Tuesday, 25 June 2013

On leaving my twenties

Ok... so it goes like this. I permanently bid good bye to my twenties recently.

I don't have a problem with my age, or specifically, disclosing my age. Sometimes I have a problem acting my age though. This is because at times I forget how old I really am. As they said, you are as young as you feel you are. (Or in my case... immature.)

I have always been quite open with my apprehension about being in my thirties. I guess I didn't talk about it on the blog, but I did (and still do) think about it a lot. I researched the fuck out of it, because I could. I am a doctor for a reason, you know. 

One of the things that I stumble across was this book titled 30 Things Every Women Should Have and Should Know by the time She's 30. Yes, there are bits of the book that's borderline superficial, but if you read between the lines, most of the points have substance. Trust me on this one. Maybe this is because I sort of went a little bit (a lot) overboard in analysing them (blame it on the doctor). Needless to say, I purchased the book and it became an instant favourite. (Side note: the thought catalogue published a follow up - a further 30 things that's relevant for anyone for any age, really. 

Because I can be somewhat illogical when it comes to aging (and becoming older), I converted the 30 Things Every Women Should Have and Should Know by the time She's 30 into a checklist. I did not tick all of the items on this list. I surprised myself when I found out that I was not as upset as I would have been if I was in ... my early twenties. I have always been somewhat a perfectionist and so ticking checklists became second nature. 

I was not upset because while I generally agree on the importance of the items in that list, I had (have) a personal checklist that I wanted to tick, stored away at the back of my subconscious mind. I did not approach my thirties with a list that goes like this:
[x] Become a doctor
[x] Get a (long term, steady) boyfriend
[x] Live on my own, at least for a month 
[x] Build a well-curated wardrobe

Does anyone? I mean, should I now start drafting a list of things to tick by the time I am 40? 

The reason that I am thinking about this right now is because I was editing my photos from my recent birthday and those photos made me think about turning 30 all over again.

On kindness and paying it forward
I find it rather funny that in this life we put a lot of emphasis on the softer things like being kind, compassionate bla bla bla, yet when it comes to evaluating major milestones in life (like when your age ends with a zero), we don't really put the fact that someone is kind and compassionate as an "achievement" on their lists. 

One of the things that I am most grateful for in my life is that I have a lot of kind people in my life. Although I thank them a lot, I don't tell them that they are kind often enough.From these people, I learn what it really means to be kind. And sincere. These are the people who are living with paying it forward. Colin from The Exile Lifestyle has an excellent post on paying it forward and I don't have much to add on this topic.

On making mistakes
Throughout my twenties, I met a lot of people, befriended them, hung out with them etc. I admit that there was a period in my life whereby I discovered that the people whom I thought were my friends turned out not to be my friends. I discovered that upon discovering this, life goes on and you survive and start making better decisions on the things that truly matter in your life. I admit that I had given people chances when I probably was better of not to. This was a mistake I needed to make so that I could learn from it.

There are other mistakes that I have made, of course, and I hope not to make the same mistakes again because that's when I know that I have learned from those mistakes. When I was younger, I avoided making mistakes as much as I could, I am a perfectionist after all. I think I was more of a perfectionist when I was younger, and as I get older, I begin to see why a lot of people abide by the Pareto Principle. I don't think I need to say that we all need to make mistakes and mistakes are fine. Acknowledge them, fix them, learn from them and move on.

On love and settling
One of the things that are somewhat "important" to women approaching thirties is the presence of a significant other in their lives. They may not want to admit this publicly, but this was one of the topics that I discussed a lot with my friends. For a lot of them, it is about starting a family, and the biological clock ticking louder and louder. While this is a very valid desire, this is also not something that you can plan. As one of my conversation partners put it, it is not like you can enrol in a course and 12 months later get a certificate and be done with it.

Granted that throughout my twenties I attended a lot of weddings - most of my friends were getting married, the rest who are not are mostly attached. So we were either getting married or thinking about getting married. Or freaking out of the seemingly bleak prospect of getting married before we turn 30 (or immediately after we turn 30). It is like, oh gawd, all this pressure to love and be loved, at the right time. Timing is all the essence.

In addition to timing, there's the actual person. My boyfriend told me that in this life you have to go through one really shit relationship before you can appreciate the really good ones. I told him that if you are a good person, then you are a good person; it is not a relational comparison. It is definitely not like you are good because someone else is bad.

