Birthday Girls: Now they are 30

Maggie, Stephonjia and Suzanne are the same age as the Minnesota Women’s Press, and over the years, on this shared birthday, we interviewed them about what was important to them at different stages and ages. We last checked in when they were 25. Now they are 30, and they’ve written to us about where they are now in their lives.

Stephonjia Sudduth

Stephonjia Sudduth (courtesy photo)

Living in Cuba and studying medicine
… and now we are 30! I was working as a chemist and preparing to start my medical school journey in Cuba five years ago when both the Women’s Press and I turned 25. Now, I’m living in Havana, Cuba, in my second year of studying to become a doctor at the Latin American School of Medicine 

By learning, speaking and studying all of my classes in Spanish, I’ll become a bilingual doctor. I’ll return to the U.S. in 2019 to start a residency program. I plan to become a surgeon and, eventually, open my own practice to provide preventive care within the African-American community. 

Over the years of shadowing doctors and being in clinics, I’ve noticed that people do not take good care of themselves. I believe many patients don’t have the knowledge or support from their families and/or communities – this is where I come in to help start changing one’s way of thinking and help guide people to a better way of life. 

Becoming 30 this year is an accomplished feeling! I’ve been achieving all of my goals since I was 4 years old – except going to the Olympics and becoming the next great gymnast, but hey, I can’t win them all! 

The Women’s Press has been following me since I was 8. If I could tell my 8-year-old self anything, it would be this: “Don’t change a thing about yourself; you will do an unbelievable job in conquering your goals and surpassing all obstacles. Keep striving for the best and continue to make yourself, parents, family and friends proud. Know that this is your journey and YOU are in control of what you will accomplish next!” 

Maggie Hilliard

Maggie Hilliard (courtesy photo)

Living in New York and going with the flow
I spent my 30th birthday on a gorgeous beach in the Turks and Caicos. I had been a little torn about turning 30, and decided a Caribbean vacation would be a good way to cope. I was right – it’s hard to feel angsty about your age when you’re staring at white sand and turquoise water! 

I’m over the shock of having a “3” at the beginning of my age and, all in all, I’m incredibly happy. I’m still in Manhattan and loving it. I work at an ad agency that on most days feels more like fun than work. I spend my nights and weekends out and about in the city with friends (and dates) and spend too much money shopping. 

This isn’t what I expected to be doing at 30 – my 8-year-old self never would have predicted I’d live in New York, for one thing – but I’m glad to be where I am. 

If I could talk to my 8-year-old self, my only advice would probably be some variation on the “keep calm and carry on” posters. I don’t really know that I have accrued all that much wisdom at 30, but I know that you can’t ever tell what life will throw at you, so I’m a big believer in learning to go with the flow. It’s not a groundbreaking philosophy, but it works – there’s a reason those posters have been around so long. 

I’m excited for this new decade and everything it will bring – hopefully, lots of good things, both for me and the Minnesota Women’s Press! 

Suzanne Flory

Suzanne Flory (courtesy photo)

Living in Oregon and making the world a better place
Although I appreciate the growth and exploration I experienced in my 20s, I look forward to the chapters ahead. 

Upon completing a master’s in public health at the University of Minnesota in 2013, I returned to Oregon to move in with my long-term boyfriend. I began working for the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance, where I provide technical assistance and support to interdisciplinary teams of medical, mental, oral and school health practitioners. Much of my time is spent managing an adolescent sexual health program that supports healthy sexual decision-making and healthy relationships among adolescents. 

My family remains a constant source of gratitude and appreciation. I’m a proud aunt of a 4-year-old niece and 18-month-old nephew. They’ve brought profound happiness and joy into my life. Having grown up with brothers, welcoming sisters-in-law into our family has also been exciting. Belonging to a sisterhood provides valuable new insight and guidance. 

Envisioning the future, I’m confident our communities will continue to thrive. The more I look for it, the more I see the many successful women around me: my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my sisters-in-law and future sisters-in-law, my best girlfriends, colleagues, neighbors and community members. So many women serve as an ever-present source of resilience and compassion. They’ve taught me that perseverance and faith are some of our greatest strengths. 

My words of wisdom? Keep up the good fight. Life can throw some hard-hitting curve balls our way and we have some true challenges that lie ahead. There is resilience in knowing that many are here to catch us if and when we fall. The best is yet to be.