From the Heart:
34

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I remember having a conversation with my mother on her 60th birthday. I asked her if she felt old and she told me that she didn’t at all. Which got me thinking about age. And how every year we celebrate a birthday and we have to tell people we are one year older and with that, it seems, especially as women, we are meant to feel like we have lost some of our value. But really, the most astonishing thing is, no matter what society makes us feel, we are still the same people, only better versions of ourselves. True, we can see the physical manifestations of age. I have baby lines under my eyes that I didn’t have 5 years ago. I can’t quite recover from late night partying the same way I used to – now I’m a little puffy in the face in the mornings. I have to watch my diet more now because I put on weight quicker. And I have to be more vigilant when engaging in strenuous activities because it takes longer to recover from injuries. But these are small things. The big changes happen inside, and you can’t see them, only feel them. I look back at the last 4 years, the ones I’ve spent alone building a life for myself, and I am proud of the woman I have become. Sure I’ve had setbacks – I’ve behaved plenty bad and I’ve punished myself for those times too. But for the most part, I’ve become a person who is brave, adventurous, confident, caring, generous, and strong. I remember back in my mid-20’s when I was working out with a trainer and overly consumed with my body image, I started seeing a nutritionist. She was a woman in her early-40’s, beautiful and confident. After just one meeting she told me that if she could give me one piece of advice, it would be to find my voice. She said that while it was obvious I had a good head on my shoulders, she could tell that I held so much of my true self back. I was shy and reserved in a way that was borne more of fear than nature. She said I would never be truly happy until I learned to embrace my true self and use my voice to show people who I really was. I didn’t know what she meant then. In fact, it didn’t become fully realized until some time after my 30th birthday when I was at dinner in Washington D.C. with my sister and a group of her friends who were strangers to me. I found myself carrying the conversation at the table – making people laugh with my sarcastic sense of humor. And then I had a moment when it became clear I wasn’t the same person I had been in the past, the one who would have sat shyly and only spoken when directly addressed. Slowly, I started seeing the new me more and more often – at work, when making new friends, in social settings. And I realized how right my nutritionist had been – that finding my voice was the best thing to happen to me. The other brilliant thing that comes with age, which I always tell my younger friends who are terrified of entering their 30’s, is that at some point, you just stop worrying about what other people think of you, and you stop apologizing for who you are. It’s something like self-love and it’s beautiful. And once you get there, you start forming more meaningful relationships where people love the real you, not the version of yourself you choose to show them.  I never shy away from telling people my age. I think aging is a splendid adventure. I’m doing things now that I would never have been able to do even 5 years ago, and not because I have the means, but because I have the strength. The changes that happen inside only make life more enjoyable. So with that, I’m welcoming 34 on Friday. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me! And I’m excited to share it with friends and family who know and love the authentic Gabrielle, the woman who was re-born sometime after she discovered how to use her voice.

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