My name is Leah and will be turning 30 two days after this comes out. I was born in Florida and moved to Prescott, AZ when I was 4, which is where I remained until I finished high school. My mother was born in Morocco Africa (her father was in the Navy) and my father was born in Puerto Rico; he spoke Spanish to me whenever he could. Looking back, I have always been fascinated with other languages and attribute it to early exposure to a second language.
Prescott is home. I grew up in a loving environment, with my parents and my two sisters. I practiced karate with my sisters and competed from a very young age (my dad knew it was important for a young woman to be able to defend herself) I participated in track, voice lessons, guitar, dance, basketball, gymnastics, and soccer. My parents supported me in my interests and encouraged me to do a good job at whatever I chose to explore.
Growing up, I was never the child that had an epiphany…that ‘AHA’ moment. This was always very frustrating to me. Everyone I seemed to cross paths with had dreams of being a nurse, a veterinarian, or a fashion designer. All I knew was that doing the same thing for the rest of my life and “growing up” terrified me.
I did okay in school… enough to get by, but I seemed to have to work harder than others to get the grades. I didn’t love school but knew I needed to do well and graduate so I could make a future for myself. My main focus in high school was having fun and enjoying my life and friends.
When I turned 15, my parents encouraged me to get a job and learn about finances through a bank account and manage my money. This would show me how to save, put gas in my own car and be a responsible teen. They always felt it was important to have a strong work ethic, be responsible and manage money wisely. They were good examples to us growing up.
So, I got a job I could walk to if necessary, one in which I could work weekends, bussing tables at a local breakfast place. I believe there were only two of us that didn’t speak Spanish; oh how I wondered what they were all saying. Unfortunately, by this time, I had lost all the Spanish I learned when I was younger.
Throughout high school, I always maintained a job. Some were short lived, but I always had one on the weekend or after school and I really enjoyed working.
As the days went by, my dear friend Tara and I realized how eager we were to graduate and start our lives sooner ratherthan later. We decided we would meet with our counselor to see how to accomplish this goal. To our surprise, we were told it wouldn’t be possible to graduate a year early. In fact, the counselor was so dismissive, we decided to do our own research, confirming itwas possible, but it wouldn’t be easy. So, we made it our mission to prove her wrong. We were determined to graduate and get on with our lives sooner than later.
So, on I pushed to rush out of high school, taking extra classes in the mornings, after school and online while holding jobs to pay for my gas because I really did enjoy having fun and I did have A LOT of fun.
Towards the end of high school, I worked as a receptionist in a local salon. With this work experience I learned how to be an excellent employee with a strong respect for my employers. Still though, I had no idea where my life would lead me or even where to start figuring it out. I could have gone to college. I did take some business classes at the local community college but the direction about where to go just wasn’t there. I did enjoy working hard and getting a paycheck that was mine own, but what to do for the rest of my life?
After graduating early, I moved down to Phoenix, “the city” to us Prescott folks. Because I really enjoyed my time in the salon and seemed drawn to that, I concluded that I should pursue a career as a salon owner. I applied to a salon in Scottsdale hoping for some experience and guidance. This was the best thing that could have ever happened to me and it’s where I met some of my soulmates, Jordan, Alex, and Sara. They vibed perfectly with my already best friend/wife Devon. We had sleepovers, ate terribly, and partied each and every weekend, making great memories.
I enjoyed my work here, but I thought I needed a plan, maybe a certificate program of sorts. I decided to become a wedding and event planner. Why not? I loved to put together events, parties, and get-togethers. I loved having fun and this sounded like an awesome job. Well, after getting a job at a high-end wedding dress story in Scottsdale, hauling around 50+ pound wedding dresses day in and day out, I realized I needed to rethink it, as this might not be the career I was looking for.
I was still hanging out in Old Town with my amazing friends, working hard as always,while in a relationship that was quite awful. We all had a horrible relationship or two… butare your 20s really your 20s if you don’t have a bad relationship story?
After I went through that toxic relationship (which I’m extremely grateful for), I was able to find health and fitness. This really changed my entire outlook on life. I ended this relationship quite abruptly and started saving for ME, for something I needed. I also focused on my health and well-being. I finally found something I was passionate about, not just something I kind of liked doing. I started school to become a certified fitness trainer. What was important to me from 18 – 23 was no longer. I was focused on my mental and physical health. I changed my diet drastically, started working out, hiking and really focused on self-care.
I also took a month off of work and school to travel to Spain with my younger sister, to learn Spanish through immersion. We went to Barcelona and “studied” Spanish for a month. We really didn’t learn a ton of Spanish, but we had a blast, and this is the point I realized that no matter how long it took me I would make sure I was one day fluent in Spanish.
During this time, while focusing on me, I met Jeremy. Let me tell you, I didn’t make it easy for him. I was jaded and honestly having a great time with my friends living the single life and being good to me. But, as life would have it, you cannot help when you fall in love with someone. Jeremy truly showed me the love I deserved. I will forever be grateful for his persistence and perseverance breaking down my many walls I had built up during some of those terrible relationships. We discussed going out prior to leaving for Spain and made it official the day after my sister and I arrived in Barcelona.
When I got back from Spain, I felt fortunate to get a job at a company called My Fit Foods. With my personal training experience and focus on health and wellness, it seemed like a great fit. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to become the nutrition coach and manager. I felt like I had finally made it. I was a nutrition coach and manager of a company that provided healthy choices to individuals trying to change their lives as I did. This is what I would do. I would help others and love what I was doing. This was my ‘AHA’ moment, until one day, I received a phone call that turned my world upside down. The entire company, all franchises across the United States, were going to close overnight due to going bankrupt. I was terrified. I had no formal degree, just a ton of work experience. I had just gotten engaged to my now-husband Jeremy, we were planning our wedding and I had no job.
I ended up getting a job within the week that I thought would be similar to what I was doing at My Fit Foods. The job was presented to me as a managerial type position, but truth be told, it was nothing like that. I was miserable. It was the longest few months of my life (one day I rolled protein balls for 8 hours…not a great time).
I searched and searched for something that would be a fit for me, something I could be as passionate about as I was before. I found it! My current job is truly amazing. I work for an international fitness education company called OPEX as a Customer Coordinator and as a Human Resource Representative. It was the most rigorous interview process I have ever experienced and thought I would not get the job, but I did and I’ve never enjoyed work so much. The people I work with and what the company stands for makes me want to go to work every day.
So even though it was a long haul to get here, it was worth the struggle. I can look back and appreciate everything from the obstacles to the horrible relationship and everything in between. Now I’m married, own a house, we’re pregnant with a baby girl and I’m turning 30! When I used to think of turning 30, I couldn’t even imagine it. REAL adulthood. It did not seem appealing to me at all. But something happened when I hit my late 20s. My values changed, I cared more about my health, I know who my friends for life are, I now enjoy the taste of wine, I became more confident, and I can’t pull off getting less than 8 hours of sleep anymore.
I’m thankful for turning 30. 30 is a privilege. Really, it is. (I’ll be the first to admit it’s a miracle I’m still here after all the things I thought were a good idea in my 20’s) The idea of being an adult is not so daunting after all. I have no problem leaving behind my 20’s. I’m celebrating being 30 and celebrating confidently!
Oh, and by the way, I am nearly fluent in Spanish, still like to get together with my friends, and plan events. None of my years experiencing life were wasted, they actually led me to where I am now, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
So, yeah, I’m ready for 30.