When you were little, did you pick “that age”? The age that you would be married, i.e. wed the love of your life, i.e. start a family, i.e. officially become an adult. Can you still hear yourself saying, “I think I’ll get married when I’m x age,” as if marriage were a milestone that you could predict? Like many of my peers, I did. And my answer was the magical number 27. It seemed young enough but old enough, representing the perfect equilibrium. One year over or under might tip the scale, sending me either into premature commitment or aging ovaries. That and I just like the number 7.

And here I am, turning 27 today. I rent a bedroom from a sorority sister still. I have a 9-5 job. I’m just now researching phone plans to get off of my parent’s. I’ve been single for the past 6 years. And I still feel like a big kid. It’s not exactly what the younger Annie had in mind.

It’s actually better. And here are a few reasons why.

6 Lessons from 26

1. Do what makes you happy – and stop apologizing for it.

Sometimes this means writing semi-inappropriate blog posts or wearing what you want or cosmetic surgery or eating an ice cream cone or body shots or taking selfies or switching jobs or spontaneously moving to another country or simply saying, “Um, no thanks.” 26 taught me to take a step back when I started feeling bad about my own decisions. If you’re not harming anyone else, then you’re only hurting yourself by not doing what makes you happy.

2. “Failure” is your friend.

Towards the end of last year I was discouraged. Being little Miss Anxious, sales has never been my thing, but I decided to suck it up, skip the Xanax and start cold calling every retailer around to introduce Story of My Life Cards. After months of phone calls, emails, retail packets and awkward drive-by’s, I had barely received any responses. It was upsetting.

Then I read The Lean Startup. (I know, I’m so behind) I realized that I needed to know what I considered a success or failure in order to know whether I should persevere or pivot. Taking the book’s advice, I set up a realistic test for myself to determine which direction I should go.

Well, I failed the test. But this time failure didn’t feel scary and disheartening. It felt kind of exciting! It was a chance to pivot and try something new. So now I’ve pivoted from a greeting card website to a full blog, and it feels right. I’ve realized it’s important to take the same approach in work, relationships and life. We’re all going to experience “failures” before “success” so fail fast because life is short.

3. Learn new things. Your brain will thank you.

Reading about Juicy Couture’s store closings recently reminded me of my college days. Coming to class in a terry cloth pool cover-up, I was more concerned about looking for cute guys than learning. Now, I’m not sure if it’s a sign of maturity – or just wanting what I can’t have post-college – but 26 was spent learning as much as I can. Piano, Italian, art, Photoshop, photography, handstand walking, app development… goin’ HAM. It’s never too late to learn something new. And there’s always something new.

4. Invest in a hot swimsuit.

Yeah, one that makes you feel good; a fashion statement that flatters your figure. My dad recently advised my brother and I to enjoy our bodies now before we get older and find it impossible to build muscle. My takeaway? Lots of squats, lunges and high-waisted, booty-poppin’ bikini bottoms that would make J-Lo proud. Recommended swimsuit sources: Nasty GalCami & JaxLee + Lani and Triangl.

5. Treat people as if they were babies.

While I’m retiring ‘ole 26, the newest little love of my life has turned 6 months old, and he’s already taught me important life lessons. Shamefully, it was no secret that I wasn’t a baby person when I found out my best friend was pregnant. I felt like the Grinch. But as soon as Jack was born, I felt like my heart grew x10. Now I’m stalking him on Instagram, annoyingly texting weekly to see him and shopping the West wing of the mall.

What I’ve realized is that when I’m around him, I soak in every moment, even when changing his diaper. On my visits I leave my phone in the car and eat up every giggle as I take mental Polaroids because I know he could already look different the next week.

Shouldn’t we be that way with everyone? It’s easy to forget to be present and enjoy each encounter when we can’t see significant physical changes in people. However, everyone is growing and changing all the time so we need to savor exactly who and how they are now.

6. Ditch your preconceptions to make room for wonderful possibilities.

Confession: It took me 26 years to discover the joy of avocados. Mmhmm. All those years were spent wrongfully assuming that they were mushy, weird and too much work. While I still find them stressful, (“Is it ripe enough? How do I keep the other half ripe? I better just eat the whole thing!”) I can’t imagine life without them.

So many of life’s joys are like avocados. Had I focused too much energy on that made-up notion of the number 27, I may have been pretty bummed about this birthday and missed out on all the reasons why I already love this age. I love it for the lessons I’ve learned leading up to it, the amazing people in my life, the ridiculousness that still ensues and its endless opportunities. For me, it’s a magical number not because I’m marrying someone I love but because I’ve become someone I love – one bikini bottom, blog post and birthday at a time.

Now excuse me while I go binge on sweets and wine and probably cry for no reason.