For the last 364 days, I have been, for all intents and purposes, EXACTLY 26 years old. Tomorrow and for the following year, I will be exactly 27 of them. So let us look back at this period of being twenty-six, which would have in reality been several separate periods if not for that unifying number. But I don’t make the rules on how we gauge age (this is handled by a badass rhyming wordsmith).

Now far be it from me to toot my own proverbial horn, at least insofar as that ISN’T a vivid euphemism for self-gratification because I am a humble if not extremely vain young(ish) man, nor will I even toot my ACTUAL horn. Far be it from me to toot my own horn, but looking back, twenty-six may just have been the year that I proved that–just maybe–I am totally awesome.

To be fair, I did so so discretely that even I hardly noticed until just ten minutes ago when I decided to write this blog, but from an objective stance, the age of Twenty-Six had a very distinct arc of awesomeness to it, in which I started by overhauling my life, which had become decreasingly unawesome, proceeded to tour a series of awesome locales, and then buckled down and applied myself to accomplishing the most awesome thing I could immediately think of doing, which I did accomplish without hindrance and now at the end of Twenty-Six continue doing with the full-thrusted gusto of some kind of thinking, feeling rocket, which, if it existed, would be decidedly pretty awesome.

I’m pretty happy with how the year turned out.

But I’d be a filthy liar if I said this had all been planned, and balding guys with glasses can’t afford to also be filthy liars. Or they can, but only if they literally have the money to buy the love and affection they’d otherwise never be getting.

I came back to this country in July, sat in bewilderment for two weeks as irresponsibly enormous pancakes and busty, self-assertive blonde girls occurred around me. Then, in August, I went back home-home, to Virginia. There, I discovered that all my friends, who had already been pretty awesome, had each reached new peaks of awesome, each one deep in exploration of life, each one a true inspiration. Everybody had grabbed their respective reins while I’d been out letting luck and circumstance carry me around for the last. . . . forever.

That visit provided a much-needed push. “If they can do stuff, why can’t I do stuff?!” I said. A profound revelation, to be sure. Now, a few short months later, I’ve got kind of a lot to be proud of, and when I think about how I’m pretty much officially entering my Late Twenties, it doesn’t incite the fear I expected it to a year ago. It feels about right.

So thanks to my awesome friends for being awesome and inspirational. Here’s hoping Twenty-Seven is another year of personal growth.