23 Candles: A handful of pearls from the 22 women who took my 22nd year and grew it into something Memorable.

I have never been good with birthdays.

They make me squeamish. A little queasy. I really should be donning a crown and beating the pulp out a watermelon pinata but really I am always left wondering if I have packed enough learning into 52 weeks, done enough with 12 months.

And so here I am, newly 23, and wondering what the purpose to 22 really was.

Come on, I make symbolism out of my morning coffee, there was no way I was going to let a whole 22nd year slip by without looking for the life lessons behind it.

So…After 365 extraordinary days, 365 days with so much life packed tight into them, I can confidently say that my 22nd year was one shaped by 22 young women who have crisscrossed my path with theirs at some point this year, leaving me with arms full of wisdom, courage, and inspiration. My life would not be the same without these 22 women and they lessons they taught me in a span of twelve months. On this special day, I would like to share those lessons with you.

I would like to dedicate this pearls of wisdom post and my 22nd year to these world shakers who made me the person I am today. Thank you for teaching me with your light, your love, and your life.

Find that place in this world that fits you like an over-sized sweater. Find that place that makes Ruby Slippers seem totally practical if it really means clicking them will bring you back there again & again. Find that place that will always take you back into its arms, borders and intersections no matter how far away you travel or how long you have been gone. —Stephanie Rushford. Stephanie is a freelance politics writer who allowed me to see New York City from her own eyes. I will always remember a night this winter spent roaming the financial district near the 9/11 memorial and hearing from her what it means to be young and in love with a City that Knows Her Name.

Don’t let the universe regret you. —Azure Antoinette. Azure is a spoken word poet recently spotlighted by Oprah who helped us run our poetry workshop in Brooklyn this April. We spoke for about an hour on the phone and yet it was one of the best 60 minutes out of the whole year. Azure amazes me daily with her poise and grace, and her fervor for all of life. I am beyond ready for a musical July with her.

The world will try to get you to quit believing in fairy tale love. Don’t let it win so easily. Believe in frogs. Lost shoes. Carriages made from pumpkins. Pixy dust. And falling hopelessly, so hopelessly, in love. –Audrey. Those who know my blog know that my best writing is forever indebted to a four-year-old diva with a serious Princess Complex. Only two feet tall, Audrey showed me how to relive my whole life in one summer, three feet shorter and looking at the world through a pair of rockin’ pink shades.

The job that you want and will delight in doing for the whole of your life probably doesn’t exist out there just yet. You are going to have to create that job. —Lindsay Pollak. The ultimate expert on careers and the workplace, Lindsay is someone who will have you itching to network and map out your dream job in seconds. I owe this young woman a great deal of thanks for the inspiration and pushes she provided me with while job hunting in the last few months.

Adventures are guaranteed to come knocking at your door. Keep your ears perked for that Adventure’s rapping on the wood; get up out of bed in slippers and pajamas and greet the adventure whenever she arrives.Christen Brandt. Director of She’s the First, Christen is not only someone I love working with but also someone I love sharing life adventure’s with. I am constantly in awe of the readiness she holds in nearly every situation tossed her way. I am looking so forward to our future adventures…

Whatever role you play, play it with every ounce of yourself. Walk away at the end of each chapter knowing that you made your heart breakable for a very good reason; so that you could scatter it and leave it with others who needed it more in the moment.Carleigh Baldwin. I am lucky to call her a best friend, Carleigh is an individual who I look up to and respect for so many reasons. And I am absolutely ready to see her rock her first year of law school.

In all that you do, ask yourself “why.” From your morning coffee to your route to work, ask yourself “why” and if you cannot uncover the answer then have the courage to reevaluate.–Halle Butvin. I interviewed Holly back in 2010 and this piece of advice has stuck with me since. Founder of One Mango Tree, a fair trade company that helps bring women in Uganda out of Poverty, Halle is a role model who I absolutely admire for her endless efforts to be the change she wishes to see in the world.

Allow yourself to be the Rare, Limited Edition, Version of yourself that really, truly are. Don’t ever belittle how very beautiful you make this world.Nikita Marie. Confessions: I want to be this girl. You should be friends with this girl. You will NEVER, EVER meet a more stellar individual. Of this I am sure. Nikita is a serious world shaker who inspires me to paint beautiful pictures out each of my days. Seriously, spend fifteen minutes with this young woman. You. Will. Be. Glad. You. Did.

Serve a purpose in whatever you do. You are here for a reason, don’t let the opportunity slip.–Carla Blumenthal. If you could only meet one more person for the whole of your life, I wish it would be Carla. I am extremely honored to know Carla and to call her a great friend. In a short span of time in the Big City, Carla filled my pockets with her wisdom on every aspect of life, to doing the work you love to growing spirituality in an ever-growing city.

