As awkward as it might seem my Week 9 challenge could not be about anything else than my Birthday because celebrating it has been my main activity for the past 10 days!
Weird? I don’t think so! I come from a family (and from a very enthusiastic mother) who has always celebrated birthdays like a National Holiday. Imagine my surprise when I realized that not all kids in my school had the same treatment.
When I was growing up and still living with my mother and brother, my Birthday would be a full day event, starting every year with my mother putting the stereo on at 8 AM to wake me up for school with this same never aging song:
I would then receive flowers, depending on the importance of the Birthday I would also have a surprise party, my father visiting or even all my family traveling from Italy to France for my 18th Birthday. It was such a great day, and still is, it always drives me crazy meeting people who just “don’t celebrate their birthday that much” or just don’t at all. I feel very self-centered when I try to explain to them that it should be their most important day of the year, but then I think that 24 hours dedicated to yourself and your happiness are not that many over 365 days (or 366 at times) so I am obviously right.
Sometimes I feel that I have been growing up in an episode of Gilmore Girl, and, although my mother was not a child mother, she has become more of a friend with whom I could share everything than just an adult miles away from teenagers issues. At times, she is crazier than I am, as an artist she has certainly had a crazier youth than I have, in that way I am the responsible and quiet one compared to her. In fact, everything she does, in life and at work, needs to be over the top, if not grand . And she is a party planner.
So, although I knew that I could expect something big for my 30th Birthday, because my mother and my best friends would never let a day like that pass with less than a giant celebration, I was not prepared for something that grandiose.
Besides the fact that the secret was kept until the end (even though I knew something was up), when I arrived in this privatized location, greeted by more than 60 people and Stevie Wonder “Happy Birthday” playing in the back, I could only think about how grateful I was for all this love (it also felt like my mother used this occasion to organize the wedding party she so eagerly wants to throw for me and is never coming, but this is another story).
Someone once told me that big events are essential to mark the time and the important moments in your life. Having feared this Birthday more than the others because I was in a bad place at the end of last year, I hadn’t prepared anything myself until the very last moment when I thought that I would regret it later. I didn’t have time to plan a great party so I just invited a few people to an After Work, therefore I am grateful that my friends forced me to celebrate it with style (karaoke being an essential element of success). I then flew to Italy to celebrate it with my family gathered around a huge dinner feast (did I say that my father is a Chef?) and then flew back to Paris to finally rest and meditate about what I felt being 30.
So last week I turned 30
Those who are either already 30 or counting the months to get there might have shared my apprehension of getting to this important milestone.
I guess it is the first milestone we reach as adults. Having studied up to 23 years old, 25 was just my second year of working so I did not feel much pressure then, and not particularly enjoying my job was not an issue at the time as I knew responsibilities and challenges would come later on. Being the youngest at my office did not give me much pressure of accomplishing anything major yet. I was just having fun in a world of adults, looking at them boldly, thinking I would be better than them once I would be their age in many (many) years.
Five years later things have radically changed. In my professional life, I am working with youngsters who are 7 or 8 years younger than me, so I cannot act like a kid at work anymore. I should be the adult they could look up to – and I hate that.
In my personal life, I am now surrounded by three groups of friends: the ones that got married and had babies a few years ago (my best friend already has 2 wonderful kids), my guy friends who are still enjoying their freedom and which I hope will wait for me before settling down, and many friends and cousins that I thought were in the second category but who are getting married this year (I am invited to 6 weddings in 2017).
And here I was, a few weeks back, scared to death about being 30. Making a mental summary of my life, and although it has been quite filled with travels, and friends that are no longer close, and friends that still are after years, and love stories, and heart breaks, and jobs, and all sorts of professional and personal experiences, I felt I had achieved nothing. Nothing tangible at least. Most of my friends either have an accomplished personal life, either a great career, either they follow a passion which gives them none of the above but brings joy and fulfillment. And here I was, in the middle of everything. An OK career I want to put an end to, great friends but many that are just passing by, an amazing family but none of my own, many small passions but none I would give my life to.
But the weeks have gone by, and I have apparently taken good decisions because my prospects on life are definitely better today. First I have started the 52 Weeks Challenge blog: setting it up, writing one or more articles every week aswell as finding new challenges has become an engine of happiness itself. I have also been splitting my projects into smaller ones, achieving with great satisfaction baby steps leading progressively to longer term goals. I have worked on making things better with friends that I distanced myself from. I have met someone and for once I am just living it day by day. I have nothing but I am full of possibilities. I know everything is not going to turn out great, I tend to be very cautious these days especially about my love life, but I am not scared anymore, I am 30 and I have 100 projects! Projects I did not have when I was 20. When I was young I had no ambition because I thought it would come later. I was traveling, working in good companies, meeting great guys, and in my spare time I could watch TV for hours with no sense of remorse. I was still doing so much because so much was still new. I still remember 2 years ago a friend read me an article recommending to learn something new every day. It seemed like a great ambition, not quite possible but worth a try, maybe, if I found the time between TV shows. When I see how much happier I am now with all this small and maybe useless projects, I really see how much I have grown and how much I prefer this life full of possibilities than the one I was leading before, where I would just let myself be dragged along by life, wherever it would take me, as long as it would not take too much energy. Of course there is no sense of fulfillment when you actually do not decide anything! Life is easier, but at some point you will inevitably ask yourself what you are doing, where you are going!
“Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the differences between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.” W.H. Auden
I changed because I needed to, as W H Auden says, I needed to know which limitations I was meant to outgrow and which things were not meant for me. Today I am happier because I am more myself than I used to be, whatever that means.
So, taking inspiration from Gretchen Rubin Happiness Project (see Week 6 – Readings of the week, from how to be a Badass to discovering Hygge post) here is my personal list of “Secrets of Adulthood”:
- All that matters in life is connecting with people, nothing gives me greater satisfaction in life and experiencing amazing moments and sharing them with people I feel connected with. that is all there is. And from now on I will do everything I can to spend quality time with people I love and new ones I will meet.
- Things take time, especially great things. I have always been a spontaneous and impatient person, whenever I thought about something I had to say it/ do it / act on it right away. This has created problems when I could have waited for the right moment instead, and has also frustrated me other times where I was anxious that things wouldn’t go faster. This year I have learnt patience and I am enjoying slowing down my expectations.
- Money is just a way, not a goal. I never wanted to earn a lot of money, just what I needed for traveling, buying nice clothes and accessories and making gifts to the people I love without counting (which already represents quite some money). In fact, earning more at times did not give me any satisfaction because I did not want to buy a house or car, I did not have kids to spoil or a personal project to invest in. Today I have projects that will need some savings, at least to live while I do not have a job, but I would not need it for other reasons and especially not to for my old age.
“One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self – definition. You become larger. Suddenly you can do yoga or make homemade beer or speak a decent amount of Spanish. Research shows that the more elements make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened.” Gretchen Rubin
This is my 5th Secret of Adulthood. You cannot know who you are until you try many things. We are all born in a country, a city, a district, a religion, a culture. If you had been born or if you had grown around other people you might have had different passions, taken other paths. You cannot know who you were meant to be until you try many things, until you find what brings you joy instead of what should.
- Although pretending to be happy did not actually make me happier the commandment “Act the way you want to feel” has been working like a charm in terms of motivation. Weirdly enough, spending a lot of energy on things you like gives you even more energy. Energy feeds on energy.
From where I stand, being 30 will ROCKS. What about you? What do you like the most about getting older? Do you feel happier now? What are your Secrets of Adulthood?