How to Turn 35


JavaciaA letter from the universe.

By Javacia Harris Bowser

Dear Javacia,

When you turn 35, you must celebrate all month long. When you turn 35, you must celebrate first with a look back. You will discover that 34 was quite the year.

Thirty-four was the year you built your labor of love—See Jane Write—into a business and learned that if you take yourself seriously as an entrepreneur, other people will, too. Your 2015 “Top 40 Under 40” award from the Birmingham Business Journal is proof.

Thirty-four was the year you and your husband bought a house, something you never thought you could do. When you were younger, you saw homeownership as something reserved for folks from wealthy families. Your family never had much money. Even though your parents worked very, very hard, they always struggled to make ends meet. They weren’t able to purchase a house and you saw your fair share of eviction notices taped to the front door. But 34 was the year you declared you would go after all those things you once believed were beyond your reach—and it worked.

Thirty-four was the year you were deemed “inspirational.” Because of your work with See Jane Write, Girls on the Run Birmingham recognized you among other local “Women Who Inspire,” such as legendary TV news anchor Brenda Ladun. At the awards ceremony, you felt like a fraud because that night you didn’t feel “inspirational,” you felt like a mess. You were in the midst of one of your most stressful times of the year, a time when you were ready to quit everything. You spent most of the evening in tears. Then several women came to you sharing how you had changed their lives simply by inspiring them to share their stories and write their truth. Thirty-four was the year you realized you could be a mess and still be inspirational.

And perhaps that’s why 34 was the year you finally found that confidence that you thought would magically appear at age 30, but didn’t. Thirty-four was the year you learned that confidence is a process, not a point on your life’s map.

When you turn 35, you must celebrate by setting new goals for the year ahead, the kind of goals that are so big they scare you, the kind of goals you would have made when you were just a girl and thought 35 was so old. When you turn 35, you must celebrate with the love of your life and by making the decision that 35 will be the year you are not only a good wife, but also the year you are your husband’s girlfriend. Thirty-five will be the year you rekindle romance.

When you turn 35, you must celebrate by filling your home with the laughter of old friends, friends who knew you when you had acne and no idea what to do with you hair. And you must pinky swear that 34 will be the year you all stop getting together only for special occasions. When you turn 35, you must celebrate with a massage because one thing 35 years of living has taught you is that self-care is a feminist issue. You have learned that Audre Lorde was right when she said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

When you turn 35, you must celebrate with dancing. When you turn 35, you must celebrate with cake and with no regard for calories. When you turn 35, you must celebrate with a tattoo with no regard for cliché. Your favorite quote—“Trust in God; She will provide.”—would be an excellent choice.

When you turn 35, you must celebrate with writing and with a commitment to write every day because writing is when you feel most like yourself and because 35 years of living also has taught you that no matter how many times you fall apart, you can always write yourself back together again.

Happy birthday.

Love,

The Universe

This essay was inspired by “How to Turn 32” by Melissa Scott of MelissaScottYoga.com.

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