I spent my last childhood days sprawled out in bed (with the occasional run to the kitchen for a snack), recovering from the previous day's three-and-a-half-hour workout. With all of my close friends either roaming the streets of Europe, visiting Canada's moose, attending a convention in Oklahoma, at church praising God, or just busy, I decided against planning a party for my transition into adulthood. My simple plan was to journal during the last 30 minutes before the clock struck 12 a.m. on July 1st, teach kiddos how to swim and watch "Incredibles 2" with my parents later in the day. (Fruit tarts, by the way, serve as an excellent birthday cake!)

I've always wanted to be surprised! After all, I was a surprise… just kidding, I wasn't (right mom and dad?). One of my best friends, Jill Belgen, planned a surprise party for me. We had originally planned to have a girls night out just the two of us exploring Houston, eating tasty food and taking cute pictures, but she had other plans in mind. She sneakily contacted my close friends and have them meet up where we planned to take pictures. Unfortunately, they were all out of town or already had planned the day of the 7th, so we ended up spending the day together as planned anyway. It genuinely was one of the best days I've had.

For the past two years, my birthday's have started to make me feel a little gloomy. It served as a reminder that I was getting old, and so were my parents. Although growth is very much amazing and necessary, I didn't want that growth to become growing distance between me and the people I treasure so deeply (also I don't look forward to back pain just yet).

As much as I enjoy overthinking every little thing at every second of the day, I'm still beyond grateful on the special day I emerged from my mother's beautiful body. What matters most to me is the people I have in my life, not just the gifts and notes from my friends and family so thoughtfully picked out for me.

My wish each year since my 12th birthday had been the same: the happiness and success my friends and family will experience through the year. I acknowledge my fear of losing the people I love, but I know that regardless of any number, whether it's age or physical distance, that it is in fact, just a number. After all, I know that they're inches deep in my heart.

From the successful surprise birthday party to messages from friends even halfway around the world, from heartfelt notes and physical copies of our best moments to exercise and adult accessories, the gift I'm most grateful for on my 18th birthday? The life that I've been given by my amazing family and being surrounded by the most amazing people.

I honestly couldn't ask for more.