Birthday's are curious things. For some, they're an opportunity for grand merriment. For others, they sigh at the addition to their age. To me, it's an occasion that brings forth reflection - a brief pause in the momentum of life, to assess where one has come from and to try figure out where one is going.
I think of the last year and the extraordinary ways my life has changed. My life has never been a traditional one, but the last twelve months have taught me to be grateful for every single broken heart, disappointment and moment of adversity I have encountered.
Exactly 365 days ago, I felt completely different. I was lost in a darkness that overwhelmed my genuine love of life. The optimistic, hopeful way I looked at the world - once a place of endless opportunities - evaporated. What was left was a shell of a girl; frightened, lost, and devoid of hope or belief.
It was not me. I would look at photographs and look in the mirror, unable to reconcile the happy young woman who believed in the future and the reflection staring back at me - no light in the eyes, no smile on the lips.
Having this experience taught me a number of things. I learned there is a darkness and intensity in me that co-exists with the light, but that I must not let it overwhelm me.
I learned that strength is not conditional, there is no limit to what you can endure. You will be a little bruised, a little battered, but not irreparably broken. You will heal. Time and time again, you will heal.
It's not a solo process. I'm blessed to have such wonderful people in my life who love me, support me and believe in me. If it weren't for the strength of my Mum and Kell Bells, I would not have found my own.
Slowly and then suddenly, as Autumn turned to Winter and Winter melted into Spring, I blossomed with the early February bluebells.
It's not been a perfect process, I'm not a completed perfect work. But I am happy - truly, contentedly, peacefully - in a way that I did not believe possible this time last year.
The first sip of coffee in the morning, waking up beside a man who I adore, the late Indian Summer wind brushing my cheeks - they are simple things which fill me with a genuine joy.
Each and every step and experience has brought me to this point. I could not be more grateful or feel luckier for what I have and the life I lead. Not because everything is perfect, but because things feel right.
I've no idea where I'm going with my career, but the uncertainty doesn't scare me anymore. I am completely, utterly in love and while it does scare me sometimes - in quiet moments when I look at my wonderful man and simultaneously fall a bit more in love with him while attempting to figure out why on earth he loves me too - I'm not sabotaging my own happiness as a means of protecting myself from potential hurt. I'm figuring out better ways to handle the crazy, dramatic moments of my life.
I've learned that there is nothing -no person, job or situation - that is ever worth you questioning why you're here, what is the point of carrying on.
Over the course of a year, I lost my magic and got it back. I rediscovered my hope and my complete adoration of the unpredictability of life.
I hope I'm a better woman than I was and I hope next year, I'll be a better woman than I currently am. I don't know what the future holds, but this fills me with excitement and not despondency. I know there will be hard times, but there will be more good times. I know that change is coming. I know that whatever may come, I will not lose myself again.
That is my birthday gift to myself. Long after the cake is gone and the cards tucked away, I will have this. I took the road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference.
Thank God I did.