Leave time in your day, every.day, for the following things: inspiration, love, symphonies, glitter, friends, fine art, prayer & Gloriosity.–Chesley Turner. This young woman reads me like a book and I thank the Good, Good Lord for her always. Inspiring, moving, poised and passionate, Chesley is someone I look forward to growing old with, chatting about the days when we were young, fabulous, running wild around New York City in mini skirts and heels that defied the borders of “spectacular.”

Make space in your life for people who surpass wearing their heart on their sleeve. Carve out special room for individuals who walk around this world with a staple gun in hand, stapling their heart to the sleeves of others. Lauren Lankford. I am honest in saying that I would love nothing more than to sit beside Lauren and talk about all things under the sun until the sun herself went down: Life. Love. God. Mistakes. Grace. Creativity. Founder of the Good Women Project and Love Drop, I never can seem to pick my jaw fully up off the ground over how much of herself Lauren has given to others. Selfless. Selfless. Selfless & Remarkable.

SARK, one my favorite inspirational gurus, writes that there is a great difference in life between telling the world about the tree you have drawn in your mind and actually showing the world that tree. Have enough courage to cease talking about the tree, walk outside, and plant it. —Tammy Tibbetts. I simply cannot string together enough good sentences to say how much I admire Tammy and how remarkable of a mentor she has been to me since first meeting her. Founder of She’s the First, a tree planted deep in my own heart now, Tammy has shown me the importance of letting your dreams live outside of your walls and the potential they hold when unleashed out into the world. I am blessed to call her a good friend.

Be the person who enters into the room with a smile on her face, wine in her hand, and a good story waiting to dive off into the crowd. In six, simple words: Be the Life of the Party. –Lauren Albert. Lauren teaches me daily what it means to embrace the spontaneity and hidden potential within each hour, second, and minute. She is my go-to gal, a dancing queen, a heart-to-heart companion always ready for a deep conversation and a glass of chardonnay. And , for all of these things, I am lucky to be so close with her.

Take time to sit down and map out what you want out of life. Gather up those who support and love you best to make those dreams and desires into the very best reality. —Selena Soo. I first met Selena at a power girl brunch but since that first meeting she has helped to sculpt me into the professional and world shaker I long to be. I will forever thank her for challenging me to design my dream job, it is because of her that I know I am inching towards it. Closer & Closer each day.

Be present to people. Give to them your time, your energy, your shoulders, your hands and your ears. When you are there, be sure to really be there. And when you are here, Be Here. —Laura Collins. Anam Cara is the Gaelic term for a “friend of your soul.” Laura challenged me, pushed me, and changed me in eight months of living with her. The greatest gift she gave me? The Gift of Presence, something I know she will continue to give as she heads off to Peru this winter.

Let life court you. Allow it wine & dine you. Let life get down on one knee, pull out a big ol’ diamond ring, and slip it onto your finger. —Mackenzie Filson. I don’t play favorites all that often but there is no denying: this girl is on the top of my list. I believe she and I have covered our souls with very same wallpaper… A coffee date lives in our future; this makes it nearly impossible to resist begging the future to get here now.

Tell others when you admire them, when they have changed you, when they have pushed you and challenged you and held you up at times. Chances are, if you have not told them yet then they have yet to know it as true. —Kaleigh Somers. Reasons why I adore blogging: this girl. Kaleigh has shown me, over and over again, why I wake up everyday to write out into the world via this blog. I cannot help but thank her endlessly for being a source of inspiration, an honest critic, and one of my biggest fans.

Don’t just bend backwards for friends you love. Bend in any direction they need of you. Front. Back. Side. Up. Down. Just be there to bend when they break. Becca Provost. I had the pleasure of watching and learning from Becca for eight months this year. From the very start, I admired the attention she gave to those who mattered most to her and with what delicateness she treated her friendships. Anyone would very fortunate to know this young woman… extremely fortunate to call her a friend.

Befriend creativity. Let it swim in your veins. Keep you up at night. Leave you lost in Central Park, sitting on a park bench, plotting story lines until the street lights come on. And after you befriend creativity, befriend the stranger sitting on the park bench beside you. —Libby Segal. She calls herself an “aspiring director.” Let’s all get real and just start telling the truth: Director will only be the beginning to what this girl will accomplish in her lifetime. Watch out world, this one is going to shake you. Big. Time.

Read your heart out loud to the ones you love. Read your heart out loud as if it were your favorite novel. Celia Fox. My very best friend, this girl has shown me and taught me what it means to read my heart out loud. I find it hard to tell her with real words how very proud I am and how excited I am to see her chapter in Kansas unfold… And how pumped I am to make endless Dorothy comments towards her. Love you St. End!

