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Birthday Reflections: 33 Powerful Life Lessons

Updated: May 24, 2021

I’m officially 33. It’s my “Jesus Year.”

Urban Dictionary describes the Jesus year as “the 33rd year of your life where you are reborn in some sense. Perhaps a mid-life crisis, perhaps an ego death, perhaps the year where you abandon old ways and start new.”

In retrospect, the last decade has shifted my outlook on life tremendously—for better, but through the worst.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some truly amazing experiences in life so far that will always have my gratitude! But, I have to be honest and admit that life is hard. Some of the simplest yet most important lessons are only learned and understood (unfortunately) through seasons of pain, failure, and change.

Society places so many spoken and unspoken expectations on where you should be and what you should have by the time you join the 30s Club. By societal standards, I’m probably missing the mark: I’m divorced and have no kids yet. I’m basically rebuilding based on my reality, which is starkly different than what I thought my life would look like by now.

For my birthday, I wanted to share 33 of the most challenging, raw, perspective-changing, and surprisingly simple life lessons I’ve learned thus far.

Grab your champagne (or coffee, or Hennessy—I don’t judge *wink*) and let’s toast to new beginnings.

Happy birthday to the best version of myself.

I’m Thirty Free.


33rd birthday. life lessons

1. Don’t get even. Heal.

After being hurt or betrayed, the desire for revenge is a natural part of being human. Unfortunately, pain can severely alter your judgement—so redirect that pain. Y’all remember what First Lady Michelle Obama said? “When they go low, we go high.”

P.S. Healing is not a linear process, nor is it easy; but we’ll save that for another day.

2. Find God AND a good therapist.

#Boffum. They are the reasons I’m still standing (plus my tribe—but God sent them, too).

3. You are not responsible for someone else’s happiness.

I know, I know. We’ve all heard this time and time again. But healthy, loving relationships give you space to add to someone’s happiness, not take ownership of it. Never let someone put the weight of an inside job solely on YOU. That kind of relationship is crushing and impossible to maintain (and most of the time, it’s a cop out for something larger that you can’t fix).

4. God’s plans will ALWAYS be better than yours. PERIODT.

Once you truly accept this (like, for real), life’s disappointments hurt just a little less. And remember: He doesn’t check YOUR schedule, but He’s always on time. #letgoandletGod

5. Self-love is a continuous journey, not an arrival point.

There are so many levels to this, but I’ll leave it at that.

6. Your single season is NOT a prison sentence.

I’m not going to lie—single life can feel like thee GHET-TO, especially when you see everyone around you getting married (+ staying married) and starting families. On the other hand, it can also be a magical, fun, and pivotal time of self-discovery and self-care if you just let it happen. So…let it!

7. Friendships expire. And that’s okay.

Some people are not meant to do life with you. It took me years to understand this, and even longer to accept it.

8. You have food at home.

Whew! Nothing says “you’ve arrived at your 30s” like this. I love, love, love fine dining, but through the years, I’ve grown to really enjoy cooking and getting creative at home! Cooking has also been invaluable while on my debt-free journey (more on that sometime soon).

9. Acceptance is closure.

You can’t seek after “closure” from someone else in order to move forward. Why place your future and your ability to heal and move on in the hands of someone who is likely unwilling to acknowledge the damage they did in your past? Closure belongs to YOU, and you alone.

10. Life is hard, and the fairytale narrative is a sham.

Can life have fairytale moments? Of course! However, be careful not to let social media dictate your view of life. We tend to see someone’s social media profile and romanticize their carefully-selected highlights. Very few people post about the awful things they have going on in the background.

birthday decor idea

11. Rejection is redirection.

Rejection from a job, relationship, friendship, etc. can be super tough. But trust me: once you embrace rejection and come out on the other side, everything will be worth it.

12. Love is a verb.

It’s not just a feeling. It’s an act. Love is a continuous choice. It’s not passive.

13. It’s okay to say NO.

As a recovering, chronic people pleaser, I’ve learned that “no” is sometimes a necessary response in order to preserve yourself—be that your peace of mind, wallet, diet, or whatever else. The people who truly love you will accept this answer, even if they don’t always understand.

14. Travel, travel, travel.

Road trip, international trip, it doesn’t matter—just go! I’ve learned that traveling makes me feel alive, and I can’t wait to (safely) do more of it. This may seem like a no-brainer for those that know me personally, but my desire for travel was once made to look like a flaw, and I used to struggle with that. Yes, I’ve been travel-shamed. But I find value in one day being able to tell great stories to my grandkids, like how I basically met the Pope in Italy and almost got arrested in London!

