1 till I’m 30

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” -Iyanla Vanzant

Well, tomorrow is the big day. It has been an emotional roller coaster this past month putting to paper 30 reasons I am grateful to be turning 30. When I decided to take on this challenge, it was to change the stereotype that it is all downhill once you reach that third decade on this earth. Part of this challenge was to celebrate all of the reasons why I love where I am in my life and why I am so grateful to be done with the stress, uncertainty, and growth that my 20s forced upon me. Sure being in your 20s is great and all…and, yes, you have perfect baby-soft skin, but those awkward transition years aren’t all they are cracked up to be. So, what is with this societal notion that you getting older is something to hide? Getting older means getting wise. And I think that’s pretty fantastic, personally. The other part of this challenge was to remind myself just how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for. The past few years have been filled with trials, self-discovery, pain, and fear. They’ve also, of course, been filled with joy, laughter, growth, and love. So often I find my mind listing off the failures more than the successes, but this project brought to light all of the reasons I should be thankful for this 30th rotation around the sun. This countdown forced me to share things about myself that I have never shared before. It made me admit things that I hadn’t quite admitted to myself, let alone the entire electronic world. But, in sharing there is healing and I feel that a weight has been lifted off my chest. The stories and memories that I played over in over in my head have now been processed and set free into the blogosphere, where they will hopefully inspire others to cherish their moments on this earth and learn from their experiences. Time is fleeting. Take a moment, sit down, look back on how you have evolved in this thing called life. The little details we take for granted everyday are often the most beautiful miracles. The struggles we survive through often spark the greatest growth. The moments that take our breath away are often the most life-changing. 

What do you have to be grateful for today? I am grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting me through this journey and letting me share a little piece of my story with you. 

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2 till I’m 30

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe, it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

I can’t believe all of the people who traveled from around the US to surprise me at Disneyland yesterday. I was shocked and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. During my 29th year on this earth I felt alone and broken. My life and family were falling apart and I was empty. When I reached out for help, I felt like no one was there. But, yesterday, there was so much love. I was surrounded by so many friends and family who came to celebrate with us. People took vacation days, traveled hundreds and even thousands of miles, and planned Disneyland vacations to be with us. It’s still taking me time to process all of the support, love, and joy I received yesterday. It was a reminder that I have so many amazing friends who support me, even if I don’t get to see them on a regular basis. And, I now get to join a family who loves and accepts me for who I am. My cup truly runeth over and I no longer feel alone. 
I will be saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as I have a voice.  

3 till I’m 30

“When you meet that person. a person. One of your soulmates. Let the connection. Relationship. Be what it is. It may be five minutes. Five hours. Five days. Five months. Five years. A lifetime. Five lifetimes. Let it manifest itself the way it is meant to. It has an organic destiny. This way if it stays or if it leaves. You will be softer. From having been loved this authentically. Souls come into. Return. Open. And sweep through your life for a myriad of reasons. Let them be who. And what they are meant.” -nayyirah waheed

Time with friends is precious these days as they live all over the country. But, I cherish these moments we have together when they sweep through my life. They float in, bring me sunshine, celebrate my existence, and then float out to continue on their own unique journeys… and I love them for it. We are awesome, we are passionate, and we are leading productive and exciting lives. But, sometimes, we carve out the time for hugs, conversation, trips to the happiest place on earth, and share big moments in our lives…. like proposals to marry your bestest friend and soulmate. (Eek) I am so grateful to have these beautiful souls in my life. Thank you to my bestie Katelyn Holliday and her love Bruce Brown for being a part of Brighton and my special moment. I love you guys and I hope that we get to share lots of moments together until we’re all old, grey, wrinkly, and happily ever after. 

