Today I turn 40.
I’m totally OK with that. For sure. No, really. I am not freaking about it (or at least not as much as I was bugged out by turning 35. That was a hard one). If there is any qualms about rolling the odometer over into the next decade, it’s only because my thirties were frankly the most amazing decade of my life so far. There were so many shocks and surprises that I honestly never expected, and I am really wondering how my forties will compete.
There are five really, really important events that changed my life in my between 30 and 39, and they are a few of the things or which I am most thankful today:
- REAFFIRMED MY FAITH: I don’t talk much about religion or my faith in my blog or on social media; I am Jewish, and that’s where I leave it. I don’t talk a ton about the path it took to get to this point, as it really isn’t that important outside my soul. When I decided to follow down the road that would lead me to where I am in my faith today, it was on my twenty-ninth birthday–which was coincidentally enough Erev Yom Kippur, and by my thirty-first birthday I felt confidently a part of the tribe, like a handful of ancestors. That’s been an evolution, yes, and I continue to grow and have seasons of what religion means to me, but I know I made a major move in my last decade that helped me arrive closer to who I am meant to be.
- TRAVELED TO ISRAEL: This is related to my first and third point, but it deserves its own bullet as well. During the summer of 2013, I boarded my first adult flight, flew 14 hours combined and visited Israel for the first time. I repeated this in 2014 and went my second time. I love this country as if it were my own; the vibe, the arts, the history, the food, and the faith…I lovingly refer to Israel as my soul home because I feel like the most authentic form of myself when I am there (I feel good here at home in Minnesota, too, but there I am just a smidge extra). Jumping from the Midwest to Mideast will always be a memory I cherish more than most. I also had FOUR additional trips fall apart (thanks to violence, a dental emergency, a global pandemic), but I know my forties will bring me back to the land of milk and honey.
- I DEFENDED MY THESIS: I feel I talk about this most than I probably should (but I’ve watched Emily in Paris and she gabs about her MA in Communications a ton, too, so it must be a part of our training). In 2019, I had the greatest honor of traveling to Washington DC and defending my research about the use of Twitter during the conflict that preceded the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict (for which I was “on the ground” for a portion). This defense was easily one of the best things I have ever done. I was in a room with three PhDs, answering questions and talking about what I discovered. I loved every single stressful minute of it. That was the greatest dopamine hit of my life, and I am pretty sure the reason I waver back and forth about getting a PhD is so I can get an ever greater hit with a dissertation. It was amazing, and I still get all jacked up thinking about that day.
- OPERATED THREE DIFFERENT BUSINESSES: My thirties saw success for All Things Reconsidered, my first business venture where I turned junk into other junk and sat many a Saturday at craft shows. I loved it. That business wound down as I worked through grad school, but the training I received from Johns Hopkins allowed me to rev my second business adventure: Kayla Lee Photography. I never, ever, E V E R expected to be a wedding photographer, but I am also not surprised: I really thought war correspondency was in my future, as I love the tension of a moment. Weddings have that same level of dramatic tension, so I love my days on location with my couples (who absolutely rock, by the way). I have also started KLP Design Co., which is a product shop based on my designs, and that’s been fun as well (and I can’t wait to see where that goes in this next decade).
- BECAME SELF-EMPLOYED: I know we all dream about working for ourselves, but I didn’t think that could ever be a reality, but yet here I am, on a Friday, not in school and writing blogs. It happened at 38, and it has been beyond great. There are many days I can’t believe this is my reality, and am I so thankful
My thirties gifted me so many wonderful memories and experience, I am very sad to see that decade become the past. Goodbye, and thank you. To my present and the my forties, you have big shoes to fill.
I can’t wait to see what footprints we leave.
Kayla Lee is a Minnesota-based wedding and elopement photographer (and handcrafter and designer on the side). She serves elegant, authentic, sentimental couples who not only choose their own adventures, but also live them to the fullest! See more about the KLP Wedding Experience!