Originally published at www.womanworks.net

Was it focus or an illusion? Often have I come across this question in the presence of this gravitational pull towards a direction that seemed more demanding and far more established compared to past years.
This question is answered the moment I set foot on the sandy beaches of Bermuda, a past place of retreat from reality. But here’s the catch, there is no need for retreat. Like reality, it is all about the element of being. Unlike past Bermudian memories, there is no moment of reflection that is forcing any need to change my ways…

Did I really become all of me at 33?

Regardless of the answer to this question, I am certain that it took a village and extraordinary moments to get here.
First, it took a village. I’ve been fortunate by the amount of unwavering support surrounding me in 2017. Individuals from many different walks of life have planted their seeds of belief and never gave up on me, especially when I was losing faith in myself. My last birthday blog “From What To Do at 32 To All of Me at 33”, I stated that all of the goals I achieved seemed possible the moment I made the effort to eliminate those, in my life, who only invested their energy in putting me down. Now at 34, I issue this testimony of absolution by saying that it works and it continues to do wonders. The people in my day-to-day life are always reminding me to never place limits on my capability.
Second, extraordinary moments have definitely shaped me in 2017. I was stunned to have received the offer of acting on stage, again, for the first time in five years. It was frightening in the sense that I was in a completely different stage in my life, at age 28, no pun intended… But I did it and furthermore, I am hooked all over again and can’t wait for the next opportunity!
Another measure took a deep turn of uncertainty when it was to be determined whether or not I had cancer. From the moment the abnormal test result revealed itself until that toxic chunk of flesh was severed out of my body, there and then, I had to come to terms with my mortality: No matter how healthy I can try to be, I am not invincible. My thoughts and feelings then jumped from fate and mortality to watching the dangerous high waters threatening to sweep away loved ones along with areas of Houston that have housed my childhood. Everything I felt took on a whole new meaning. The aftermath of all being said and done sent me into raw emotions I wasn’t prepared to face.
In the midst of it all, I can’t help but remember what my colleague told me when I was fear-stricken by the cancerous unknown:

“Come what may, you will rise above this.”

So now here I am on my 34th birthday, in Bermuda, and an inner voice sternly points out that in the face of challenges and heartbreak, I still took action. This voice becomes even more authoritative by further stating the ugly truth:

The only destructive threat that is upon you is to screw yourself over by underestimating what you are capable of doing.

As I sit on this beach with the wisdom of Arianna Huffington’s book swimming in my head, I realize that the biggest take away from her latest work (“Thrive”) is to acknowledge something that is often swept under the rug:

Our culture has it’s own ideas of defining success, but it is up to you to define your own version of success.

…Which leads me to believe that at 34 the journey continues with what fueled my agenda in 2017: building strength and continue to invest.

Building strength has been interesting…

Sure, I’ve felt stronger by surrounding myself with positive, caring, talented people, but oddly, I found a whole new level of strength in a physical fitness activity…
In the past, I would have rather had a bad case of gonorrhea than attend a Pilates class. It requires strict discipline in achieving accuracy through every single repetition. Naturally, after my first class, in 2017, I hated it and swore I would never go back. But the next day, I noticed that I was starting to feel little increments of energy surrounding my lower spine that enabled my body to sit up a little straighter.
Whoa! This is different.
So I went back the following week and once again, I hated it. But the following day, the same energy around my lower back extended all the way up to my lower ribs allowing my body to feel as if a natural corset was securing and protecting the most vulnerable organs.
3 weeks later, my spine became my tree trunk, my legs and shoulders served as elongated branches, standing unthinkably loud, proud and with grace. Through this strength I surpassed my expectations for greater health and strong mindset. My youth might be fading with time, but strength can never fade as long I take the moment to invest in it.

This leads me to the next ongoing tactic: Continue to invest!

Often have I heard the word invest stated in terms of financial hope and gain.
But is it truly the most important subject in regards personal development?
Is it a necessity to reach outside the self in order to actually see that an investment has occurred?

What about self-investment?

I have never heard this term used before until I read Sophia Amoruso’s “#GirlBoss” and it dawned on me: Everything that I have been doing, this past year, has served as self-investment.

– The job I received last March has enabled me to build a writing portfolio that involves many different styles material that I would not have attempt to perform otherwise.

– Becoming a first time pet parent is enabling me to invest in my nurturing side, a dimension of my personality that had yet to be explored.

– Visiting family and making time to talk to friends is an investment in my joy and happiness.

– Creativity is an ongoing investment for my soul.

– Giving to charity is an investment to be a part of a much bigger picture to better other’s lives and in return enrich my need to make the world a better place.

All of this brings me to wanting more at 34. There’s nothing I want to change while choosing to remain focused and for that, I will raise my glass to a New Year.

May it bring challenges to help us build strength.

May every investment, we make, be a reverential reflection of what truly matters in this journey called life.