My 27th birthday: on gifts, reciprocity, and a new era

lifestyle, Uncategorized

Last month I turned 27 years old.

In the weeks leading up to my 27th birthday I have to be honest, I felt a little bit of fear. Fear that it would be unremarkable like so many days in 2021 were for me. I had become accustomed to days that felt gloomy with nothing that brought me joy and I just did not feel like my birthday would be any different.

And yet I was pleasantly surprised.

When it was time to open presents my family members presented me with a giant box full of 27 presents. Turns out my mom had taken seriously the random statement I made about a month before my birthday that I would like to receive 27 presents for my birthday that year but then immediately laughed it off because it felt silly. My mom took that to heart and contacted a few of my family members and close friends both local and all over the US and told them of her plan to surprise me with a box full of 27 presents. They all contributed gifts to be part of the surprise.

As I stood in my living room opening up box after box of meaningful gifts from my favorite people I increasingly got emotional. My people had gone out of their way to show me how much I meant to them through gifts that reminded them of me. It felt so nice to unwrap their presents. To read the notes that accompanied presents. To be transported back to memories we had shared together that were reflected back in the gifts.

I must confess that until this year I’ve never quite understood the idea of gifts as a love language. It always came in last on every love language quiz I took. I guess I’ve often been more attracted to the independence and financial stability of being able to get anything I wanted for myself. And in this year when I finally made some big purchases for myself (like the Mercedes Benz, my dream car).. I started to realize how nice it felt to enjoy something that someone you love invested their resources to purchase for you. No matter the price point. As I opened my presents, I unwrapped a candle from one of my besties. I was taken back to the conversation I had with her as we window shopped in my favorite high end luxury stores. I had shown her my favorite candle brand and mentioned how because of the insanely high price point I only bought it once a year. She remembered. And she contributed to my happiness. And because candles are the gift that keep on giving, every time I light them I’ll be reminded of her and her generosity.

Gift after gift felt like a reflection of love from people who know me and love me and are invested in my happiness. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. To have a little part of my loved ones there with me even if they physically could not be present? it felt amazing!

All of 2021 one of my biggest challenges to myself has been to only lean into relationships with reciprocity. To pause and give the people who love me the space to show up for me, and increase my own capacity to not just be a giver in my relationships but to also be a receiver…

The months leading up to 27 have felt like a cocoon. I feel like I’m emerging. Into this new version of self . I feel way more aligned. Like a woman walking boldly into a new chapter of my life with competence and competence. In this next era of my life I see myself building out the kind of work culture that exites me and simultaneously makes an impact in the world. I see myself starting a family. I see myself as an author. I see myself being a woman who mentors and invests in community building. I see myself happily in love with myself, my people, and the way my life feels.

And so it is.

25 and rebuilding my confidence


I didn’t expect to greet 25 with the high levels of insecurity and fragility I currently feel.

And yet I find myself here.

I did not realize I was here exactly until I spent some time with one of my 13 year old cousins in Nigeria.
She is so self assured. So confident. Smiles brightly. States her opinions with such passion and fearlessness. Takes up space unapologetically. Being in the same space with her took me back to a time when I was exactly that – self assured, confident, unapologetic, loud and boisterous.

I do have moments when I feel these things but it isn’t my default state of being. And I want to get back there.

It’s almost as if the 24 year old version of me knew I would need reminders of my own magic and gifted me with the insight to ring in the first few weeks of my 25th year with incredible gifts to myself – a boudoir photo shoot, brunch with my closest girls in the Bay Area, time with my mom, a complete self care package, tickets to West Africa for the holidays to spend time with my extended family, and sister friends.

Settling back into myself after all these amazing treats has been a gentle reminder that I internally need to do some work to rebuild my confidence this year. Things like professional gaslighting, rejection from romantic interests, not being set up for success in general in different spaces I have found myself, loss of friendships and a spiritual community have added up into the cumulative effect of slowly eroding my sense of confidence.

Just the general business of living life can have an eroding effect on confidence. Coupled with some very specific experiences, its no wonder that I find myself here without the self assuredness I had always hoped would be my lifelong companion. But I have a plan to build back up my confidence levels this year.

My Three Step Plan:

Reaching out when I need support: In a moment of vulnerability this week I told a few of my friends I was currently sizing up myself against a woman one of my exes is currently with, and I felt like she was more impressive than I would ever be. They stopped in that moment and reassured me of my own magic, reminded me that I was deserving of someone who really saw all the magic in me, and that his preferences had nothing to do with me. That felt really nice. So more moments of reaching out to people who love me when I needed to be reminded of why I am special. Knowing my mom and Elias, my most affectionate brother, will always be ready at any moment to express a million and one reasons why they love me.

Find spaces that allow me to showcase my skills and celebrate them: My natural tendency for improvement has meant that much of my life I have chosen to be in spaces that always require me to be better without celebrating where I currently am. And alternatively, I’ve spent less in times in spaces where I was celebrated for my natural skills. This year I want to lean more into spaces that allow me to do things that come easy for me and to be celebrated for them.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an open mic night and performed one of my poems (that was rejected from a publication I really wanted to see it in), the reception of it was so deeply moving to me. People loved it. People responded to my words in real time, and that was powerful for me to take in. Folks came up to me afterwards to talk about it. It felt like redemption particularly because the rejection of my pitches over the past year had finally made me internalize that maybe I just wasn’t a good writer. I am a taking a break from always having to choose the hard thing.

Stop giving away my power: As much as external validation feels good, I have realized that it is a form of outsourcing my power to rely on other people to be the building blocks of my confidence. I suppose the ground zero of rebuilding my confidence is a great place to train my brain to place my voice as the primary voice of validation I need. I would like the foundation of my confidence to be rooted in the fact that I am worthy. That at the end of the day even if no one sees me or tells me I did a good job, or celebrates me, I want the fact that I saw myself, and celebrated myself to be enough to sustain me. To seek the support of the people who have proven themselves loyal and caring to be the secondary source of validation. And slowly detach from a pattern of seeking the validation and approval of those committed to misunderstanding me, dishonoring me, dismissing me, or ignoring me.

So that’s my plan!

I am excited about where I will be by my 26th birthday.

Any additional things that have helped you in rebuilding back your confidence levels?