Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.

Thirty-five is the rhythm of everyday life.

It’s seeing someone and thinking, I knew you well once.

It’s knowing where you are happiest—but how to cope when you can’t be there.

Thirty-five is realizing you’ve lived twice as long as the counselors caring for your kids at camp.

It’s getting dizzy on the roller coasters you once loved as a child.

Or collapsing cross-legged on the floor—but “needing a minute” to get back up.

Thirty-five is confidence in The Way You Do Things.

And at once an awareness of how little you know, how much is uncertain.

It’s being comforted, not frightened, by that.

Thirty-five is out of the honeymoon phase of, oh, just about everything: parenting, profession, marriage, friendships.

It’s realizing life goes on after losing its luster and digging in to the gritty work of it all.

Thirty-five is watching friends become wildly successful in ways that make you tearfully proud, but still remembering that time you shared a bed or bath in your younger days—over twenty-five years ago.

Thirty-five is appreciating time alone more than ever before. It’s knowing what to do with it.

It’s feeling less patient with other people’s peccadillos. But mastering not letting that show.

Thirty-five knows just how to comfort her children during a thunderstorm.

It’s unsubscribing from new moms email groups, viewing those early months of motherhood as a quaint memory.

It’s feeling secure in and sated by your marriage.

Thirty-five relishes setting out, but knows returning home is far sweeter.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that you’ll never wear red.

Or listen to your old mix tapes again.

Thirty-five is feeling that life is, for the most part, sorted and known, while still harboring hope for possibility on your path.

It’s songs on the radio that remind you of someone, soap scents that transport you to a specific place. Thirty-five is wistful. Thirty-five is remembering when…

It’s part of you wanting to go back, and all of you knowing you can’t.

Thirty-five is still battling breakouts, while simultaneously mapping the lines that etch and extend their way between your eyes, around your mouth.

It’s wearing undergarments that suck all of you in.

It’s feeling comfortable letting it all hang out.

It’s finding bars too loud. And Friends reruns far more alluring.

It’s the same gray hoodie and black sweats thrown on at the end of the day.

It’s a long pour of red wine after sundown.

Thirty-five is facing the frailty of family and friends, coming to terms with the truism that every day on this earth is a gift.

It’s accepting certain vices—nail biting, that coffee addiction, your stubborn streak—as immutable.

It’s realizing that, even as you become more set in your ways, dig deeper grooves in the ground beneath your feet, you can connect with anyone over something.

Thirty-five is looking in the mirror to see beautiful-tired staring back at you.

It’s salt and pepper strands slowly overtaking, but not to the point where you do anything just yet.

It’s making sure that nighttime moisturizer says something about anti-aging on the label.

Thirty-five is wondering if jeans with a slit in the knee is trying too hard.

Thirty-five is neither here nor there.

It’s kissing your kids goodnight and then turning in yourself, giddy to have a good book in hand.

It’s waking at 4am to the contemplative quiet of the early morning hours before your world wakes.

At thirty-five, freedom is flooring it in your minivan.

It’s imagining one more…positive pregnancy test, round belly, warm soft baby against your slackening skin …but worrying whether your body, and everything else, will break under the weight of it all.

Thirty-five is cobbling friends together in odd places and in ways perhaps you’d once scoffed at—through office companionship, school drop offs, social media.

It’s knowing that however these friendships formed, they’re the ones you can’t live without.

Thirty-five is feeling at peace with your life and lot, but still sensing the subtle stirrings of discontent. A nagging awareness, a whispered question: can this be all there is?

Thirty-five is not the end of the story.


My 35th birthday was a little over a week ago, and I wrote this post to capture a moment in time. I was inspired by Galit Breen’s gorgeous This Is 39.

“That’s all that exists in the end, what has been written down.” – James Salter

37 thoughts on “This Is 35

  1. I love this. This is 38 is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. Happy birthday! xox

    1. Thank you so very much, Lindsey. That’s one of my favorite posts of yours that I’ve ever read! I just went back and reread it–so poignant & thoughtful, specific yet universally true. Thank you for it & for your kind wishes here…xoxo

  2. patricia says:

    Happy birthday, Dina! This brought me right back to my own 35. (I’m 50 now.) 35 was the year that I *finally* got pregnant with kid #3; your “imagining one more” line reminded me. I love all your details. And thirty-five is definitely not the end of the story.

    1. Thanks so much, Patricia! What a lovely association with 35 you have…this made me smile. Looking forward to following each other as our stories continue to unfold…xox

  3. Kristen says:

    Happy belated birthday, Dina! So many of these rang true to me too when I turned 35–but I think I’m most sad about the mix tape silence! Hope you spent your special day with those you love best.

