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.
I posed a simple question to a bunch of people (and by bunch, I mean that I spread it out to be as diverse as possible culturally/socially), in the name of research.
“What is something from your Twenties that you wish you had done differently/better?”
Surprisingly, across different cultures and current social backgrounds, everyone seem to have a thematically similar answer.
NOT surprisingly, men (about 15 of them) had a thematically similar answer – they wish they had dated more in their twenties.
(Insert side-eye smiley)
As a summary, here is a list of top choices of what everyone should at least strive to do before they turn 30, based on summarized answers from the survey and personal experiences.
NOTE: Answers have been filtered to make them less specific/vulgar
1. Befriend someone completely different than you
Or date someone completely different than you. Whichever floats your boat, really. Chances are most of us live in this comfortable cocoon, where everyone has the same background, the same beliefs, the same culture and the same perspectives. The bad news is, this has a tendency to turn us into narrow-minded folks, makes us less empathetic towards others and frankly, is why we have so many hate crimes around the world.
Getting to know someone different from us will open our eyes to so much more than we have ever known, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, show us different and better ways to live our lives.
This seems like generic common advice, but you’ll be surprised how so many of us have not even ventured out even beyond our own hometowns. For a lot of people, traveling is a great driver for personal development. Looking at other places and people in different parts of the world will either make us grateful for the things we have, or motivated to want to do more. Traveling adds to wisdom, open-ness and also intellect.
That is also probably a reason why well-traveled men are so, so very sexy. #justsaying
3. Start taking care of your health
Someone from the survey said that he wished he had taken better care of his life during his younger days.
Chances are not many of us would be bothered to be mindful of looking after our wellbeing when we’re younger (exhibit A: I used to have boiled hotdogs for dinner almost every night of the week). By mid-thirties it would all start to surface – too much sugar, drinks, fast food and processed meats will now translate to badly-ageing skin, expanding waistlines, and deteriorating bodily functions. So take heed while you can.
4. Be in love, at least once
I’ll make this one short; you will never learn as much about yourself and your life more than you would through loving others, and all the processes of it, be it the infatuation, the connection to another person, and even getting your heart broken. All amazing, important lessons.
5. Try something physically extreme
The ‘twenties’ is called the ‘prime years’ for a reason! Maximize your youthful exuberance and the best years of your physical shape by trying out something physically demanding. Perhaps go for extreme hiking. Or maybe a few days’ worth of jungle trekking. And how about a diving expedition? Before the joint pains, knee aches and the plummet of physical strength begins, best enjoy the opportunity to try these things.
6. Achieve a dream
No, it doesn’t have to be as extravagant as traveling the world or as ambitious as becoming a millionaire. It could be any dream, even as simple as learning how to cook, going for piano lessons or finally going to see your favorite band play. Don’t put them off, because the older you get the more commitments you’ll have, therefore reducing your chances of ever getting around to achieve your dreams, whatever that may be.
7. Have a journal
Someday, you will wonder where the years had gone by when you were young and wild and free. So for those days, keep a journal to remind your older self later that in fact, you did have an eventful life with memorable milestones. If you can’t be disciplined enough to keep a daily journal, then have a weekly/monthly one, or if even that is not possible, keep your social calendars as a memento.
8. Learn to handle stress
Newsflash: The challenges get harder. Life is almost like a video game, designed to keep improving your life skills and quality of self. It is never too early to figure out what works best for you in terms of handling hard times. This is not as easy as it seems as people react differently to different things. It could be yoga, praying, binge-watching the Kardashians, a shrink, owning a pet monkey – your future self will thank you for establishing it early.
9. Be alone
And I can’t stress this enough. Through the people that are constantly in our lives and the responsibilities we have to take – mother, daughter, friend, spouse, Insta-celeb – it is easy to lose ourselves in height of these things. Being alone, whether for a period of time, a phase or even just a little while, allows for a space to re-center ourselves, immerse in our own thoughts, and re-calibrate. Don’t be thinking about other places you could be or other people you could be with.