“Agape means that we love a person for what they are. Every person has an infinite mystery within themselves. Agape means that we never confine the person to what we know of them.  To love anyone is to hope in them always.” –Lindsay Field. If you do use Google today, use it to look up this word. It is a life-sculpting word that Lindsay introduced me to throughout the year. A strong young woman, I am beyond excited to see the next chapter of her life unfold as she heads to Equador for the next year.

Wake up and look around. The sights are too good to be missed at any time of the year.Britt Blicharz. A best friend, Britt teaches me this always and often. That no matter what time of the year it is– winter, spring, summer or fall–there is reason to stop what you are doing and breath in the air. Smile. Laugh. Maybe even cry. And thank God you are alive…

21 thoughts on “23 Candles: A handful of pearls from the 22 women who took my 22nd year and grew it into something Memorable.

  1. Once again your birthday post inspires! Thanks for sharing. This may be an idea I utilize this week. What a wonderful way to commemorate your birthday Hannah!

  2. i am so so honored, my dear. so so honored. to the point of bowing down and yelling “i am not worthy! i am not worthy!” , but i will try to suppress that yell and be thankful instead 🙂 you are toooo sweet, beyond sweet, like diabetic level sweet. and i can’t wait to further be inspired by you on a lovely coffee date in the future! sending you lots of love for your birthday! xo

  3. What I have always loved about you is your ability to remain unselfish. As today is a day to be all ABOUT YOU–you’ve, of course, found it a way to be about others. I am happy to say that I know quite a few of these people on this list, one of them even being my best friend, and each of them has also shown me some path worth taking this year.

    And as for you birthday girl: I only wish I could put into words, the way you so perfectly have, how you have effected my life over these last nine months. You have taught me about having the ability to actually be strong enough to put the world on my shoulders and shake it up: you have taught me about using my words and videos to draw inspiration for others. And you have taught me about spreading love to others: whether it may be through acts of kindness or through letters left in the cracks of a subway cart: or on the cushion of a chair in a coffee shop. Today is your day, my friend, today is about all the accomplishments you have had in just 23 years. How incredible you are–and will always be.

    Happy Birthday,

    1. This is ridiculous to read, I really cannot read it… Stupid tears, always hiding in the crooks of my eyes whenever you bring my name into a paragraph… Just get here already.

  4. Ok this was probably the best thing to wake up to this morning. Definitely. Thank you for sharing lessons learned from 22 wonderful women who I’m sure are doing big things and inspiring many others. I cannot even begin to convey how honored I am to be among these 21 other women. And I’m truly blessed to have stumbled across you and your blog. Libby hit it on the spot. It’s YOUR birthday but you’ve taken that chance to spread it out to recognize other women in your life.

    I wanted to take all these words of wisdom and spread them over my walls like wallpaper. Every post keeps me coming back for more, wanting to remember all the lessons between the lines you leave for us to find and cherish. Keep writing forever, OK? Please please please. Not just the blog, but the book too. Because I am in love with that book. And many others will be, too. You’re changing the world. Happy birthday 🙂

    1. I am continuing to write, and sectioning a train section this week to read your pages! I am so sorry that it did not come soon. I feel awful about it. I have been so eager to read and I have been swamped at the same time.

      Thanks for your kind words, and your continued support.

  5. I was going to comment saying “Stop making me cry!!” because your beautifully written posts bring me to tears more often than not, but then I remembered that those tears are the exact reason why I love your blog so much. The emotion that comes from your words is incredible.

    Thanks for your words. Back at ya girl!

  6. As always your posts are so beautifully strung together and sit so delicately on the page. It is such a gift. I am so blessed to know you and so lucky to call you a best friend. I can’t even count the lessons I have learned from you and am so glad to have you in my life. Your words inspire so many wherever and whenever you write them. Love you.

    Happy Birthday 🙂

    1. Words fail me when it comes time to tell you how much it means to have you as a best friend. Seriously, big, epic, fail… struggling mess. Thanks for reading always.

  7. I agree with Libby; your selflessness floors me. You have highlighted some wonderful women here, and I am bashful to be listed amongst them! Your kindness, energy, and talent are magnetic to other inspiring women, it seems. I’m flushed by your kind words, and I have to hit you with a “right back atcha’.” Don’t ever stop being an inspiration! I love you, I hope your birthday was phenomenal.

    And I’m jealous you’ve sent Kaleigh more pages!! I expect some in my inbox very soon, I need a good summer read!

    1. More pages in your inbox so so so soon. I promise, now that I basically told you the whole book synopsis over coffee ha. I mean every word and yup, still want to be you.

  8. Happy Belated Birthday, Hannah! A huge Thank You to you and your ladies for giving your guidance and inspiration. I will definitely be reading this post again and again.

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