At 27

My brother Ryan tells me I “think about timelines too much.” OK, Ryan. Maybe that’s true — or at least it used to be.

You see, I grew up with two very loving parents. They met in first grade or something. My parents will argue this point forever: My dad says he met, and subsequently fell in love with, my mom in first grade. My mom says they didn’t actually meet until later, in elementary school.

Aw, you guys are wicked cute.

Regardless, they started dating in high school, went to prom together and then parted ways for separate colleges a few hours apart. According to my dad, he would hitchhike on the weekends to visit my mom (that seems a little dangerous, Dad). After college, they were still all in love and one night, after the Philadelphia Eagles did something impressive (like won a game — I don’t know, I’m not a great listener sometimes), my dad called my mom and proposed.

Yes, he proposed over the phone.

And she said yes.

They were married at 23, had my brother at 25 and had their lives forever changed when, at 27, they had me, the true love of their lives.


This was the example that was set for me growing up.

Fall in love at age 7.

Get married at 23.

Be knocked up around 25 (just typing that gives me anxiety).

Do it again at 27.

Live happily ever after.

It worked for my parents, so growing up I assumed my life would somehow follow suit.

Yesterday was my 27th birthday.

I made six wishes. I think that's allowed.

So am I where I one day thought I’d be at 27?

Oh hell no.

But this place is so much better.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. I’m going to go ahead and blaze my own path — my own timeline — OK?

If I had done what my parents did, the means I would have married the boy I had a crush on in first grade, and that would be a boy named JJ. I’m not positive, but I think he went to jail or something. A few times. So that never would have worked out.

At 23, JJ and I would be settling down together. Instead, at 23 I was navigating the professional world in New York City at my first “real” job. I was dating a guy who was much older than I was. It didn’t work out. Thank goodness.

OK Brianne, you can move back to NYC now. Thanks. This photo is from my 23rd birthday celebration — my first birthday in NYC!

At 25, instead of having a baby (OMG gross, so not ready for baby puke and diapers and letting a human feed off my boobs), I was spending most of my free time in Central Park and on the West Side Highway learning to love running. I was living with a kickass roommate (who ran a half marathon PR this weekend, no big deal) and I created Ali On The Run so I could be even more obsessed with running. I dated a different guy during this time, and I’m pretty psyched that didn’t work out either. Yikes. Dodged a bullet there.

I spent my 25th birthday visiting Washington, D.C.

And now, here I am at 27.

I'm the one with the mismatched bathing suit. That should surprise no one. I rang in 27 on the beach in Kiawah Island, SC.

While I don’t have many material possessions — I don’t own a home, or even a small apartment, and I definitely don’t have a car or know what I’d do with a “down payment” on something — I do feel like I’m in a pretty solid place at 27.

Each year in my 20s has been better than the one before, and they’ve all been great. Now, I’m technically entering my late 20s, and I think I like it.


I may not own a home, but I just moved into a new apartment that I really like…with a roommate I’m kind of into, too.

New bedding! A new nightstand! My grown-up birthday presents are fun.

I have a solid job that I got all on my own. I landed my internship at Dance Spirit in college by calling someone in the sales department (oops), asking if the company offered internships, and then applying, getting an interview and getting hired.

I worked my butt off as an intern, and then after graduation I got a call from the company’s vice president that they created a new position and wanted to hire me to fill it. From there, I continued to work hard — all while commuting three hours each way from Connecticut (stupid move, but whatever) — and earned several promotions along the way, eventually leading me to my current position as Deputy Editor in Chief. Hard work pays off.

I keep myself busy doing things I love, and despite some recent injury-and-health-related setbacks, I’m confident I’ll figure this running and marathoning thing out eventually.

I ran this weekend! We'll talk about that tomorrow.

At 27, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that not all friends are lifetime friends, and that you can — and will — continue to make lifelong friends into your 20s. The people you meet in high school and college aren’t the only ones you’ll ever meet. It’s OK if you drift apart from some, grow even closer with others or detach yourself entirely from your past. Whatever makes you happy.

Right now, I have two close friends from home, a bunch from college and a ton more from my post-college years, that I’ve met through running, blogging, work and mutual friends. I cherish these friendships so much, whether they’re new or old, and I don’t really care where or when I meet people.

Good friends eat fro-yo.

If a person is stressing you out too much or making you unhappy all the time, it’s OK to dismiss the friendship. I’ve begun surrounding myself with people who understand me, support me and make me happy, and cultivating those relationships is fun and rewarding.

