What's the best birthday gift I got this year?

"If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy." Unknown

It's official, I'm 40!!!

Yep, I turned the big 4-0 on Sunday. And I can say without hesitation that my life doesn't look anything like I thought it would growing up.

I'm not married (hell, I'm not even dating anybody). I don't have any kids. I don't live in the suburbs. I don't have a typical job that I go to Monday through Friday. And I'm still paying off my student loans.

If you would have told the younger me the facts listed above, she probably would've thrown a hissy fit. You see, Young Emily liked knowing exactly how things were going to turn out. She had a plan for how she wanted her life to be and she fully expected her life to follow it to the letter.

It did, for awhile. But today, not so much. And I couldn't be happier.

My life is not what I ever thought it would be. It's so much better.

The night before my birthday was Halloween, I was surrounded by true friends. They treated me like a queen...literally. You see, it was a royal costume party and everyone dressed as a member of my court (see some of them below).

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Which leads me to my favorite gift. I got many - from bottles of wine to handmade earrings to restaurant gift certificates to a Bernie Sanders tote bag (because you know I'm Feelin' The Bern!).
But my favorite gift wasn't anything I can eat or wear or spend. It was a skit in my honor.
To watch my ridiculously talented and creative friends perform something that they took the time to create just for me was something I'll never forget.
I felt loved. I felt special. But most of all, I felt like I belonged.
And isn't that what we all long to feel?
I haven't always. Even now, sometimes I'll be in social settings surrounded by people I know and still feel like an outsider. Ever feel like that?
I think we all do as human beings. Our job while we're here is to help each other feel a little less lonely, a little more loved. CLICK TO TWEET

To those of you who were at the party (and you know who you are!), you did that for me and I can't thank you enough.
And if you weren't at the party, if you've ever responded to an email or written on our Facebook page, you've done it for me that way and I thank you.
Because the older I get, the less I'm interested in material stuff. Sure, it's nice. But what really gets me going is my connection with people like you. That's what lights me up, that's what inspires me.
So the next time you're needing a gift for somebody, take some time to think of how you could really connect with them. It could be a lunch date, a phone call, or something based on an inside joke the two of you share.
I bet if you really go inside and open your heart, you'll come up with something they'll remember always...and it may not even cost you a thing. Pretty cool, huh?

Your turn - ever get a gift that was low on cost but big on value? Please, share it over on our Facebook page. These are my favorite stories!!!
Rich beyond measure, Emily