This week I turned 29.

29 isn’t one of the birthdays you think about growing up, dreaming of the milestones accompanied by new privileges or exciting life events. I can already drink and rent a car, and am not quite up to the neat, round age of 30. In fact, the only defining feature of turning 29 is being almost 30. One more year to make your 20’s count.

I had someone ask me if this was one of my ‘anniversaries’ of turning 22, to which I responded, with characteristic tact: why the hell would I want to be 22 again?

And I honestly meant it. But the comment reminded me of my life at 22: being a young, stay-at-home mom, with a new baby, far from home, and trying to figure out what to do with my life. 22 year old me figured I would have it all together by now, finished with school, married, with a successful career in photography and perhaps another child. By those standards, I have undoubtably failed.

At 29, I can honestly say I am not where I expected to be, in my personal life, my career, nor my location. But life often works like that. Obstacles materialize that no amount of planning could possibly account for. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I’m a goal-oriented person, and not having achieved the ‘simple’ goals associated with growing up does sting a bit. But the reality is that those aspects of my life do little to illustrate who I am as an individual.

It’s this thought that breathes life into me, when my ‘failures’ seek to bring me down. I am not just my job title, my credit score, a millennial or a mother. These labels are stifling and uninformative; I have more substance than that. I must continue to persue a life that challenges me, forcing me forward, to learn more, and to live transparently. These are the conditions that shape us, and force us to grow, and make our time in this world count.