Goodbye, 23: Birthday Reflections

I use my birthday as a time of reflection, and this birthday happens to be particularly special to me.

On this day 5 years ago, I was driving alone from Detroit, Michigan to Ottawa, Canada to go to A Perfect Circle concert for the second time in one weekend. I decided to make this 16-hour round-trip only hours before I left. I made it back to Michigan on Monday morning and drove straight to work without sleeping. Crazy, right?

It has also been a little over 5 years since I got my first (and so far, only) tattoo. It is dedicated to one of my favorite bands, Jimmy Eat World, and one of their songs, “23”. It is written as “JIMMY EAT WORLD. 23” as a callback to their album title formatting for Clarity, which will always hold a special place in my heart.

Jimmy Eat World - 23

Because of this song and my tattoo, I’ve always idealized the number 23. The age 23, the 23rd day of each month, etc. I wanted my 23rd year to be simply fantastic and memorable. I wanted to bring even more meaning into this tattoo.

The lyrics of “23” are pretty sad, but this is my favorite line:

“You’ll sit alone forever, if you wait for the right time. What are you hoping for?” –Jimmy Eat World, 23

In other words, ‘eventually’ never happens. There is only now. Plan and take action. Do the things you want to do. Create the life you want to live, or you will be unhappy and regretful.

Over the past year, I have tried my best to live by those words. Today I turned 24, and it feels so bittersweet. Part of me wishes I could stay 23 forever. The other part of me knows that time goes on, life goes on, and there are still many amazing things to come.

Looking back, this past year of my life has been as incredible as I ever could have hoped, as illustrated in the list below of significant things that happened between July 10, 2015 and July 10, 2016.


  • I came out of the “strength training closet” and started to share my story both online and in person.
  • I competed in my first 4 powerlifting meets, setting multiple state and national records in my age and weight class. Turning 24 is bittersweet because I can no longer compete in the Junior age class.
  • I achieved a 450 lb total for my squat, bench press, and deadlift, making it into the 450 lb club at my work gym.
  • My personal records for the 3 main lifts are a 135# squat, 105# bench, and 220# deadlift.
  • I committed to studying for the NSCA CSCS certification in the pursuit of becoming a personal trainer.


  • I made HUGE shifts in my mindset. I finally learned to love and accept myself exactly as I am, becoming truly confident, radiant, and resilient in the process. Because of my self-love, I’m now able to extend that love to others as well. I talk about this a lot more in the post telling my story.
  • THIS is how I truly feel, and it feels AWESOME: I am not defined by my physical appearance. I have body fat and I’ve never had my body fat percentage measured. I have acne, cellulite, stretch marks, scars, bruises, and callouses. I do not want a 6-pack, a thigh gap, back dimples, or any other trendy desired physical trait. I do not want to have plastic surgery or compete in a physique competition. I do not wear makeup or contacts 95% of the time and I have never dyed my hair. I am pale as fuck and I have never stepped foot in a tanning bed. I wear clothing based on how it makes me feel, not based on what others may think of me. I wear what I want and I do what I want. I accept my body for the way it is, and I love my body for the things it does. I love me. Exactly as I am, and exactly as I will be as I continue to grow and age. BAM.
  • I have gotten better at prioritizing the activities in my life. I won’t say “yes” to something unless I REALLY want to do it. I have no time for things that just make me feel “meh”.

I created the Strong with Purpose Manifesto to define and how I intend to live my life. When I feel frustrated, lost, confused, or uncertain about something, I read the manifesto as a reminder of what is important to me. It helps keep me centered and focused on what really matters.

Social + Online

  • I created my website, logo, and social media accounts for Strong with Purpose.
  • I wrote 21 blog posts during my 23rd year, and posted 160 photos on Instagram.
  • I reached 1,000 followers on my hobbyist blog, Dream Design Blog, where I share my favorite architecture and interior design photos.

Note: I traveled more frequently this year than ever before.

  • During my 23rd birthday and our 2nd anniversary, we went on a road trip consisting mostly of Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.
  • We spent a week in Indianapolis, IN for Gen Con.
  • I took a weekend trip to Boston, MA with some of my best friends.
  • I traveled to Orlando, FL alone to see Tool and go ziplining over alligators.
  • I traveled to Venice, CA alone to attend the Radiance Retreat 2016. It was my first time swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
  • I went on a road trip to Omer, MI with a friend to go play with puppies.
  • I went to Toronto, Canada alone to go meet Felicia day while dressed in my Codex cosplay.
  • A friend and I went to Windsor, Canada so he could get a stamp on his passport.
  • We traveled to Grand Rapids, MI for a powerlifting meet, then to Muskegon and Grand Haven for some sightseeing.
  • We took a roadtrip to Cleveland, OH to pick up our puppy.
  • We went to Port Huron, MI and had a great beach day with the puppy.
  • I traveled alone to Midland, MI for a powerlifting meet.
  • I traveled to OH/PA/WV to visit my family twice.
  • I started hiking and went on my first 3 hikes in different state parks in Ohio.

Conventions + Geeky Things

  • I met one of my very favorite humans, Felicia Day.
  • We attended Gen Con 2015. I did not cosplay at this convention, but we played so many games and had a blast!
  • We went to our first Theatre Bizarre and debuted our first couple costume.
  • We went to the Mythbusters Farewell Tour.


  • Tool
  • The Used (2 nights in a row for 15 year anniversary tour)
  • Brit Floyd
  • The Spill Canvas (2 times)
  • Florence + the Machine
  • Caravan Palace

More Firsts

  • I tried flotation therapy for the first and second times.
  • I got my first deep tissue massage, and it was wonderful in a somewhat painful way.
  • I went ziplining for the first time and absolutely loved it! I ziplined two more times after that.
  • I took my first ever surf lesson.
  • I “ran” and finished my first 5k. Distance running is not my thing, haha!
  • I went on my first completely solo vacation.
  • We got our first puppy. He’s an adorable corgi named Waffles.
  • We finished DIYing our basement and finally had our housewarming party.
  • Waffles and I went to our first corgi meetup.


It was difficult to choose, but I decided to pick out my personal favorites of the year.

  • Podcast: Life in Focus Podcast
  • Music: Tool, A Perfect Circle
  • Movie: Can the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale be considered a movie? 😉
  • TV Show (Fictional): Star Trek Voyager
  • TV Show (Nonfictional): Tales of Irish Castles
  • Book (Fictional): Magic 2.0 Series by Scott Meyers
  • Book (Nonfictional): You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
  • Destination Visited: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Now when I look at my tattoo, I think about so much more than the song “23”. I think about all the amazing things that happened during my 23rd year. I remember all the amazing places I visited, the special moments with my friends, family, boyfriend, & our new puppy, the inspiring women I met at the Radiance Retreat, and the times I busted through my comfort zone to try new things.

I gave my tattoo more meaning, just as I originally intended. Mission accomplished.

What’s Next?

Looking forward, my major goals for my 24th year are to:

✔ Finish building my home gym.

✔ Improve my total weight lifted for the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

✔ Go skydiving for the first time.

✔ Attend the Women’s Fitness Summit.

✔ Achieve my NSCA CSCS certification.

✔ Go on lots of hiking trips.

✔ Plan and book a 2-week trip to Ireland, which will happen during my 25th year.

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