Age 32: The Year of an Authentic Me


My vision was clear the whole way through, and it’s all coming to fruition now.

In my style junkie early twenties, I scrolled for hours for style inspo in The Sartorialist and the blogs of future Instagram models. I enjoyed creating outfit ideas through mood boards and pins. Many of them have since had their trend moments come and go, but one stuck with me.

I was in love with a specific idea that I hadn’t quite grasped in my mind’s eye (in more ways than one truly, but in that moment, it was an outfit). It was a look. An oversized blazer suited with one tasteful yet a bit flashy button. Slight shoulder pads, enough for a silhouette but not so much where the 80s threw up on me. It was to be worn as a daring dress or a smart spring jacket. In peach. NOT coral. There was nothing, and I mean NOTHING, I was more sure about finding.

I’ve been passively searching for this illusive blazer since I was 22, and I swear this story is going somewhere—just call me Sophia because I’m the Golden Girl to paint this picture for you; so you’ll just have to bear with me—it’s going to get good.

I’ll be 32 this year. That may be a whatever statement for anyone reading this, but for me writing it, it’s THE year. It’s my unofficial defining YEAR. It’s the year I’m at my best at whatever I’m doing because it’s my most authentic time. When I was an impressionable Sex and The City girl, I felt like my thirties were supposed to be the moment when I became the “me” I felt inside. I had tried on enough hats and the one I found at 32 was going to fit perfectly. I know what you’re thinking though, and no, it never felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wasn’t the girl telling everyone I was a Carrie or anything. I just knew there was something no adult was telling me was that being set in your ways would be the love letter to adulthood. That’s the secret of late bloomers: it’s often assumed we are arriving late to the things the rest of us expect to have down. In reality, we’re patiently waiting for our time to come. When it does, it’s clearer than we ever imagined.

I’ve been waiting for this time of my life since I was a child. It’s not all great—kids call you old way too quickly. And your knees start to crack. But I get to be unapologetically myself more than I’ve ever been. So, in a way, this is an ode to the late bloomer.

I loved my childhood, and I endured adolescence. College years were cute and my twenties were…shall we say – a learning experience. None of them I’d like to revisit. They had their time.

Something about my thirties is more desirable. I think I’ve been ready to be an adult for some time. Through all the years, I had times when I didn’t understand my expectations, fears, or limitations. However, something told me, one day, if I was patient enough, I’d get there.

Some of my more frustrating moments were met with moments of calm. I dreamt about being someplace else-not geographically but mindfully. Knowing things would make more sense when I got the whole picture. I guess it was my way of meditating the worry away. That is NOT to say that I figured anything out early; I always knew there was more to know in other ways. I was naive enough to not know any of the answers. But I was wise enough to understand that they needed to happen to me first. Time was a factor. Life was a factor. Pain. Trust.

Ever get to a point in your life when a childhood question was answered through an action in adulthood? My thirties feel like that. I don’t have it all together per se, but I can at least see why all those ridiculous rules mattered.

I’m excited about this year, probably because I’ve been over a lot of the “growing” I was succumbed to before now. Or maybe because I am welcoming it with open arms. It was hard to get hypotheticals before now. I don’t know about anyone else, but homework didn’t make sense until budgeting did. And now planning anything is my favorite chore.

I’m at a place where I know I’m not done growing or learning. I’m also at a place where those limitations aren’t holding me back from what I know now. I have a lot less fear than I ever did in my twenties. I’m honest, I’m kind, and faithful and loving – TO MYSELF. I used to kill myself to fit other people’s expectations but now, I hold more weight of my personal feelings of myself than anyone standing in front of me. When I wake up in the morning, I matter more. A younger me somehow knew I’d find the love waiting for me here.

So, in honor of 22-year-old me – the universe delivered.

10 years after my dream was born from a simple vision, I saw it at a random thrift shop day. I had stopped actively looking for years probably, but it never once left my mind. I lightly pushed racks around at my favorite, most frequented store to find that she was there: the oversized blazer, with a cute button. Peach, not coral. Waiting for me in a size L. All this time, I needed it to happen right now, in the heart of my prime. In the time it took me to create newer, more exciting looks, I found the one I knew I’d fit into comfortably in my moment. It should’ve felt like it took forever, but it was just at the right time.

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Vanessa McDuffie is a writer, educator, and former girl at the party. You can find her on Instagram.