Perhaps the most important relationship to me right now is the one I have with Brian. I never expected to meet him, but the first night we went out, I knew he was different. Probably because he was cool with me wearing compression socks to the bar. I’m so happy living with him and I laugh more than ever before. He keeps me sane, tones down my inner crazies and is wicked fun. Also he’s handy in the kitchen.

Brian made dinner for my birthday. Appetizer #1 was this. Food on a stick.
Appetizer #2 was bruschetta. My favorite.
Meatball sliders for a main course. The meatballs and sauce were both from scratch. I highly recommend dating an Italian boy.
And for dessert: PUPCAKES! Everything from scratch, including the little ears, eyes and noses.

I’m trying pretty hard not to mess this one up.

In 27 years, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve had my share of successes. I’ve also made plenty of mistakes, and that’s OK. My life is far from perfect (clearly — I share my psychotic and irrational thoughts with you daily, so you’re aware of that), but it’s in the imperfections that I get a chance to grow and learn and figure out who I am and who I want to be. (I know, this is getting deep. So many thoughts. So much brain activity.)

I’ve reached the age at which my parents were done doing all the big stuff — the proposal, the wedding, the births, the first home purchase and a big move from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire — so I guess you could say I’m not at all where I thought I’d be at 27.

But I’m going to stay here for a while.

I think it suits me.



88 Responses

  1. Hope you had a wonderful birthday!!!! Those pupcakes are freaking adorable!!! I need to learn how to make those. Also, total side note, I feel like you must live in an Archstone building because your floor and AC/heat unit look identical to mine (yep, I’m a total creeper). Aaand we have the same Hemnes furniture from Ikea haha.

  2. Happy birthday! I turned 30 on the 8th (that would now make me 30 years and 1 day old- crazy! 🙂 so I definitely appreciated reading your self-reflection. I love your positive spin on getting older- totally resonates with me as well. (May babies are the best!)

  3. Eeks! I just turned 27 on the 4th, too! I’m not where I thought I’d be, either… I used to think 27 was old, but I still feel pretty young and I guess I have time to do some stuff. Happy Birthday!!! And I’m thankful I’m not the only one that sweats like that!

  4. loved the post! there’s so much pressure to be at a certain place at a certain time in your life, so this was refreshing to read! And happy birthday!

  5. Happy Birthday Ali!

    Just started following your blog and absolutely love it.

    Pave your own way and live by your own rules!

  6. This is a great post – I love your positive outlook. You’re a very lucky girl!

    My parents followed a similar path and I always think about where I am vs. where they were at my age. So crazy. I am so NOT there. (And happy about it…haha) Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  7. First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    Second of all, you have a boyfriend who cooks dinner and bakes pupcakes? Never let him go—and have him teach my boyfriend how to bake, ok? Ok!

  8. PUPCAKES! I love it…Brian, will you come teach my boyfriend to cook delicious things and invent clever desserts? Happy birthday lady, sounds like it was a good one. I love how full you are with reflections and happy thoughts…you seem like you’re really focusing on being in the present, which is the best place anyone can be.

  9. Happy birthday Ali! Thank you for sharing! there are many of us that feel making our own path in life is maybe riskier but definitely worth it. I hope you had a great birthday!

  10. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! My mom was 23 when my parents got married, too. Babies at 29, 31, and 33 respectively (they saved the best for last). Clearly I am no where near there, and honestly the thought of being married and babies right now…..


  11. First off, happy belated birthday! I didn’t realize we were the same age (I turned 27 in March). I’ve been going through a similar thing these past few years. I’ve finally realized that life doesn’t work like I thought it did at 13. It took me a long time (I’m probably still learning) that being coming an ‘adult’ is not something that happens overnight. I thought at a certain age 401Ks, mortgages, kids, money, etc. would all make sense but I still only kinda get it all. I’m happy with my life, as I think you are, but it is NOT what I expected.

  12. Happy birthday Ali! 27 was one of my best years in my 20s, live it up! 🙂

    Now I have to ask where you got the art on the wall above your bed? I love it!

    1. Thanks! The pictures were a gift — Brian got them for me at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. I’m not sure the name of the company, but I’ll inquire and see if I can find a website!

  13. GREAT post, I love this lots. Happy, happy birthday. I’m sharing this w/all my gal friends pronto.

  14. I just got back from Kiawah too, and loved it. Perfect beach to run on.

    And happy birthday — I have celebrated a bunch in the city, but I am getting too old to remember them. But I did go see the Grateful Dead on my 21st Bday.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the city and living the life here!

  15. okay, first of all, happy birthday!
    second- where did you get that set of pictures over the bed??? i’m sorry but i must shamelessly copy you bc i love it so much!
    i always have such a good time reading how giddy you are 🙂

    1. They’re from the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. Some guy there sells them! I’ll try to find a website!