On change
Change is the one thing that's constant in this life. The moment that change is absent is the moment that I know that something is not right. I have come to accept change and expect it on pretty much an almost daily basis. We are all getting older. Our bodies start to break down and we have to start putting in more efforts to take care of it. I know for a fact that hang-overs recovery time is longer than it used to be, and partying once a week is tiring, let alone doing it twice a week.

Other changes can be subtle - like changing the layout of your abode, or in my case, an ever-changing wardrobe! This is because I recently came across a suitcase of old clothes... and I cringed when I was sorting them. I sent everything to St Vincents. I don't even want to think about how hideous I used to dress. But I thought I was pretty good at the time. Go figure. My preferences change.

On setting your own standards and staying true to yourself
This is the thing, isn't it? How do we measure our own success? Can we use a personalised metric to do it? And if we do, will that metric be an accurate measure of our success, or would it be biased because oh well, how do you measure yourself using something that you invented? Conflict of interest, no?

It is very natural that when we want to measure ourselves, we want to use an objective metric. This is not about comparing ourselves to other people, but this is more about an attempt of getting a somewhat objective assessment of how far we've become. The danger is that we end up focusing on conforming to some form of societal standards which we may or may not necessarily agree with. It is great if we do, but chance is that, the agreement is not 100%.

This is where staying true to yourself comes in. I spent my twenties thinking that this is important, although not exactly knowing how to do this. Because this is difficult to reconcile with societal standards at times. Take for example, the above example about the dilemma of single girls as they are fast approaching their thirties. Most of them know that just because they are single does not mean that they are not worthy of love. Yet they can't help feeling so because even when they are comfortable with being alone, it is nice to have that special someone in your life, it is nice to be loved. And who doesn't want to be loved?

To be comfortable with the choices that we make and the ones that are given to us without us having a say in them, or in other words, accepting some things that we are yet to change, and being content and happy with our present state, and live our lives in accordance with a standard that works for us, formulating our own ideas of success and being honest with ourselves with the things that we truly want (in addition to need), that's what successful living is all about. Is it not?

On health 
I am not the healthiest person in this planet. I am gluten intolerant and I am allergic to coconut. These days I am learning that a lot of things have coconut oil in them, everything is sprinkled with coconut and everyone is drinking coconut water. Okay. I don't know how coconut manages to come centre stage, but this is quite literally a living nightmare for someone like me. Because gluten free products often contain coconut in them.

The natural progression is for me to learn how to prepare my own meals, otherwise known as cooking. Cooking has never been my thing, you  know. This is definitely one of those things that I do because I really.have.to; and it looks like this is fast becoming one of those things.

The one thing I manage to get sorted just in time before turning 30 is the exercise routine thing. There are some people who are naturally sporty and these people would naturally choose sports activities and do not see it as a chore to make time for these things. I honestly do not regard myself as one of these people yet. What I think about every morning as I wake up and drag myself to the gym is this: I would love myself more if I do this. As we are seemingly in the middle of winter right now, this is somewhat less effective given that the alternative, i.e. warm bed with extra shut eye time, has taken over as the more attractive option.

This battle is fought daily, and is won one day at a time. I prefer winning this battle so I persist with whatever is required for winning this. Winning does not get easier, just consistently rewarding.

I am pretty sure that in a few years time I would change my mind on a few of these things. And I think that's ok because well, I am bound to change my mind when my circumstances change. Of course there are things that I aspire to, and these things also change with time, especially once I've managed to achieve them.

In fact, now that I think about it, the only thing that I can expect from myself is that I will change with time. At least I hope I will be dynamic and flexible enough to so. There is nothing worse than a stagnant individual who is seemingly stuck in time, wishing for a repetition of the time gone by.

There we go. This marks the end of an era that is my twenties and the beginning of a new one.  

[This writing falls under the general heading of what people would talk about if they would openly admit to the fact that life is actually hard and requires constant effort on our part to ensure that we are living the best life that we want to. Somewhere along the lines, we fall in love with the idea that life is supposed to be easy because we see life's representation in the media (all various forms of them) as beautiful, and seemingly easy. We got it into our heads that we are princesses living in invisible castles and we started to believe that we are beautiful not because of our efforts and merits but merely out of the power of our beliefs. While this blind faith is useful at times, I believe that at the end of the day, we have to be practical, otherwise, we will be spectators in our own lives, instead of being the perfectly capable drivers that we were born to be.] 

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