Growing up, everyone always tells you that life rarely (if ever) goes as planned. They tell you that things will change as you get older, and that sometimes, you’ll have little to no control over those changes.

Today, as I read through various “Happy Birthday” messages, I became strangely aware of the fact that many of the people who I used to refer to as my best friends were not among those wishing me well. In fact, I haven’t spoken to some of those people in years, and it got me thinking about how quickly and how significantly things change – whether it’s your values, your beliefs… or even your friends.

I think that in my life, though, what has changed the most is me.

A good friend of mine* told me today, “Can’t wait to see what this year brings to you. You are brave and awesome and I love how you tell it like it is. Here’s to many more years of doing just that.” It was interesting, because I haven’t always been that way (which she knows all too well). I haven’t always been willing to stand up and speak my mind, to share what I think, feel, or believe. In fact, for a long time, I was so focussed on being accepted by my peers that I was willing to compromise my own beliefs in order to please them; I let my own identity crumble just so I would “fit in.”

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot less of that, and I hope that 22 helps me continue towards becoming the best version of myself – the version that accepts no less than what I deserve, and that stays true to who I am and what I believe.

So here’s to being another year older, another year wiser, and another year better.

Here’s to 22.

– Stephanie, ECC

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