty okay with myself. Please don't underestimate the significance of that statement, readers, because I've always been deeply insecure, shy and filled with more self-doubts than the average bear. I find the prospects of sharing my picture here, for example, tremendously scary.
You see, I've held on to major insecurities about my appearance (after being called "Casper" mercilessly as an adolescent), about my intelligence (after the trials and tribulations of unemployment), about my ability to make friends (after one of my most significant friendships ended with a cold email send-off) for a long time.
Yet, like I said, I'm entering my thirties ready to leave those self-doubts behind.

Sure, I'm pale. White as a ghost in fact! I think it's pretty and so does my dermatologist! That's right, I think I'm pretty. There was a time when I never would have thought that, let alone wrote it for the world to see. It's taken a lot for me to get to this place and I'm happy I'm here.
Sure, I'm unemployed right now and it stinks. I want it to change but I'm slowly accepting that the circumstances we find ourselves in life often lie outside of our control. I'm going to do my damnedest not to allow my current employment status to dictate my self-worth or undermine my accomplishments.

I went to an Ivy League grad school, damnit! That's something to be tremendously proud of.
Sure, one of my best friends ended our friendship over a short-and-sweet email. But, I'm okay! Maybe stronger in fact. I'm a good-hearted, interesting, compassionate person who is worthy of friendship and is capable of giving friendship. 

Plus, I have the most loving, smartest, kindest, all-around hottest best friend a girl could ask for right here.
These reflections that I've spelled out here in black and white may seem haughty at first. That's certainly not how I mean them. If anything, I want to expel the self-doubt, the regret and the insecurity I've held onto for too long.

Instead, the space those doubts leave behind will be filled with this self-exhortation from author Henry James:
(all via Meet Me in Philadelphia)

"All life is--at my age, with all one's artistic soul the record of it--in one's pocket, as it were. Go on, my boy, and strike hard...Try everything, do everything, render everything--be an artist, be distinguished to the last."

Here's to turning thirty. Let's see what I can make of the year to come!


  1. Embrace each decade with confidence. I'm in my early 50s now and you sound a lot like me. Accomplished with self doubt. I struggled with never feeling good enough mostly from the "conditional" love my own parents gave me. You can not do it all in life, but what you do do well and let the rest go. Be the best wife and parent you can be. Those are the people you will want and need long term. I've also learned that friends are plagued with their own issues and sometimes we feel it is us that is the problem. You aren't if you are being the best you can be. Friends usually fade away because of the struggles they are having. Just surround yourself with a variety of fun, interesting people. Happy Birthday!

  2. Ashley, Happy Birthday!! You may be 30 but your wisdom is well beyond that. Hope you have a fun filled day and a terrific year! Michele

  3. Happy Birthday! Good for you to have these things figured for yourself as you move into your next decade. I went into my 30s kicking and screaming and mourning my 20s. It's great to see that you put a lot of reflection into this to find the way to make turning 30 a wonderful experience!

  4. Cheers to a new decade of Ashley! You are a hell of a lot wiser than many people twice your age and cute to boot. :) And I have been in your unemployment shoes before so I can sympathize. It is beyond frustrating and at times soul crushing but trust me it will make you a stronger, better worker and person in the end. Now pour yourself a drink!

  5. Happy, happy birthday, my sweet friend! Love all these old shots of you through the years (field hockey camp, OMG - I think we're wearing identical shorts?!). And look at your pretty Mom - she hasn't changed a bit.

    Yay for celebrating the beautiful, thoughtful, brilliant person you've become in the last 30 years, and cheers to the start of an exciting new decade. I'm so excited for all that's in store for you! Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend celebrating. XOXO

  6. Ashley, you are truly beautiful inside & out! Ivy league? Something tells me you've had it together a long time. Hope this birthday (and decade) is everything you want it to be and more. Happy birthday! XO

  7. I love all your 'growing up' pictures you shared- so sweet. For someone who is 'thirty-something' I know milestones, can be a good time to reflect on our lives. You have such a beautiful life! I agree with these other ladies here, that you seem a lot wiser than your age and you are so talented! Happy Birthday!

  8. So fun reminiscing over the pictures. You're an amazing women and an inspiration to me and many others. Have a wonderful time celebrating 30. Happy Birthday!!

  9. First and foremost, Happy 30th Ashley!! Your birthday is just two days before my daughter's (well, in non-leap years anyway). This was such a brave, honest post - not many people can own their insecurities, let alone put them out there for the world to see. You are such a beautiful person inside and out (pale skin is "in" - duh), and obviously highly intelligent. If some shallow person blew you off as a friend, that's their problem - not yours. I feel so old (I'll be turning 41 in a few months) in comparison but similar in so many ways. Enjoy your day and your year with that cute husband of yours!!


  10. Lovely post, Ashley, and beautiful pictures! Can't wait to see you in a few weeks. I hope you and Adam have a wonderful birthday celebration this weekend.

  11. Ashley, Happy Birthday!!!
    Love that you are putting yourself out there and sharing your very worthy goal of self-acceptance.
    I sort of laughed at the idea that our 30s are when we get it together and become who we are--I think I thought that, too. Now, facing 40 at the end of the year, I find myself thinking that our FORTIES are when all of that happens....Maybe it never does. It's all a journey and an evolution, right?

    Enjoy your day!

  12. You are gorgeous girlfriend and I admire you for spilling all of your thoughts here today on quite an appropriate occasion to do so. You may be unemployed but look at all you have accomplished in your home and in life. It's so true that confidence comes with age. I hope you have a fabulous birthday, birthday evening, and birthday weekend because you are doing something to celebrate, right? :) Looking forward to meeting you in person next week!

  13. Happy 30th, Ashley!! I hope you celebrate all weekend :) Beautiful wedding photo!!
    My best,

  14. Just found your blog via Julia Ryan! Happy 30th birthday! I've enjoyed my 30s so much more than my 20s- it sounds like you have the right attitude and I have a feeling your 30s will probably be your best yet. Also that friend that blew you off via email- not worth it at all! What awful person does that!

  15. Happy birthday! And well done on achieving a place where you are happy with yourself. That is one tought destination to get to - not to mention the journey! I am still on my way, and I am 37. Onwards! :-)

  16. Happy 30th Birthday... I love your honesty. I'm sorry that you have had to struggle with being unemployed, but this doesn't define who you are a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin, granddaughter, friend, and most importantly, a wife. We all would definitely call you a friend, but love you more than words can say. As far as being an English rose, I've always admired your beautiful skin, and just think how little wrinkles you will have in 30 more years. It is hard to not feel judged in such a judgmental world, so good for you for being able to rise above it. I love you lots and am honored to call you my friend.

  17. Happy Birthday!!!! Turning 30 was good for me too. I was the "skinny" girl. Parents would call my parents, because they thought I was anorexic or bulimic which was not true. It made me so self conscious. I am finally happy in my own skin which I think had a lot with turning 30. You for one are STUNNING!!!!


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