I turned 23 this week. Time is quickly slipping by. I wish I could capture moments and snippets from this life and hold onto them forever. I guess this is what journaling and taking pictures is for, but I wish there was a more tangible way to hold onto memories.

For my birthday, I wanted to go somewhere tropical. I wanted simply to lay on a beach and soak up the sunshine. This is all I ever really want, but I needed to make it happen for my birthday. I didn’t know who would join me or where I would end up, but I knew I would be laying on a beach for my birthday.

About two months before, my friend Mariah from Utah called me. We had lived together four summers ago in Maine when we did an internship together. From the first day we met, I knew she would be a great friend of mine. We hadn’t seen each other since August 2017.

“I have exciting news!” she told me as I watched her face light up on my phone while we Facetimed.

“What is it?” I eagerly asked.

“I’m moving to Key West!” she was grinning ear to ear.

“You’re kidding?!?!” I was shocked and jealous… totally, unbelievably jealous.

“I’m coming to visit!” I belted out before I even had a chance to consider any of the logistics. And a couple of months later, I found myself hopping on a plane, heading down south to see my precious friend for the first time in nearly four years. Oh, and to celebrate my birthday.

The island captivated me instantly. The sunshine warmed – and eventually fried – my skin. The taste of salt hung in the air, like every good beach town. We rode the moped around the island, zooming past sight-seers and tourists. It was pure, total bliss.

While Mariah worked a couple of days during my trip, she trusted me with her moped. I was nervous to drive it at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. The freedom I felt as the wind zipped through my hair was alluring.

I took myself on a breakfast date.

I ran into old friends there celebrating a bachelor party. I was basically part of the bachelor party for a day – it was awesome.

I ate seafood.

I rode a boat to an even smaller, more secluded island.

I tanned (fried) my skin in the warm sunshine.

I caught up with a friend that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d ever seen again. We laughed so hard we cried multiple times. I think they call that medicine for the soul.

It was a magical, beautiful trip.

For a moment, on my birthday, I got anxious about being a year older. I didn’t imagine this is how my life would look at 23. How could I have? How can any of us predict anything at all?

I don’t know what the next year of this journey has in store for me, but I know it will include a lot of love, laughter, light, and chasing the warmth of the sunshine.