15. Vitamins are your friend.

I bought a weekly pill box just to organize my vitamins, and I’ve seen and felt some real results after taking them consistently. Today, they are an essential part of my self-care and beauty routine.

16. Spontaneity is the spice of life.

I’m a planner by nature (and a bit of a Type A), so this one has been really tough. Once I made a conscious and continuous effort to “loosen up” a little more and live in the moment, life became a lot more fun!

17. Perfection paralysis is the enemy.

Perfection is subjective, and honestly just an illusion. Even knowing this, I STILL struggle with it. But like Nike said, just do it!

18. Listen to your intuition.

Your intuition is always right; and usually, it already knows what your head hasn’t discerned yet.

19. Sweep your side of the street.

In other words, work through your sh*t. It doesn’t matter if you look fine-fine on the outside if you’re struggling on the inside with a crappy value system. Pray, meditate, eat better, apologize, learn your triggers, and work through your personal traumas. Also, refer back to #2.

20. Forgiveness and reconciliation have nothing to do with each other.

I could write a whole post on this—maybe I will one day. The bottom line is that forgiveness is hard. It takes intentionality and work, but it’s truly one of the best things you can do for YOU. Release the debt and the burden.

birthday outfit idea

21. Black CAN crack...

…if you let it. There’s definitely something to be said about wearing SPF, investing in quality skincare products, drinking water, AND minding your business. But also, see #15.

22. Takes TONS of pictures of your friends and family.

Not a picture person? So what? Life is unpredictable, and there’s a high chance that those photos will become your greatest treasures someday. 2020 taught all of us that.

23. Your value does not directly correlate with someone’s inability to see your worth.

If you’re making an effort to show up in the world as your best self, remember this: you’re the sh*t! Whether he/she/they see it or not.

24. Words carry weight.

Look, whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a liar! A more relevant saying to me is “We need to think of our tongue as a messenger that runs errands for our heart. Our words reveal our character.” Don’t get me wrong—I understand that we’re ALL flawed and may say things we don’t mean sometimes. I definitely have. But the ultimate goal is to be more mindful of how you treat others. What you say to someone might be minor to you, but from the other person’s perspective, it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

25. Don’t let the past control your future.

Life is best lived forward, but understood backwards. It’s hard, but try your best to catch the lesson(s) and keep moving.

26. Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is worth repeating because it’s so true. You have to focus on your storyline.

27. Never expect YOU from other people.

If you do this, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed…every. single. time. We all do this sometimes. Be who YOU are without assuming reciprocity is a part of the equation. Do what you do out of love.

28. A genuine apology does not include the word “but.”

Or any other sort of deflection.

29. Love people where they are.

We are all constantly growing and evolving, and you can’t control anyone. Try to accept people for who they are in this moment. Be supportive, listen, and don’t stress yourself out trying to change or help them.

30. Debt sucks!

We’ve all heard the ever-popular saying “secure the bag”, but I’ve come to realize that eliminating debt is a top priority. Imagine if all of the money you made was yours. Debt is not to be confused with everyday living expenses or essentials; it’s about the bills you have that you really don’t need to have. In addition to understanding the importance of developing multiple streams of income, part of the journey is realizing that debt is robbing you of your hard-earned coins. Subscriptions and credit card swipes add up.

31. Remain a student of life.

This has nothing to do with higher education. Instead, it involves being teachable, curious, and open-minded. No one “knows it all,” and life is meant to be explored. Being open to learning and growth can improve your overall happiness and alleviate some of life’s pressures.

32. Failure is an event, not a person.

In the words of the late, beloved Aaliyah, you have to dust yourself off and try again. Oh, and it’s okay if you need to cry first, too.

33. There’s a difference between good friends and true friends.

True friends are good, but good friends ain’t always true. Whew!

33rd birthday photoshoot ideas

I hope you find these helpful! Life is truly full of lessons. What are some lessons you've learned?

385 views4 comments


I loved your birthday Reflections. 😇


I nodded along to many of them. Especially #7 and #26. Quarantine has really gotten to folks and social is blowing up with everyone going online. Jeez. It's going to be an interesting 2021. But on another note, your photos are amazing. Is this Papa Newman's work? So happy to see you're welcoming your 21st birthday with open arms. Cheers to being one year wiser <3


Danielle Mitchell
Danielle Mitchell
Jan 11, 2021

This was good! Thanks for sharing!!


These are #facts and such an excellent reflection during your first days being 33! I pictured you sitting in a luxurious bathtub, sipping champagne, and effortlessly reliving a lifetime of memories to create lessons to assist those who sometimes aren't able to see the clear picture within their own life. I enjoyed each one and will remember to think of these often and maybe be a bit kinder to myself! Also, your pictures are beautiful, and I love them! xo

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