4 till I’m 30

4 days till I’m 30:I used to care what I looked like on Halloween. I always wanted to be something pretty: a princess, a super hero, and the like. I’m almost 30 now. I don’t have to be pretty anymore. Being pretty is boring. I need to be silly. Why be “pretty” when you can be fun?Sometimes it’s the craziest-looking characters which are the most fun to portray. In my opera career, I’ve ditched the young ingenue characters in favor of the comical, off-beat, big personalities. My favorite characters are the larger-than-life, over-the-top personalities which make you smile and giggle and forget about your worries. So, I give you this year’s crazy character, Mad Madam Mim. 

5 till I’m 30

My bags are packed and I am Disneyland-bound for an early celebration of my 30th birthday. It was such a big deal to go to Disneyland when I was little. We spent several birthdays in the happiest place on earth and, as I grew up, I never lost my love for celebrating in my happy place. The past 6 years Brighton and I have celebrated our joint birthdays at Disneyland and I am excited that we are continuing the tradition… yet another reason to be thankful to be turning 30. Watch out Disneyland. We’re coming for you!!!! 

6 till I’m 30

“I feel in every little girl there lives a spirit: a wild pixie, that if let go would run and dance in grassy fields until the end of the world. And when that girl grows up, that pixie hides, but it is always there, peeking out from behind old eyes and reading glasses, laughing, waiting to one day dance again.” -Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird

As I get older, I’ve realized more and more that I have a vibrant personality. I like color in my life and life in my color. I like to wear tutus and polka dots. I like to be completely ridiculous and dress up to teach Halloween themed yoga classes to my students with thriller kicks and crazy dragons. It’s fun and it’s exhausting but it makes me happy. The older I get, the more I let my inner ridiculousness out. I let that wild pixie in me shine brightly and dance often (usually on a yoga mat). The lovely thing is, the more I show that crazy, exhuberant, silly personality to the world, the more people accept and love me for precisely those things. It’s amazing how when you are authentically yourself you give others permission to be themselves-to step into their own light. So, find your own wild pixie and let her dance.

8 till I’m 30

When I was deciding what school to go to for my undergraduate degree I had to choose between a full-ride scholarship to Cal Lutheran or massive student loan debt from the University of Southern California. My gut told me to go to USC. I loved it there. It just felt right. But, my high school councilor told me to go to Cal Lutheran to enjoy that free education. She said there was no guarantee that a vocal performance degree would make you money after school. Actually, she told me that I was “wasting” my exceptional grades by going into an arts degree. She wanted me to go into the sciences or business… something that would “make money.” It took me 30 minutes of pleading to get her to sign off on an arts degree which she did so grudgingly. So, with crippling doubt, I accepted USC and the debt that went with it. By working two jobs while I went to school and summer gigs between school years, I was able to keep on top of the acruing interest while I was still at USC. I was then blessed to obtain a full scholarship/assistantship and stipend as I pursued my masters degree, so I thankfully did not add to my student loan debt. Still, when I finally finished my 6 years of schooling and that first loan repayment notification came in the mail, I had a mini panic attack. How was this starving artist, currently living at her parents’ house with no clear job prospects going to repay this massive sum? Looking at the interest projections, I was daunted by the fact that by the end of my repayment schedule I would have paid almost double what was originally loaned to me….. I couldn’t accept that. So I got to work. I took on any extra jobs I could find. I helped my mom at her flower shop. I worked a catering job, I started teaching a few voice lessons a week. I saved every dollar I made to pay my student loans each month: starting with the loans which had the highest interest. Later, as my voice studio took off and I began teaching yoga classes, I continued to live frugally, working extra gigs here and there and paying all of my remaining income each month to my student loans. I was going to pay these loans off as fast as possible. Every time I was about to buy something which was not a necessity, I first thought “but this money could go towards my student loans” and I put that item back. I am happy to say that this workaholic and ridiculous self-restraint worked–I paid off the remainder of my student loans in just 4 years. It felt so good that I decided to pay off my car early as well.

As I enter my 30th year, I am happy that I stuck with my gut instinct and went to USC for my undergraduate degree: loans and all. But, I am even more ecstatic that today I am completely debt free. Not many 30 year olds can say that. It’s enough to make one jump for joy.