Today, on my 23rd birthday, I came to the realization that I do not give myself enough credit. That I downplay my successes. That I minimize my accomplishments. That I keep quiet about the things I’ve overcome. And you know what? I’ve really got to stop doing that. Because at 23, I’ve overcome more challenges (and gracefully so for the most part) than a majority of people face in their entire lives. I’ve struggled through abuse, loss, sexual assault, depression, and physical illness; yet I have risen from those ashes full of wisdom and beauty and true appreciation for the many blessings I have. Am I scarred? Yes. Do I still face challenges relating to my past? Absolutely. However, I have the pride and gratefulness that comes with being able to say. “I made it.” Those nights I cried myself to sleep, those times I wondered if life was worth living, those moments I felt hopeless and in despair, those times I felt alone and isolated, those times I doubted my worth and my value, those times I was physically too ill to function…all of those struggles have truly bettered me. I’ve found myself. I’ve established a stronger relationship with God. I’ve been able to figure out who my true friends are. I’ve become more appreciative. I’ve been able to be a good parent. I’ve found my purpose. And even when my past rears its ugly head from time to time, I still find myself incredibly joyful. I’m so happy to be 23. I’m so grateful to see 23. I only hope that I am able to make the most out of this new year God has graced me with.