  16. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY GORGEOUS GIRL!! You looking amazing in your swim suit! The pupcakes made my day and your parents are absolutely adorable!

  17. Happy birthday!! Great post about paving your own way. If I followed in my moms footsteps I would have been married 3 years ago with a baby already. Not for me!

    PS. The food looked amazing!! Especially those cute little cupcakes.

  18. Happy Birthday! This was such an awesome port and I love your honesty.

    Personally, the following line I can totally resonate “If a person is stressing you out too much or making you unhappy all the time, it’s OK to dismiss the friendship. I’ve begun surrounding myself with people who understand me, support me and make me happy, and cultivating those relationships is fun and rewarding.” because it is so true.

    As I let go of the people that don’t get me, it makes room for those who would and its a great life to live.

  19. Happy birthday! Looks like a great vacay on the beach to celebrate! Nothing wrong with following you own path. Sometimes its good not to have a plan and it looks like you’re on the right one anyway. Have an awesome day!

  20. Happy birthday! This was a great post. You are right to be proud of all you have accomplished by 27!
    And the birthday dinner looks amazing! I think this boy is a keeper 🙂
    P.S. I’ll be in NY this weekend and I will most certainly make as many stops as humanly possible/socially acceptable at 16 Handles. What is the best flavor/topping combo?

  21. Yay, happy (belated) birthday. This post gave me the warm fuzzies 🙂 Like you, I grew up thinking I’d be on a certain timeline by the time I was in my 20s– engagement, marriage, settling down. But I am NOWHERE near that and I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope, like you, each year gets better than the last. 27 is going to be a great year for you, I just know it 🙂 Got any of those cute puppy cakes left to share?

  22. 1) Happy belated 🙂
    2) There are prob a lot of us in the same position. When you grove up with parents who seemed to “have it all figured out” by 25, it’s hard to think that you should too. My mom always tells me that I wouldn’t have been happy in a small town, with two kids at the age of 27. She’s right…as always. 🙂

  23. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! LOVE the post! I am single, 26, and have no ties to a particular city. I am looking to just start my career after graduate school. While I struggle with my friends all around me settling down to spouses, kids, and buying houses, I know that I am living what I am supposed to be living.

  24. Happy [belated] birthday!! Ah! 27! It seems so scary (I’m only six months away from it…) but even though you are not where you thought you’d be when you were five, you are aging with such grace and, dare I say, spirit? 🙂 Congrats on everything you have accomplished. Have a fantastic birthday week!

    P.S. Pupflowers were too much. Pupcakes? I DIE.

  25. Happy Birthday!!!! My 24th birthday is on Sunday, and I really enjoyed reading your birthday musings. I’ve also been thinking of my parents’ timeline lately, since my mom met my dad at age 24. I’m nowhere I thought I’d be at 24 – living in Sicily, what?! – but it’s a pretty good place to be. I’m excited and nervous to move back to NYC in the fall and try to settle into an adult life there, but looking forward to everything 24 brings!

    1. Aw, hope you had a great birthday! Also, should I come visit you in Sicily? Probably. ON MY WAY. BRB GOING TO PACK.

  26. I really love this post! Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it is right for you. I’m so glad that you are in a great place and I’m glad you had a happy birthday!

  27. Happy Birthday Ali! Those pup cakes are freaking adorable! My mom had me at 29, and I’m leaving 29 behind in a few weeks, with no kids, and like you, I’m glad of that!

  28. Happy birthday Ali. Glad you had such a great weekend away…and even more glad you are so happy where you are right now!!!

  29. Great post! Glad you had a great birthday weekend – as did I. 37 is just as fun… but in a much different way. Your path will be unique and you will make your own story that you will someday tell you our children. 🙂

  30. I know what you mean about your parent’s timeline being hard to follow! My parents dated for two months and eloped! (At age 23). I came along when my mom was 24! Now that I am 27 (closer to 28 actually) and I have no children, am living with someone who I love and who pushes me to be a better person, but no proposal (after 5 years), my parents are slowly realizing that my timeline will be very different from theirs!

    Enjoy this time!! I am so glad you are so happy looking towards the future! I have been at 27 a few months longer than you and it was a challenging year it is full of great things!!! It sounds like you are truly loving all life offers you!

  31. Happy Birthday Ali!!!! You sound so genuinely happy and I absolutely love reading your daily blog posts and following your journey. 🙂

    You know what would be a great addition in the shipping of my new I <3 Sweat shirt? A pupcake! 🙂

  32. Happy Birthday! Thanks for posting this. I always felt similarly about timelines (my mom was 19 when my parents met, 22 when they got married), and I am definitely not following that timeline. My best friend just told me she is getting married at 21, and while I know it is the right thing for her, it is just very strange to think about. I wouldn’t give up my life for anything, but it is hard passing all those ‘milestones’ and knowing you ‘haven’t kept up’.