If you can’t make yourself happy and feel enough on your own, no one can.
10. Do something for someone else
The twenties is a selfish period of time. Between trying to find ourselves, adjusting into adulthood and wanting to have lots of fun, contributing to others often ends up in the backburner. It is mostly about me-me-me and less about doing things for the sake of helping others with no personal gains. But devoting time for the benefit of others, either through charity, volunteer work or even helping someone with their life will help set us in the right headspace of becoming a citizen with value.
There is no point living if all you’re doing is exist, work and die.
I’m 29 years old. I know. I’m just as surprised as you are. This time around, I didn’t check around for wrinkles. They aren’t there and they wouldn’t be there for a while, so why worry? This morning I was largely excited about the prospect of spending it with people that mean a lot to me in my life, but also worried that I may be expected to have more answers about more things from now onwards. And I don’t. (Exhibit A: I had no idea what happened to Turkey last weekend, until someone told me on Monday night.)
The past year had been a major milestone in terms of learning things about life the hard way. Most of the things centred on ‘love’, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Taking care of my father before, during and after his triple bypass surgery. Watching and caring for my grandfather’s deteriorating health until his passing a week ago. Family members who grew into very different people than you, but understanding that it does not mean you should love them any less. The idea of loving a boy means very differently than what it did 2 years ago. And finally, loving and accepting yourself and staying true to who you are with minimal concerns about other people’s ‘perspective’ – it’s a rough climb but once you get there, it is extremely liberating.
Here are some highlights from my 28th year.
Honestly, I love turning 29! I have learned that age gives me an upper hand in making smarter life decisions and highly improves my dressing skills (have you seen my hideous getups in my early twenties? Yuck.). I am at a place in my life where I am very happy to be where I am at this moment and am surrounded by the most wonderful people – there is such goodness to be within such a positive energy. Life challenges are inevitable, and all of us will face some in our personal ways. But what is the meaning of life if it is all just fun and dandy?
Here goes my last year of being in the twenties! Better tie up my shoelaces, I have a feeling it will be a good one.
Well, here it is. I am officially 28. That’s 6 years after I’ve started writing in here. 7 years after a wonderful graduation dinner with my family. 10 years after I left my high school, wide-eyed and innocent. 11 years after a first boyfriend. 16 years after my Dad last took me to the park. 4 days before my Dad goes for a bypass surgery. How time flies.
I found myself checking for wrinkles in my bedroom mirror the first thing I turned 28. I took a really good look at myself. Not in a vain, ‘checking myself out’ kind of way. Rather, I took a good look at my own physical self to examine how/if I have changed at all. I didn’t think I looked any different. But I certainly looked… in a weird attempt to describe it, hardened. I looked hardened.
It is easy to say we’re still clueless about the world even in our late twenties. Some of us have children and can’t believe how that happened. Some of us are finally working a job we love, to our own strange surprise. Some of us are still wandering around finding a place in this world. But no matter how much we claim we don’t know much about life, or no matter how much we say we have no clue how to be our age, the truth is, we have grown so much from that little person we used to be not long ago. Consciously or subconsciously, some parts of us are now becoming an adult, whether we’d like to admit it or not.
Today, on my first day of being 28, here are the things that I am acutely aware of;
