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Are you where you thought you’d be? I’m definitely not. On February 17, I turn 25. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d be divorced, living in my hometown, and commuting to a job an hour away. I’ve always wanted to move out of Missouri, and that was the plan. But, as we’ve all learned in our adult lives, nothing goes as planned.

For the past four years, February was one of my favorite months. Valentine’s Day on the 14th, my birthday a few days later...double gifts! It was always just a really nice, short month. I’m trying to make a comparison of my feelings now to last year’s, but gun to my head, I seriously cannot remember it.

Last year I was in a complete and total blur of confusion, shock, and heartbreak. I had just started a job the month before (the day after my husband randomly told me he was leaving me after six weeks of marriage) selling diamonds. The only thing that I remember was telling my boss that I HAD to work on Valentine’s Day. There was no way I was going to sit at home and stare at my dogs all night (even though that’s what I wish I was able to do this year). Apparently I thought selling diamonds to happy people and promoting lifelong happiness sounded better to me...

A few days later I know I wasn’t even excited about my birthday. I honestly didn’t even acknowledge it, which makes sense because I really thought I was about to turn 24 this year. I totally blacked out for a few months last year.

I wouldn’t say I’m super excited about my birthday this year, either. I’ve never really been a birthday party type of person. We usually just have a family dinner at my house and sometimes I’ll go out with a couple friends. This year I’ve only had the urge to go out to eat in St. Louis with my family and a couple of close friends.

This past year has been eye-opening in many ways, but I have to say that I’ve grown so much to appreciate my support system. So many times in life we take the people closest to us for granted. I’m a little annoyed with myself that it took a trauma and divorce for me to really focus on that, but let’s not dwell!

This Valentine’s Day, if you don’t have a “special someone” to spend it with, give yourself a reality check. Your “special someone” can be anyone you want it to be. Grab a friend, a cousin, a parent, your dog. Spend the evening with them, and don’t focus on all the overrated lovey-dovey stuff. Better yet, make your “special someone” YOU. Treat yourself to a day of pampering, junk food, movies, mani/pedis, being outdoors, or whatever you enjoy doing.

As for birthdays, celebrate yourself. Celebrate what you’ve overcome and what’s yet to come. It’s basically a clean slate to change, grow, learn, and explore. These first (and second) big celebrations without your ex can be the hardest, or they can be the hardest and the best. It’s okay to be upset and to dread the day(s), but tell yourself you have ONE of these celebrations to sulk, and decide that next year will be different.

Over time (whether you've been divorced or not), you learn to create a safe space for yourself from your own mind. You can go back and forth and think about the way things used to be, the way you thought they’d be, or the way you wish they’d be now, but I highly recommend thinking about ways that they WILL be if you allow them to be. Create your own memories and traditions. You don’t need anyone else by your side to do that. Celebrate starting your own journey...and if someone’s really lucky, someday, you might just let them join in on the party.