3-0. WHOA. Um, where did my 20s go? Seems to be the popular sentiment these days amongst my 29+1 year old friends, all of us trying to piece together the movie reel of our lives over this past decade. For me, the last 10 years were filled with major life changes (got married to my dreamboat of a husband), a whole lot of movin’ and shakin’ (bought our first house!) and did I mention I quit my full-time job to start a photography business? Well, I did. Crazy, I know.

22-year-old Rachel (fresh out of college and ready to change the world one student at a time) would have gotten a real good laugh at the preview of her career to come. But alas, here I am, feeling somewhere in between complete disbelief that this is actually where I landed and that this is also exactly where I am supposed to be.

So on my 30th, I want to kick off this new decade with the respect it deserves by taking the time to say thank you. Listed below are the 30 parts of my life that I am most grateful for. No one’s life is perfect, and mine is no exception, but it’s been a pretty awesome ride so far.

1. A loving and encouraging partner My husband’s support has played an instrumental role in getting me to where I am today.

2. Our generous and dependable parents who without fail are always there when we need them.

3. Our grandparents My values today are directly related to what I have learned from them.

4. My siblings The group I feel the most protective over, and also the ones I always laugh the hardest with.

5. My sis Yes, I just included her above but we are basically twins. There is no one who gets me more than her, especially when it comes important decisions like what we should split at a restaurant.

6.My big, fat Greek Italian family They are loud, they are crazy, and they make a mean antipasto. Some of my favorite memories growing up are filled with these people, and lots of homemade wine.

7. My family abroad The reunions are scarce and never long enough but my cousins have taught me just how valuable time spent together is when there are 10k miles between us.

8. My friends I’ve learned that developing friendships are easy but maintaining them as life rushes by can be more challenging. I’ve been blessed with ones who have been by my side for the celebrations, failures, and everything else in between.

9. My physical health I am 99% positive I peaked during my college lax days. Since then, I’ve had a relatively healthy body free of major injuries and illnesses, unlike others who have and continue to face serious physical challenges.

10. My therapist Sessions with her have been anything but easy, but this space has allowed me to grow mentally and continue to tackle my struggle living with anxiety.

11-15. The Five Senses

  • Sight Part of why I love to travel so much is to take in new landscapes and observe how different cultures live.
  • Smell There is nothing like the aroma of my grandma’s sauce or a burning candle from Anthropologie (Voluspa, Capri Blue, literally all of them).
  • Taste The spicier, the better!
  • Hearing If you’ve been with me on a dance floor, you know how I feel when the beat drops.
  • Touch I love a good hug and the feel of a worn in Lou & Grey sweater.

16. Tears I’m a crier. Sad, happy, doesn’t matter. Tuesday night viewings of “This is Us”  have basically become my weekly form of catharsis.

17. Music Lyrics and melodies have always provided a means to escape, motivate, and connect with myself. “Friends” by City and Colour has been the soundtrack to my personal journey this past year.

18. A clean and comfy bed Full of all the throw pillows my husband doesn’t seem to understand we should have.

19. A really, I mean really, hot shower.

20. Our home Life in the ‘burbs has definitely been an adjustment, #homeownership ain’t cheap, and things are still a mess. But it’s a warm and inviting mess!

21. My hometown It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized how many things I took for granted. Running by the water, concerts at Jones Beach, and legitimate bagels to name a few.  

22. City of Brotherly Love I moved to Philly right after graduation to join Teach For America and this city embraced me with arms wide open. Except when it came to the New York sports fan thing…

23. Access to quality education My experience teaching in inner-city Philadelphia taught me real quick how good I’ve had it and how severe educational inequality is in our country.

24. My former teachers Especially the ones who always challenged me academically and never suppressed my sense of curiosity.

25. Books My Disney spirit princess has always been Belle, who inspired me to be the only kid who willingly volunteered to be my elementary school’s library helper. Still today I can get completely lost in a story for hours on end.

26. Sports Practices and games may have consumed the first ⅔ of my life but no doubt these experiences shaped me into a better person and allowed me the opportunity to travel to some very cool places at a young age.

27. Fightin’ Irish Family I don’t think you can get through winters in South Bend without a genuine, deep love for your school (and the help of your equally cold teammates and friends).

28. Sunshine ^^refer to #27

29. My faith I was raised in a spiritual household and though I am not Catholic, I greatly appreciated attending a university like ND where praying was encouraged just as much singing our school’s fight song.

30. Photography I am so, so happy I decided to invest in buying my first camera two years ago. Without knowing it at the time, it also allowed me the time and space to invest in myself again.