It’s my birthday today. I’m 35.
If anyone’s actually still here who you used to follow me back in the day, you might remember I used to give myself some type of gift on my birthday—some type of permission.
Maybe permission to be “too much” that year. Or permission to let go of trying to please everyone.
That feels like another lifetime ago. And maybe it was.
You know, I started this blog over 9 years ago. And for 6 of those years, I wrote every single weekday.
It’s weird to think of who I was back then. And who I am now.
35 sounds both way too young and way too old. I mean, haven’t I been in my mid-30s for decades now?
I remember in herbal school nearly a decade ago, someone said, “In my next life, I want to be just one of Mike Iamele’s lives.” And I laughed politely but had flashes of blood and pain and heart-racing anxiety between one iteration and the next.
But then I look in the mirror. And this isn’t the face of a 35-year-old. Whatever wisdom I think I’ve earned betrayed by my body.
I remember when we were 27, Garrett and I were boarding a boat in Aruba, and I was carded (the drinking age there is 18).
So Garrett asked the steward how old she thought we were. She said 17 for me. And 35 for Garrett.
Would she believe me now? Do I?
Age is a funny thing. Our names don’t change throughout our lives, but our ages do. Somehow implying reinvention. New identity. Night turns into day, and somehow I’m reborn.
I think back to 2013 when I did start writing this blog. Unbeknownst to many of you at the time, I was trying to define myself then.
Was I the PR whiz kid? Or an herbalist? Or a writer? Was I a sexual anomaly? A healer? A coach?
I had spent the early part of my life mindlessly accepting the titles the world gave me. Because they often came with validation and safety. My worth entirely based in their projections of me.
And then, seemingly overnight, it all shattered. Every container, every identity I had ever known.
How do you define yourself when evolution makes any definition obsolete? Is identity empowering or limiting? And how do we ever feel tethered when the only constant is change?
I became obsessed with these questions. Maybe I still am.
If I couldn’t rely on my job, my relationships, or my sexuality for clarity—the things I’d been conditioned to find “purpose” in—I decided maybe I didn’t understand purpose at all.
I’ve spent the last 9 years rethinking how I viewed purpose. Less about the containers of identity we inhabit and more of the essence that’s inside.
Like pouring water from one cup to the next. The cups change; the water doesn’t.
Limited by the container. Limitless in essence.
Like a hermit crab trying on different shells. We’re all outgrowing old containers and rediscovering ourselves in new ones.
Changing bodies, changing careers, changing relationships, even changing ages.
Maybe discovery isn’t a one-time thing. Maybe it’s a life-long pursuit. Maybe we’re always taking the way we experience or sense the world and making meaning again.
And then what we’re sensitive to is all that matters.
Sometimes podcast hosts ask me to define myself. It’s probably my favorite question in the world. Because it’s one I hated for so long.
I say the same thing every time: “Aligned. Zany. Free. Unmistakable. Successful. And Vulnerable.”
It’s the only constant in my otherwise evolving life.
If I know how I experience the world, my subjectivity, then I know who I am. Like the lens through which I watch the movie.
And it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. It always makes me laugh when people ask me if I’ve totally changed my work when they hear me on a podcast about fetishes and they knew me from esoteric purpose work.
It doesn’t matter if I’m helping someone with business or sexuality or relationships or spirituality or body image—it’s always the same, right?
Who are you, really? Why do you feel that way? Why are you attracted to that? Why does that work for you? Why does that hurt you?
I have vivid memories of sitting on a bathroom floor covered in blood and shouting that question: “Why?”
And there’s nothing more cathartic to me than being able to answer it. Again and again and again.
It’s been too long. So, this birthday, I came back. To show up. Mostly for myself. And to give myself a gift.
I’d like to say I’ll write more—and I hope I will. But I’m allowing myself the grace to explore without that commitment.
No, that’s not my gift. This year for my birthday, I give myself the gift to be me. Aligned and Zany and Free and Unmistakable and Successful and Vulnerable.
An essence that transcends containers. A purpose that’s felt more than it’s intellectualized.
A consolidation of all of my experiences—as my herbalist friend once said, my “many lifetimes.” A wholeness. A completeness. A me.
Not 35. Not fresh-faced. Not whiz kid or failure or any projection upon me.
And, if you’d like, you’re welcome to borrow this gift and do the same for yourself.
Reclaiming the part of you way deeper than any accomplishment or relationship or job or desire. Not the cups but the water inside.
The thing that answers why. What we might mean when we say purpose.
The tethering through evolution. Not to any one thing. But to yourself. To how you sense life.
Maybe I am going to like 35.
Happy birthday, Mike.
And thanks for being here with me.