Birthdays have always been very special to me. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because in my family, everyone has the same birthday: my mother, father and brother. However, I alone am different. And, for as long as I can remember, this has both plagued me (so unfair!) but also made me feel special. Also, my birthdays have always been celebrated, and as someone who loves celebrating, I cling on to that celebratory feeling as so many other festivals and holidays have faded away as I have gotten older.
Yet, as we all know, there is always a downside to birthdays (if you do give them any sort of thought), which is the whole omg-I’m a year older and what have I accomplished-she’s only 15 but in the Olympics/pop star/Master Chef/Everest climber-my big accomplishment is finding the right detergent for my colors AND whites-haalllpppp!!!! #yearlymeltdown
Somehow, this spinning cycle of introspection did not come full force between 29 and 30 (I suppose it was a busy year), but it did this year. To quote my best friend, “I bet if you look back on it, this will be the best time of your life,” he said, referring to my 30th year on this planet. So here I am, reflecting not about the ending of my 20s but the beginning of my 30s and what all that means. Feel free to read on; or if you are bored with the self-centeredness to follow, have an excellent Monday.
30. I still have managed to keep ten toes, ten fingers, and a fairly decent health. So far so good. I would yell at myself to exercise more or do this or that- but sometimes, it’s just okay to be glad that you still have the basics.
29. You don’t grow grumpier; you just listen lesser. I always assumed people became more rigid and grouchy when they got older and hated teens because of their nostalgia and bias towards the youth. While that is somewhat true, I realized it takes too much effort to try and listen to everyone. So you march to your own drum. People call it grumpy. I call it contentment.
28. Age really IS nothing but a number. Frankly, this is not a good tag line for a romantic movie but I am not sure how different I am from who I have always been. Yes, I have learned things and grown up and miss childhood and all that, but I still love Archie comics, a good romantic movie, and believe that in an unknown way, magic exists. Deep down, I think I still carry the same optimism, flaws and traits that I have always had, and likely always will.
27. People are wrong- a lot. When I was younger, I believed people were right. Their advice were right. Their ways were right. Their opinions were right. However, now I know. People are just people. They, like me, are doing the best they can. So, we (or I) constantly walk a tightrope between believing in the best and wisdom of everyone while doubting everything to find your own way.
26. Laughing is harder. There is no denying it. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure gets harder. Everything ends up having a purpose, or an escape from some other purpose, as responsibilities amount. Moments where you wind up laughing so hard that you are out of breath get trickier. But…
25. Happiness is easier. I think when we are younger, figuring out what makes you truly happy is difficult. I think you end up wafting here and there a lot trying to “pursue happiness.” Eventually, I think you find happiness in the wafting itself. That isn’t to say you don’t have goals or don’t become determined, just that you end up taking more pleasure in the journey than seeking reward at the destination (hopefully).
24. You hear better. This contradicts what I said earlier that we don’t listen as much as we get older. That’s true. But in order to filter what you do and don’t want to listen to, you have to hear things more carefully. Evaluate them. Break them down. Then decide what to do with them. So, yes, I think we tune out more, but first we hear more.
23. You suddenly care about the news. Not that I didn’t as a child but it always seemed so distant and irrelevant to my world. Now, I feel more impacted and more responsible towards what is happening globally and within my community. This is my world.
22. Some people grow up faster or slower than others in some parts of their life. It is a fact. Some of the lessons I am learning now, others realized way before me. That is okay. We are tortoises. Not hares.
21. Your life is truly, uniquely, your own. As kids, your life and your friends’ lives are fairly in sync. Then, somewhere in your 20s, all that changes. Some people get married, have kids, find good jobs, etc. Some don’t. However, even if it seems like there are 2 or 3 major groups, every single person is going through their own unique experience. It takes more time to find someone on the same path as you, and even if you do, it could be for a very short time before your life and theirs diverge again. So, it becomes important to become your own best friend fast. And it turns out, it’s really not that bad.
20. Friendships are the best. This never changes. It shall be the wisest thing I will always know. They go through trials and tribulations as things change but I believe friends shape who we are. Sometimes, we are not great to our friends but I believe we find a way back to them and they to us.
