36 and all is good

19 May

I have always had a weird fascination, obsession and relationship with my birthdays. As a child, I was known to throw Hollywood-like tantrums and turn myself into a total a**hole on my special day (there once even was a bloody nose). As an adult, I have become more and more drawn to reviewing “my life to date”, checking in with my 30, 31, 32… old self. Today is the eve of my 36th birthday and I am again doing the same thing. It really is my actual New Years Eve.

I started 2017 with the ambition to make it my Year of Happiness. And I have to say I am in a very good place right now. Almost every aspect of my life today is different from what it was a year ago – I have made some important changes and so far they have all turned out to be good’uns. Some of them were absolutely overdue, but it obviously took me to turn 35 to realise that some things weren’t quite right.

36, to me, is a fabulous age. Professionally and personally speaking it’s a wonderful time. Still young but not quite old yet. Experienced but still fresh. And very different from what I thought, as a younger person, 36 would be like.

When my mum turned 36, I was about to turn 7 and my brother 13, a teenager! My parents were full-on adults, with a big house, life insurances, grown-up clothes, liqueur, attitudes and behaviour and things pretty much set in their ways. At least that’s what it seemed like to me. Of course there was still a big gap between them and my grand parents, but I knew what adult meant.

Now I am about to turn 36 and my concept of what being an adult means has changed a lot. Some things are a lot easier, more accessible, more possible, more casual, more light-hearted and definitely more fun! I love my independence, I am enormously happy about not having debt hanging over me – not something I would have ever imagined as an indicator of happiness. I have been very fortunate to chose and enjoy a pretty international, versatile and interesting lifestyle and career so far. And if I wanted to, there would be even more party in my life. Friends have become my extended family and that feels awesome.

But then, there are also things that are so much harder, so much more complicated than I would have ever imagined. I am not only speaking for myself here, but also for others. Being an over-30 single, against your will, while everybody else is getting married, can be super tough. Sickening even. Being an over-30 childless person, against your will, while everybody else is having children, can suck the life out of you. Can hurt so much. Can turn you into a monster you never wanted to become. Can even make you hate your dearest friends. While theoretically and statistically both (love and babies) can happen very suddenly, this can be nasty territory. And I would have never ever imagined for it to be like that.

Then there is work and the never-ending quest of your true self. Of the unfolding of all the potential qualities that lie within your heart, soul and your ability to turn them into a meaningful CV. If anybody had told me how unnerving it can be to constantly having to review my professional self, I would have become a butcher. Seriously. As much as I love being a multi-skilled and versatile flamingo-dragon-lion-owl, I sometimes just want to be a mouse. So I know that my enemy looks like a cat and that my friend is a fur ball. No more questions asked.

Then there is family…. Again, as a child, I knew things weren’t always perfect in the parents-grandparents matrix, but I had no idea just how complex this multi-generational game is. Just as we think we are leaving some worries behind and are entering the carefree adult zone, we start actively worrying about our parents. Their health, their happiness and sometimes even their finances. Suddenly there are all these rules, expectations and sometimes even reproaches and the people who once were our rocks and our safety nets become fragile and expect us to suddenly become their rocks and nets. And if we happen to have children of our own, this adds a whole new level of madness. What happened to those sunny afternoons with coffee, lemonade and strawberry cake?

Then there is us with ourselves. I am pretty cool with myself but I am nowhere as “finished” as I thought I would be at this age. That’s probably not a bad thing but it’s a bit surprising. There are definitely some routines and hard-wired quirks that won’t change much anymore but I have to admit that I constantly keep surprising myself. There are things I am suddenly capable of that I was too scared off only last year and things I stop being capable of that were second nature just last week. I think I like this mix of solid & flexible – there are days when I am happy about having a strong foundation and 35 years of experience under my belt that make for a solid framework I can rely on and there are days when I am happy about being flexible enough (yes, also physically speaking, thank you very much and yes I do Yoga regularly!) to keep changing, adapting, improving where I want to and to develop new interests, skills and discover new worlds. And who knows, perhaps one day I will be able to do my hair properly, to be able to walk without getting lost all the time, to put on fake eye-lashes and to save some money. There are still a few years for all that….

6 years ago, “30 rocks” was definitely right. Today I happily shout: “36 rules”!

Picture credit: Pixabay via pexels.com

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