    1. The mix tape thought struck me in the car the other day when I was in the mood to listen to one of my old bunk mixes from summer camp & realized I don’t even have a way to play it if I wanted to! Yet still I save them…of course. Thanks so much for reading & for your sweet wishes, Kristen. xox

  4. Whitney says:

    I like this. Several of my friends expressed nervousness about turning 30 a few years ago, but I have loved it. I’m me, in ways I never was at 20 or 25 or even 27. I’ve always been a late bloomer, a slow thinker, but I’m finally reaping some of that now.

    1. So much yes to this–becoming more myself with each passing year & loving every bit of it. Thanks for reading–such a pleasure to hear from fellow writers I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with in person! xo

  5. TimnaG says:

    Dina your posts always make me stop and think about the little things (that sometimes aren’t so little). Thanks for this! Hope you’re having a great summer!

    1. Aw, what a lovely thing to say, Timna! Thank you *so* much. The summer is good & hard in all the best ways–I hope yours is going well too & I look forward to catching up on the other side!! xox

  6. Happy Birthday, friend! This is so lovely and though I’m roughly 6 months behind you, I feel so many of these things too. You captured them beautifully.

    1. Thank you, thank you darling. I look forward to celebrating you when the day comes. As always, so happy and grateful to walk this path with you…

  7. rudrip says:

    Happy Belated, Dina! Absolutely loved your truths. Hope you spent the day with the ones you love and doing the things you adore the most! xo

    1. Thank you so much, dear Rudri! xox

  8. Happy Birthday! I also love the richness of getting older; of growing more comfortable in my body even while my body grows less comfortable bending over to pick things up off the floor. This is a beautiful piece. xoxo

    1. Well said, my dear! Thank you for reading & for the kind words that mean so very much. xoxo

  9. Dana says:

    Love this Dina. Not the end of the story, indeed. I just turned 40 and in some ways I feel like it’s just the beginning, of this next phase at least. Happy birthday!

    1. YES. I almost wrote something about how 35 is, in some ways, starting over, or beginning anew. I think you know exactly what I mean…and I love that. Thanks so much, Dana…xoxo

  10. bam says:

    happy blessed birthday. your thirty-five is a place to belong. you are a beauty to behold. tired beautiful you……

    1. Oh how I adore you…sweet, beautiful you. xo

  11. acb23 says:

    Happy belated! I started to retype a few of your thoughts that I related to, and realized I was basically retyping your entire post! So yes, loved every one. Though at 41, I feel a bit of wistfulness at the thought of 35… 🙂

    1. Aww, thanks so much, Alisa! I have a hunch we will feel a bit of wistfulness at every age for all that came before. Recently came across a lovely quote by Andrew Solomon that is fitting here: “Every stage of life longs for others.” Thanks for reading & commenting! xoxo

  12. Nina Badzin says:

    Beautiful and so relatable. Happy belated birthday!! You’re so young! 🙂 (I’m 38)

    1. Thanks so much, Nina! I guess it’s all relative…I’m working at this overnight camp full of teenage counselors & twenty-something staff where I’m definitely a dinosaur ;).

  13. Galit Breen says:

    My goodness, this is stunning! Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it! And happy birthday, lovely lady, am I ever glad you were born! xoxo

    1. Thank *you* again and again for the inspiration you are–to me, to others–every day of the year. xoxo

  14. Allie says:

    Happy Birthday Dina! I always mean to write a birthday post, but chicken out. This is beautiful.

    1. A belated thank you so much! You absolutely should write that birthday post one day…it’s quite an interesting exercise to try to pinpoint what makes a certain age…thank you for reading, Allie!

  15. Dakota says:

    “Thirty-five is neither here nor there.” Loved this one, especially. I’m 31, turning 32 this year… and feeling in that place of not in my feckless-20s anymore, approaching the powerful mid-30s, but not quite there. Happy belated Birthday!!!

    1. Thank you very much, Dakota! Each year of the 30s has been better than the one before…wishing you the same. xox

  16. juliecgardner says:

    This is so lovely. And might I suggest (although it is of course a long way off) that if thirty five is this good to you, forty five will be spectacular.
    From a friend who knows.

    1. I love this. Thank you for the wisdom from a few steps ahead…;) xo

  17. cynthia says:

    Wonderful to read. I love these posts (I got the idea from Lindsey) and wish I had started earlier. Your 35 made me remember my 35–when I was so busy doing the next thing that I have no idea what I was thinking or feeling. But that’s the nice thing about reading yours–it took me back. Happy birth day and year, Dina!

    1. Thank you so much, Cynthia! It is a useful (and challenging!) exercise to slow down and try to pinpoint what it is about a certain age, who you are at that moment in time. I hope to keep it up, at least for the “significant” birthdays. I’ll have to head over to your site to read some of your “This Is…” posts! Looking forward, as I always love reading you. xo

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