Read Time: 10 Minutes
Last Monday came and went without my weekly article, in case you noticed. I took a break after the post I published 2 weeks ago – what will come as no surprise to anyone who might have read it, was that it turned out to be a hard write. Despite being separated by a computer screen, there are still emotions felt and the reality of publishing something quite personal (and traumatic on various levels) hit hard. So I leaned into the feeling of needing a quiet week, and that’s just what I did.
Today just so happens to be my 28th birthday. Once a year on the 4th of November, I emerge from the human hibernation of age and time to find that not much has changed, just that i’ve clocked another 365 days.
It is not lost on me that today is also when we’re supposed to find out the next President of the United States (with baited breath!). My mum has been cracking jokes for the past few weeks that America is going to give me Joe Biden for my birthday. I’ve responded by saying never in my life have I so badly wanted an old, white man for my birthday (well I mean… they’re both old, white men, but I want one more than the other… okay this is just sounding bad now that I overexplain it, i’ll stop now).
I thought what better an opportunity to sit down and write about aging and some lessons I think (think? question mark?) i’ve learned, both about myself and the world, than on the day where it’s all about ME.
Occasionally, I will step outside myself when birthdays roll around (and in general sometimes), and experience an “existential age crisis”.
I know what you’re thinking- girl, try that when you’re like 50. How can you have an existential age crisis at 28?
To me, these moments pop up when I am existing in blissful aloofness regarding my age. Out of the blue, a thought will pop into my head that goes something along the lines of:
‘I’m never going to be 21 again‘
(Literally any age can be inserted into that space, but you get my point).
The idea that an age I once was will never happen again, freaks me out. It stops me in my tracks and it usually ends with me in my head asking questions such as: “Have I been present enough so far this year? How much of my life have I spent being passive, just watching it go by, not taking hold of what I can control and doing more with it? Can I do more with it? Did I spend that year of my life doing the best I could in the most mindful of ways?”
Truthfully, I probably wasn’t living my most mindful life at 21. I think I was more so focused on school and figuring out my first relationship as opposed to living mindfully. Who really lives mindfully at 21 anyways?
I was one of those kids who used to say such things as oh I can’t wait for xyz to happen, to which my mum would respond don’t wish your life away. While you can definitely look forward to certain moments taking place in the future, I feel like I probably said that more than I should have. Perhaps it is for that reason, that now I tend to overthink and worry about the future and things I can’t control. Perhaps it had an adverse affect, so now rather than looking forward to things happening, I (on occasion) tend to become more concerned about what may come to pass.
Despite the occasional bubble of worry, I would say in my late twenties I have come to accept ageing, even looking forward to it. There is a certain grace in being able to look back at the person I was in my early twenties, and see my personal growth. Of course, there are some aspects within my life where I feel I still need to develop emotional maturity. These include being able to accept criticism or critique without taking it personally, or when asking for a family member’s advice, learning to accept that advice even when it may be guidance my inner child does not wish to accept or hear. But at the very least I am glad I an cognizant of these traits.
All Them Lessons
I have learned that not everybody is going to like you, which is a very cliché thing to say, but as someone who is a people pleaser, it’s a hard pill to swallow. But then again, I do not like everybody, so it works both ways, I suppose.
I have learned that sometimes the shit from your childhood may come back to bite you in the ass as an adult (not sometimes – it is probable it will). I think this is an aspect of my life I was not fully aware of and how it manifested itself, until my late twenties. It has also been in my late twenties wherein for the first time in my life, I’ve began to consistently attend therapy. Rather than run from my childhood trauma, I’ve started honing in on it, calling it out for what it is, and paid further attention to how it has affected relationships in my life in healthy, productive (and not so healthy or productive) ways.
Of course, every individual is different, with varying situations, levels of pain and trauma. However, you can either let that shit run your life (I have intergenerational unhealthy relationships in my family, so I can expect all of my relationships to be unhealthy too) or work in tandem with it (as much as that may be the case, I can stop this intergenerational cycle by learning about what a healthy relationship looks like, I can view my past relationships as lessons rather than failures, and can work to be a more supportive, emotionally healthy partner).
On that note, I have learned that it takes two to tango in a relationship. As much as I tout the work I need to do on myself, I can only do so much on my end of things. My partner needs to also be responsible for their part.
I have learned what I want in terms of my goals, dreams, and relationship outcomes. I’m really happy I have finally narrowed these down.