19. Family is the most perplexing relationship you can have. It has the most love, the most fights, the most care, and the most hope. Without family, you are lost. Sometimes, with family, you are also lost. Regardless, it is the truest embodiment of both the perfect and imperfect love.
18. Time becomes so important. I think it is a fallacy that I had more control over my time as a kid or in college than I do now. I did not know myself well enough then to understand how precious time in each day is. I spent it thoughtlessly. Now, I have many more obligations so time and control over my own time seems fleeting. Yet, I at least know how to spend it more wisely to give myself the care I need.
17. Anxiety is real. And always embarrassing. I hate anxiety deeply, yet, I am fairly sure I have more of it that most people I know. Which makes me anxious. It is a vicious cycle. When I was younger, I did not understand from where all this burden or pressure comes. Yet, it does. Some invisible hand of society and mortality makes us sense our own fragility. Fighting it is a constant battle. Which has led me to realize that any inner demon anyone ever spoke of is real- and we should pay more attention to it.
16. Reading is the cure for everything. Knowledge is probably the one thing we can always constantly add to our identity. Without reading, how can you know things? Reading is the only way to walk 2 miles in someone else’s shoes. It makes you a better human. And for a split second, reminds you how infinite the universe and human experience is.
15. It’s okay to quit things. There is too much emphasis placed on keep going and persevere. If something isn’t right for you- quit it. What you should not quit is yourself or belief in yourself. Stopping something to find something better takes as much perseverance and confidence as sticking with something that is good for you.
14. Food is your greatest friend. I don’t need to say more.
13. You outgrow what is not important. The rest stays.
12. Chores are mislabeled. They should just be called life. We do them more than anything else to live a normal, balanced, semi-organized and not-missed-bills life. I think they were probably called chores at a time when someone did them for someone else. When you have to do them all the time- it’s just life.
11. Money is super important. Clarification: your relationship and views towards money are really important. They probably define so many of your goals, relationships and outlooks towards society that it is probably the singular lens through which you see the outside world. If you can grow beyond that, let me know and share with me your ways.
10. You forgive yourself more. This is both good and bad. It is good to forgive yourself and move on. The tricky part is when you forgive yourself but don’t want to learn from the experience. As I said before, the art of knowing what to listen to becomes increasingly important in deciding who we want to be.
9. Anything can be validated or justified. When I was younger, I always wanted validation for my choices, and I always got it. Then I noticed that others with whom I disagreed strongly got it as well. This led me to realize how dangerous validation is. You can always find a fan. It is much better to find a good critic.
8. I don’t do enough for others. Fact. I think I get more than I give. I have to work on it. The wisdom here is that hopefully, by recognizing it, I can get better.
7. Like my beloved alumni university, I too am Under Construction Indefinitely.
6. My brother is still my best friend. Yet, our interests have varied. He has formed his own opinions, interests and tastes. He is a great person to travel with but we do things differently. It is okay to grow up, grow different, and still have the relationship remain the same. It is probably the best kind of relationship you can have.
5. You can survive a cancelled wedding and still love someone. You can be plagued with doubts and anger and still love someone. You can continue to not know the outcome of something and still believe in it. Nothing can pan out and you can be really happy knowing you got to love someone.
4. Believing in people gets harder. Sometimes, we grow more entitled as we grow older. This often makes us unkind. I think it is because we try to preserve our sense of self. But, with more saddening news, adults who may not behave like adults, road rage, and other million things that go wrong daily- it becomes hard to still believe in the good. But…
3. People try their best- always. Most people are good. Even when they give the wrong advice, have the wrong reaction, or say things that truly hurt- most people are just trying their best to be there for you. And you are trying your best to be there for them. So it will be okay. As Journey said, “Don’t stop believing…”
2. It gets harder to see individuals. I think we label people more as adults than as children. It is one of the hardest things to overcome. We have to keep overcoming it everyday. And life is pretty good at ensuring that we find ourselves wrong all too often.
1. I am pretty happy to turn 31. I am not sure I am as frightened as I was of age; of the things I haven’t accomplished; of the deadlines I didn’t meet prior to 30. I think I am more content, although I still have many more lessons to learn about being appreciative and positive. I am just hopeful I get many, many more years with ten fingers and ten toes. #blessed