28 and 4 Years Later

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Today is my 28th birthday, and I couldn’t decide whether to write something touching and meaningful, do some kind of list of things that I’ve learned over the years, or talk about how this project has evolved in that time. So I opted to do all three.

I started Exile Lifestyle about 4 years ago — April 19, 2009 — and if you look back at my earliest posts, they’re pretty rough. My voice hadn’t really developed and I spent a lot of time those first months trying to figure out where my sweet spot was — what I could write about that would set me apart, and which other people would care to read.

I was also trying to figure out what role this blog would play in my life. I knew I was about to undergo some drastic changes, and was just coming back from a very important trip, during which my wonderful ex and I decided to throw a breakup party 4 months in the future, completely upending our lives and hopefully finding paths that were a better fit for each of us. It wasn’t an easy moment, but it was pregnant with possibility, and as a result it was easier to ignore the difficulties than it would have been otherwise. As I dove deeper into the blogging scene, the friends that I made there, and the things they were talking about, made looking past the discomfort of the present toward the bright lights of the future a million times easier. I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I’m also grateful for all the people I’ve met since those early days — the people who send me emails to say thanks or just to introduce themselves. Those who engage in discussion on my Facebook page, respond to the stuff I post on Twitter, or pick up copies of the books I write. The folks I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person along the way, whether in coffee shops, at book tour stops, out on the town for a beer, or because they’ve invited me into their homes (or welcomed me to their country). It’s difficult to express how much impact you’ve all had on my life, and just how positive that impact has been. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

The result of all the experiences I’ve had, places I’ve visited, and people I’ve met in the past 28 years — the last 4 especially — is that I’m a little less ignorant of the world around me and ever more aware of just how much I still have left to learn. The resulting ‘enlightened humility’ is something that allows me to continue to grow, despite a burgeoning confidence that stems from all the failures and successes I’ve been fortunate enough to have. Looking at the world and realizing just how small I am — but also knowing that it’s within my power to grow by increasing my knowledge, having a positive impact on others, and producing value when possible — is an incredible feeling, and a significant part of why each day seems better than the last.

It’s also been heartening to learn that we’re all essentially the same no matter where you go. We may have different backgrounds — different genetic traits and experiences that shape our personalities and the specifics of our desires — but we’re all human, and with extremely few exceptions, we’re all damn good people, when we have the opportunity to be. This should not be overlooked or overshadowed by all the tiny little details that don’t sync up, but which we unfortunately tend to focus on over the core structures we all share.

I could ramble on about this for a long time, so I’m going to stop there and simply say this: I’ve been fortunate to have a very good life. I’ve got a great family, amazing friends, thoughtful readers, and I’m able to do the work I love while surrounding myself with the people I want to have around, both physically and electronically.

Thank you so much for the role you’ve played in that happiness.