I have learned that I am incredibly hard on myself – I think that a lot of people in my life have witnessed this, more than I am even aware of. It especially rears it’s ugly head when I am in states of emotional vulnerability, sadness or anger. It is at these points when I seem to turn against myself and start throwing insults at my character. Where that hardness came from, I’m not sure. But I think there is growth in the fact that when I am emotionally compromised, I am able to notice that my negative self-talk and hardness towards myself seems to manifest itself to an extreme. It’s very revealing that underneath a certain veneer of being quirky and bubbly yet digestible, I expose what I seem to unconsciously believe – that I think I am running out of time to get married or to have children, that I view myself as a bitch or a failure – NONE OF WHICH IS TRUE, I’M DOING MY BEST, OKAY. I don’t know if I was ever fully conscious of how poorly I treat myself in these moments, until I reached the age I am at now.
I have learned how lucky and fortunate I am to have a good relationship with my sibling as an adult.
I have learned that true friends will stay in your life one way or another. Not so much as they will make an effort to stay in your life. More so, regardless of the passing of time, life experiences or circumstances, life itself will re-introduce them to you if it’s meant to be and will keep them connected to you. I’ve also learned that sometimes a friend is not intended to be your friend forever, and that’s okay. You’re not the same person as you were in high school. Chances are, neither is your friend. Part of the growth one may experience through the act of getting older, also involves growth in who you choose to surround yourself with and recognizing that while a person may have been a fit friend to have at 18, they may not be at 28.
I have learned I struggle with low self-esteem and self-worth. While at first I typed “I don’t know why”, I think that if I really sat down and dug deep, I could figure out why.
I have learned (and am continuing to learn) that life will place you in alignment with what you truly want and need, but you need to be in the right headspace to receive it. If you are in a negative headspace, you will attract negativity, and vice-versa with positivity. In addition, if you continue to hold onto the past, and grieve for the “what-ifs” and/or “what might have beens” you will never move forward.
In a similar vein, I have learned that life will not just hand you what you truly want or need – you have to work a bit (or a lot) to get it, whether that means putting yourself out there to meet new people, setting intentions before entering social situations, checking in on friendships, or working on a hobby or a passion you hope to turn into a career.
I have learned that most people can stand to benefit from going to therapy. If you don’t have childhood trauma, then you have dysfunction (nobody is normal, as much as we like to lie and tell ourselves such). If you don’t have dysfunction, then there’s probably something else you may need help with and wish to talk to a 3rd party about. We are not robots.
On that note, I have learned that dumping all of my shit and venting my problems to friends and family is not the same as seeking proactive guidance. I primarily do this when I experience trouble in my romantic relationships – it gets tiresome for all parties involved. If you do this, just think twice about the number of people you talk to, who you choose to talk to, and the intent of what you are wanting to talk about, prior to having the conversation.
I have learned and accepted that I am starting from scratch when it comes to healthy relationships, but like… i’m kind of okay with it. I have also learned to look at my past relationships as lessons, rather than failures, and stop referring to them as failed relationships (I started writing them as such for this article, but stopped myself). I have learned that I can beat myself up for wasting my time with someone who wasn’t right for me. In reality, I wasn’t wasting my time in any of my past relationships, because in those moments, each new partner was someone that I wanted to be with, and made me happy. If I was happy, then how can I say it was a waste of time?
I have learned I hate Bon-Jovi. Random I know but I can say it.
I have learned that a friendship with your parent(s) as an adult, can be worth having. Moving past the parent-child relationship when you were younger and recognizing that your parent(s) are people too, who had lives before you and your shit-disturbing ass came along, can help foster a friendship as an adult. I have also learned that to some extent, forgiving your parents for however they may have fucked you up as a child and acknowledging they were doing the best they could (take that with a grain of salt, every circumstance is different – don’t come for me!), can allow some level of healing and closure.
I have learned I love to read, but I don’t have a favorite author.
I have learned that mindfulness and meditation are amazing tools for someone who tends to live in the past or the future – more of us should be practicing techniques such as these for a connected, happier life.
I have learned that the more you hang on to shit you can’t control, the more you wreak havoc on yourself. I have learned that the root of my overthinking comes from not trusting myself and my gut.
I have learned I do my best to show up for my friends (which reminds me, I should check in on some of them) and that I am a good friend. I am loyal, kind, and trustworthy.
I have learned that I am more capable, resilient and self-reliant than I think.
I have learned I will make mistakes, but that ultimately I am doing my best, and that’s all that anybody can ask for.
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