  33. holy crap BRIAN IS A KEEPER! omg those cupcakes!!!

    Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 27 is an amazing year. I know because I’ve been doing 27 for all of two months, so clearly I am an expert.

  34. PUPCAKES? Genius. Happy, happy birthday, my friend! When are we celebrating??

    My mom had my sister and I at 27 – I can’t even imagine having twins at that age or thinking that I’d have 3 year old twins at my age. I’m slowly learning we all have very individualized “timelines” and that’s ok 🙂

  35. Happy Birthday! Creating your own path is the best way to go, especially if they involve those cute (and probably delicious) pupcakes. I always need to remind myself not to plan too too much for the future and embrace the changes that will happen.

  36. aww! I love this! I love the look back at your parents (congrats to them!) and to where you are in your life now, and if you had followed their path (and what you did differently). It’s crazy to think of children at 25, I cannot believe my mom was 25 and my dad 24 when they had us. Damn. So.not.ready. Even now. As for your relationship with Brian, that’s just awesome. Isn’t living together with someone you jive with so perfectly just the best? Happy for you and happy happy birthday!!

  37. I looooove how happy and centered you are right now, enjoying life right where it’s putting you, not wishing away your days here on earth. Life is so short, we should be enjoying the hell outta every last second I do believe. Happy 27th my dear!

  38. Happy Birthday! My parents when they were 13, so when I turned 13 I was convinced I would meet the boy I would marry. I didn’t- it was hard.

    1. Thank you! Brian got them for me for Christmas, actually. They were at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. I have no idea who makes them — I’ll try to find out!

  39. Such a great post!! I am so proud of all you’ve done! Looks like Brian had some birthday surprises after all 😉 love you!!

  40. I love all of your birthday (about you and loved ones) and milestone posts. Hope your day was great and that the year ahead is even better!!!!

  41. Happy birthday!! I had the same idea as you, what my mom did (marry at 25, me at 27, brother at 29) was what I thought was normal. So as I reached each of those ages it was odd since I’m not at all ready for that yet. Hope your weekend was wonderful!

  42. Ali,

    Love the commentary on timelines we impose on ourselves. I had the complete opposite timline from you, though. Growing up a “smart” girl, I just *knew* I’d put my career first, make the big bucks on my own, then settle down at 30 with some handsome guy. Then, I accidentally fell in love at 21 and will be getting married at the ripe old age of 25 (I found a guy who cooks as well. Never letting him go!)

    I think the universe/God/life derives a tremendous amount of pleasure by throwing curveballs into our “plans.”

    Happy 27 and best wishes for all the fun ahead!!!

  43. Happy Birthday!!!! I’m a few years older, and so far every year gets better – you’ve got a lot to look forward to (and no need to rush!)

  44. Happy Birthday, Ali!

    It’s crazy how much life changes… and I completely relate with you “blazing your own path”. Since 23, I’ve broken up with my longterm boyfriend, also dated someone older (and sooo not right), moved to Spain for grad school, fell in love with a European and am now living/working in Amsterdam with him 🙂 I thought I’d have a white picket fence right now but instead I have a rusty bicycle and a house on a canal. Life is full of surprises… and I will continue to enjoy reading all about yours!

    1. Haha! “I thought I’d have a white picket fence right now but instead I have a rusty bicycle and a house on a canal.” I love it! So glad you’re happy, even if it’s not in the exact way you imagined. Also jealous of your world travels. That’s awesome.

  45. Happy Birthday Doll! I have been hearing this a lot lately, how different we twenty somethings are finding ourselves versus our parents generation. I for one could not be happier and from the looks of it you are doing pretty fabulous!

  46. happy birthday (yesterday)! mine’s today, and i too am turning 27. it seems like a big year – age wise- i guess turning the corner into late 20s makes you contemplate things a little more 😛 hope all your birthday wishes come true and that 27 is a great year for you!

  47. Happy birthday! Wow, life sure was different back then, right? Pretty sure my parents were married at the age I am now…so weird! i couldn’t even imagine that now. 27 sounds like it’s going to be a great year for you! 🙂 Those cupcakes are adorableee.

  48. aw YAY. happy birthday, ali! i dig this post. nobody’s got it all figured out in their twenties – let alone in their fifties – so i think you’re doing more than fine at 27. and you’ve got pupcakes to top it all off. so that’s something.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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