Many years ago, out of some strange epiphany I had, I decided to write down my expectations for myself when I eventually turn 30. Although I am always a believer that being present is of upmost importance in enjoying youth, I thought it would be good to set up little targets and milestone checks, something to aspire to.
I eventually opened the letter again a few days ago, and my first impression was “Man, my handwriting hasn’t evolved!” But other than that, I'll tell you this; if you're not convinced whether you have grown at all in the past decade, doing this is a surefire way to prove otherwise.
I’ve cropped excerpts of the letter here to share, except some paragraphs that I thought was so embarrassing that no one other than the writer should ever read it again.
It started off rather innocently. You can see how vanity was very evident in the earlier years of my twenties. (cringe)
Yes, I suppose SK2 really does work.
No, I don't have a treadmill at home.
(more cringe-worthy stuff)
Good God woman, that is a whole lot of discussion on products (and yes, I do use Touche Eclait now hahaha).
It turns out that I do like my job(s) now, and I did become a published writer. And I'm glad the younger me had the same sentiment about money as I do now. I obviously was not thinking about retirement savings at that point of time.
Next, I went on about how I expected myself to be more involved in community work. Honestly, I am not doing enough volunteer work or contributing as much as I thought I should. Something to improve on as a way forward!
Apparently, I was also psychic. Here I discussed the pros of my current life status, as though I knew exactly where I'd be when I'm 30. It was also a very long, detailed write-up about how I should be enjoying it.
It became very apparent in these paragraphs that I was afraid of giving up my independence, something I still struggle with today.
Hey, 23 year-old me. I still agree with everything you just said here! (*tear*)
"And I also don't like to make sacrifices and compensations..." Wow. I was pretty selfish when I was younger.
Happiness truly is key. It was true then and it is still true now.
It is insane to be 30. INSANE! Although a birthday is nothing but just a numerical milestone, it feels that I am so far away from that same girl who wrote those letters. So much has happened, and I could never imagine ever being that same girl of 23 again. I saw things that left me starry eyed, I did things I never thought I had the capability of doing and most importantly, I met people who had tremendously changed my life.
Now that I am on the other side of the twenties, I guess what I’d say from my experiences is… don’t wait. If you want to do something, go for it. There will never be a better time. If you find something that gives you joy, don't give them up. You might never get the opportunity again. Some things in life really do only happen once.
This week's column is pretty self-explanatory through its title ;)
I've posted the entire column below!
PS: Everytime I say I was going to change my profile picture to something less Colgate-ish, I forget. Good Lord.
Love In Three Decades
By Amal Ghazali
It is my birthday month. This year is a huge numerical milestone for me, and as soon as that sunk in I had an immediate panic attack. Already? Where have the years gone? Why don’t I feel wise at all? Should I smile less to make sure I don’t have wrinkles? And most importantly, what have I learned?
Well, we could go on all day on the subject of lessons, but this time I am compelled to specifically discuss the lessons on love and relationships, a summary of what the past decade has taught me.
I began my third decade like any average twenty year-old. I was from an all-girls boarding school and so college was a culture shock – look at those boys! I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted or what it was all for. All I knew was that dates got me free food, free movie tickets (chivalry was not dead yet) and free adoration. When you have a minimal sense of who you are as a person and what you want in life, be sure to expect your relationships to be doomed into oblivion as well.
Ten Years’ Worth of Lessons
Over the years life occurred in a way that completely shifted and changed me from that unsure, indecisive and hormonal twenty year old into someone else. Recently I was in a car with a friend, talking about life and relationships. Suddenly, she turned to me and said, “You know, you sound so different than how you used to think five years ago.”
But of course. Life inflicts gradual changes in you through experiences, and there is no denying that the past ten years have been nothing short of a great series of lessons for me. That boring date I had with the most boring guy on earth taught me a thing or two about chemistry. That night I went for a swim in the sea with friends at 3 a.m., ending at the hospital emergency room 2 hours later, taught me the difference between fun and stupidity (surprise! Sorry Mom). That time I was in love, and then out of love, taught me a truth about men – that like me, they too are flawed but trying their best. Forgiveness is imperative in love.
But through loving and being around others, perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is about loving myself. This sounds like some hokey pokey Hallmark greeting card material, but it’s true. Is it worth changing yourself for others? If so, to what extent? I have realised that there are things I could never do or a version I could never become, just for the sake of not wanting to be alone. I understood when it’s time to let go, or when it’s time to be brave so that someday, I will never have any regrets. I learned that in the end, people will always judge you on how you conduct your life, so it is pointless to make decisions driven by the anxiety of worrying what others will think about you.
Ten years ago I was also doing it wrong in so many ways. I believed that physical beauty is the only key to guarantee consistent affection, so I concentrated more on that and less on other types of personal development. I certainly don’t think so any more. Granted, looks can attract people, but it certainly won’t keep them around for the right reasons. If that beauty is all you have to offer to make people love you, then you should be really, really concerned.
Age, A Blessing In Disguise
There is always this association to fear when it comes to ageing. There is the fear of losing youth, of having less time to take that Eurotrip we always wanted to do but never did, and of never quite achieving the dreamy milestones we had for ourselves when we first started adulthood.
But the truth is, growing up is a beautiful, beautiful thing. There is a mass difference between the wisdom you know now and what little you knew then. Most of us are much happier in our bodies today than we were ten years ago. We now know what works and what doesn’t (exhibit A: my denim overalls from 2007). We’re not naïve anymore, which allows us to make better choices in friends, decisions and partners. Our self-worth is better, the need to live a fulfilling life based on our terms more important than say, worrying what others think.
And finally, growing up would teach us the most important thing about love – that is wherever we are, whoever we are with at whatever point in our lives, we need to take care of our own selves first instead of relying on others. No one in this world can do a better job at loving us than ourselves.