Go ahead. Call me out on my almost three-month hiatus from writing for the mighty (but small) audience of “AmI40Yet.” Blame it on my month-long battle with allergies gone awry (think spinning rooms and dramatic, “OMG, could this be some serious neurological disorder?”) Blame it on “mom duties,” particularly the seemingly endless hours of homework on the daily, including my desperate attempts at explaining the sometimes unexplainable to a blank stare and tired eyes of a nine-year-old. Or blame it on the holiday craziness which involved turning into my mother’s daily Uber driver. The frequent treks to the mall and “just dropping off presents” to her friends always turned into three-hour-long dinners and sympathetic head tilts combined with weak (but well-intentioned) matchmaking attempts. “My friend has a son. He’s very handsome and has a good job. How old are you again? What? Oh.” or “Remember Brian? Oh, wait, never mind. I forgot, he’s married already.” (awkward laugh)

So, yes, we can blame it on D) all of the above, but the truth is, I got lazy and chose Disney Channel marathons with my daughter, mani-pedis with girlfriends, and awkward dinners with the “let’s-pretend-we really-want-to-get-to-know-each-other-in-hopes-of-having-sex-tonight” talks, courtesy of emotionally detached men — all this instead of channeling my inner wannabe Carrie Bradshaw. Perhaps there was a little bit of ADD, too. Oh, hey, have you seen the pictures of those dogs shaved into cubes? Yup, Japanese craze of 2015. Ha! Very minecraftesque, no?

Anywho, I’m back in the writing game, and it being still the semi-beginning of 2016, I think the first important action item is to reflect on the memorable moments of the last year. I’m not talking about another obligatory Kanye rant, that pointless white & gold vs. blue & black dress debate, the Urban Dictionary addition of “Netflix and chill,” the thousands of productivity-sucking memes thanks to Drake’s infamous “Hotline Bling” video, and of course, we can’t forget Caitlyn Jenner’s really-not-that-shocking debut. Nah, none of that ish. I’m talking about our own personal sagas, scandals and surprises of 2015. I certainly had plenty, and here I am to share the top 10 moments in the life of a not-quite-40-something…

1. I launched AmI40yet. My first official solo creative endeavor and passion project. I’ve learned more about myself in this last year than in the last decade. And I’ve loved growing as a writer and as a storyteller. This project excites me every day, and it stresses me like no other — but I love it.

2. I accepted the role of Associate Program Director for the non-profit charity, Mommy and Me Cancer Foundation (MAMCF). I have grown to love this organization since its foundation in 2013 by some very talented and generous friends. And I’ve committed to helping mothers battling cancer. It grounds me, reminds me of what’s important. These mothers teach me about bravery, life, and love. I am so honored to be a part of this incredible team dedicated to such a special community.

3. I became a contributor/blogger for the online lifestyle and entertainment magazine, OC Foodie Fest. AmI40yet opened this door — another platform to write, create, and connect with a greater community. Its founder saw a spark in me, he says. Getting paid to try new food, meet new people, and write about new experiences — talk about a dream job!

4. I faced ex drama issues head on. One of my biggest life challenges ever took place this past year with my daughter’s father. When you say “the ex” it sounds like a dirty word, but in truth, “the ex” was someone I once deeply loved and admired, and now, “the ex” describes my dealings with this former lover, former friend, now current stranger. Regardless of our strained relationship, I am proud to realize that I’ve faced our issues and dealt with them. I didn’t allow myself to succumb to my past method of operation: getting overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty, or wanting to just avoid it if I couldn’t make it go away. Despite my financial pockets drained, forced changes I’ve had to make for the sake of my daughter, and an emotional rollercoaster ride, I have not only survived but come out stronger and even more committed to my family than ever.

5. No words — just a name: Jessica. Circumstances helped strengthen the bond I already had with my longtime friend, Jes, whom I’ve known since college and is a part of my sister squad. We’ve already been through a lot together — graduations, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, engagements, weddings, the birth of children, and so much more. But this past year, she taught me valuable lessons on building unwavering confidence and strength. She has been my inspiration, my biggest cheerleader, my ride-or-die, and my trusty editor.

6. I survived Tinder without any horror stories to tell. Okay, so I only threw up a little after receiving my first ever (and unsolicited, by the way) d*ck pic from a Tinder match. But other than that, I met some pretty cool guys both on and off Tinder — intelligent, creative, kind…and although none of them were “the one,” I truly believe there is value in every (online or offline) connection we make.

7. The boyfriend who hurt me most taught me the biggest lessons I had to learn. The short story of it is, his breaking my heart forced me to face and overcome my own deep-rooted insecurities and fears. I’m a stronger and happier person today, largely because of him.

8. The year ended with a bang. Literally. More on this later.

9. My baby girl turned 9. Her quick adjustment to a new school and a new home, both in the same year, is proof of her resilience. Her continually improving golf skills foreshadow the greatness she will achieve. Her smiles and laughs, despite the challenges, are reminders of the light and love that is naturally in her. I’m so proud of this girl.

10. I kicked some serious ass this year. This year was challenging, but equally rewarding. I’ve never felt so good about my life — I’m focused on the goals but enjoying the journey. Am I 40 yet? Not quite, but 38 sure was a milestone year of growth.

The experiences of 2015 have been incredible, and I’m humbled to even have enough to chronicle about in this blog. And this can be a great reminder for everyone to take inventory. What was your year in review? Take a moment to look back, reflect, and ask yourself if the things you’ve done (or tried to do), the people you’ve surrounded yourself with (even those who’ve caused the most hurt), the thoughts you’ve had (including the ones that seem insane), all of it, are they moving you closer to your goals and making you the person you want to be? Are you progressing, evolving, growing? I am happy to say and know the answer for me is a resounding YES! And now, with enthusiasm and gratitude, it’s onward and upward…2016, here we go!

Donna Estudillo

Donna Estudillo

RN and associate program director for a non-profit charity, plus mom who's working on being the hardest spiritual gangsta around, living the YOLO life and enjoying mishaps along the way. Current vibes: only positive ones -- which have led to her blog (www.AmI40yet.com). "Am I 40 Yet?" is an idea conceived after turmoil, inspired by a determination to get her sh*t together, and launched at the start of her 38th year. She writes, she learns, she shares…and hopefully, she entertains and inspires.
Donna Estudillo

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