I turned 30 a few days ago.
To be honest, I hadn’t really given my turning 30 much thought in the months/weeks/days leading up to it. And perhaps that says it all.
I used to feel this perpetual sense of urgency to complete tasks within a certain timeframe and I placed an age limit on everything. I was always in a rush. I think it is our inclination, as a society, to aim for fast results—rarely does anyone say ‘Take your time’ anymore—so it’s slightly ironic that the one thing we usually don’t want to happen quickly is getting older, except perhaps if you’re yet to turn 18. But once you’re an adult each birthday isn’t cause for celebration, but instead a stark reminder of everything that you’ve still yet to achieve.
This birthday, I didn’t feel the pressure to ‘rush’. There is still so much more I want to do, which I haven’t done, but I didn’t freak out. I didn’t go into meltdown mode. I didn’t have an existential crisis (been there, done that).
I’m aware of how much I’ve still yet to learn, and I realise now that I’m not going to have all of the answers by the time I’m 30 or 40 or 50, no matter how hard I try.
As individuals, we are eternally growing, evolving, making mistakes and learning, and all of this beautiful chaos shapes us and gives us a context within which to form our values, opinions and identities—of which we can have multiple ones. Humans have this latent desire to label, group and to define in black or white parameters; however, it is our unique ability to be fluid and interchangeable which is one of our core strengths.
Just because you define yourself as ‘x’ doesn’t mean you can’t also be ‘y’, even if society and the people around you are adamant that you can only be ‘x’. A couple of years ago I felt stuck in the old proverbial rut; I felt restricted to being ‘x’ when really I wanted to explore more of ‘y’. And so I did. This coincided with a move to the other side of the country, which was the impetus that I needed. I moved, I started afresh and it was liberating. I reinvented my wheel, so to speak.
To have a say and a choice in your situation is the greatest freedom that you can possibly have. Granted, you don’t always have a say in your circumstances, but where there is a choice, then it’s ultimately up to you to choose the path which will serve you best instead of allowing yourself to become a victim. ‘Victim’ is a strong word, but sometimes we allow ourselves to become the victim in our own storyline.
It could have been a different storyline for me. I know if I didn’t do something about my situation I would have woken up on my 30th birthday and I would have felt unhappy, dissatisfied and trapped: trapped by all of the things that I hadn’t done, and which remained uncrossed on my never-ending to-do lists.
It could have been a different storyline if I had gone along with the well-worn established plot, but instead I re-wrote some scenes where I was the heroine and not the victim. I wrote a story where the heroine is still figuring her shit out and fumbling along because, really, there’s no age where you’ll have it all together or where you’ll have all of the answers.
I remember travelling overseas with my hubby immediately after we had moved to Perth, and about to do a solo stint of travel where I was looking forward to being alone, gathering my thoughts and having ‘me’ time before returning home and starting the next phase of life. At that time, I had no idea whether I had made the right decision in moving and I essentially had no idea where I was headed career-wise. I knew I wanted to try my hand at freelancing, but I didn’t know if I was going to succeed or if I would eventually have to settle for a job that I didn’t really want. While we were wandering around the charming town of Flåm, I saw a poster with the words: YOU ARE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE MEANT TO BE. I’m a big believer in signs from the cosmic universe and seeing this gave me so much comfort; I felt like I was headed in the right direction despite not knowing where the final destination was.
And so, over a year later, I woke up on my 30th birthday in the sleepy riverside town of Kampot in Cambodia, and I thought about that poster and those words, and all that has happened in between, and I felt the same comfort that I felt then when I had no idea what the universe had in store for me.
I still don’t know where my final stop is but I know I’m exactly where I am meant to be.
30 pearls of wisdom
1. Marry the person who is your biggest cheerleader and your best friend.
2. Focus on the moment and what’s in front of you.
3. It’s never too late to start something new.
4. Re-evaulate your life goals regularly to make sure they are still your life goals.
5. Don’t worry about what others think—they aren’t thinking about you.
6. There’s no harm in asking: what’s the worst that can happen?
7. Find a good dentist.
8. There’s no such thing as perfection: focus on improvement.
9. Get rid of the excess baggage; otherwise it’s going to be one tiresome journey.
10. Having a stuffed wardrobe doesn’t mean you have anything to wear.
11. Keep learning and asking questions.
12. Your good friends are the ones where you can pick up exactly where you left off from, be it 1 day or 1 year.
13. Pick aisle seat for long-haul flights and window seat for short-haul flights.
14. Mistakes are lessons for the future, so make plenty of them.
15. Do what you love, love what you do.
16. But don’t let people tell you what you should love to do.
17. Stop being so hard on yourself. Is how you treat yourself how you would treat a friend?
18. Your parents were right all along.
19. Forget FOMO.
20. People change—don’t see it as a bad thing.
21. Things take time: exercise patience.
22. Things are misinterpreted all the time. Sometimes people don’t realise how they come across so don’t take it personally.
23. Your time is worth something.
24. You don’t have to be best friends with everybody.
25. Say ‘no’ if you don’t want to say ‘yes’.
26. You can either choose to wallow or you can do something about it.
27. Take time to switch off from technology and have a real conversation.
28. There’s no point in wanting to be someone else—everyone has their own issues.
29. It’s okay to be a dork—let your freak flag fly.
30. Age is just a number.