1. I get really sleepy after 11 pm, and strangely enough, I’m not complaining about it either.
2. I still don’t really know how loans work.
3. What the hell happened in Palestine historically? I know I made a promise to read it up 2 years ago, but…
4. I look at high school kids and immediately mutter to myself, “Kids.”
5. I don’t really care much to please a lot of people anymore.
6. Men? No clue whatsoever. Same like 5 years ago.
7. Small matters seem to bother me a lot less these days.
8. Fast food is disgusting. I don’t eat them anymore.
9. My parents are getting older.
10. Brad Pitt is NOT how he used to look.
All that aside, there are certainly many other upsides that I have discovered upon being a year older. The late twenties is a wonderful place to be in life. You get the luxury of youth without being too naïve. You get the advantage of having so many possible prospects of how your life could be, with a similar amount of economical and emotional stability. You know your body really well by now. You know what works and what doesn’t. You know what you can and cannot tolerate. You know enough about life to stay cynical with a healthy dose of innocence somewhere in there. Your rational radar is much better than when you were a teenager. You understand more about what you want out of relationships. Most of all, you would by now have figured out, at least for a little bit, that growing older is beautiful blessing. Especially if you are learning so much from it, cushioned from the fall by the people you love. After all, what is life but a wonderful big learning adventure?
Here's to a wonderful 28th year! (hopefully)
There are mainly three reasons to look forward to when it comes to birthdays;
1. The people you hardly know on Facebook wishing you a happy birthday. (And just so we’re clear, saying ‘hb’ is just as annoying as answering ‘k’ in a text message)
2. The birthday cards. Ahh I love handwritten notes and wishes!
3. Mom reminding you that you did nothing on the day you were born and she did all of the hard work. Which is well, true.
But most of all, the best thing about birthdays is that it reminds you how it feels to be remembered. Man I love that feeling. It’s the best when it comes from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes you go through life in fast motion, that you forget to check who’s around and who isn’t.
Every year a birthday is a good pit stop to check who is still in your life and who is not. You would be surprised to see people who were in the party last year not in this year’s party, and frankly, in your life anymore in general. I suppose this is normal – throughout your life you will change many friends, depending on the circumstances, positions in life, location.
This year my birthday was pretty mellow, but in a good way. I spent my birthday night having dinner with people I like, a birthday cake and some really good laughs. On my actual birthday I got phonecalls from my family, which literally made my day, and for the rest of it I spent doing only the things I wanted for a change – shopped around IKEA, tried on shoes that I couldn’t possibly afford, cooked dinner with some friends and watched TV. On Sunday my roommates took me out to dinner where pavlovas were involved, and it had enough sugar to make it a giggly occasion.
So how about it? Twenty six. I’m still processing the fact that I am now an officially grown woman, and you’d think I’d know how to navigate my life at least a little bit by now. But hey, last week I found myself struggling to figure out how to pay for a parking ticket, so I guess in a lot of ways, I’ve still got some things to learn, rookie.
Birthdays are great reminders of your life’s milestones. They are checkpoints, if you will. This is especially true when it approaches a significant number, like 25. It has been a quarter of a century since I existed in this world. This year my main priority for my birthday is to remember what it is that has gotten me here.
My old friends.
My new friends.
People. Every point of my life’s milestones involved people. So since this birthday is all about celebrating people in my life, it’s only right that I have a few different ‘get-togethers’ from them all, right? :)
‘Party’ 1 – My office friends and I hung out at RAW, a coffee place near the Twin Towers. We were initially there to celebrate a friend who just got married and another friend who was about to get hitched. It was Wednesday, and two of us had our birthdays approaching, so they bought us each a birthday Tiramisu. Excellent dessert, by the way. I finished it even as I was approaching my barfing point.
‘Party’ 2 – My brother and sister surprised me with cupcakes at midnight! They woke me up and came into the bedroom with the candles lit. My family has never really been big on birthdays (we usually just go out for dinner and call it a day) so this was a really nice gesture. The funny part was there were only four cupcakes in a six-cupcake box, because they were too broke to buy six cupcakes at the mall haha. I love my family!
‘Party’ 3 – It isn’t really a birthday unless there is an occasion with my high school girlfriends. These are my oldest set of friends, and we lived together for five years in a boarding school so you can imagine the kind of things (and horrible!) secrets we know about each other. This time it was just the two of them who could turn up, but it was nice anyway. They bought me two books, one of them being “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”. See? Told you they know me well.
‘Party’ 4 – My friends I found when I moved to the city. We had a nice dinner at Ben’s, with the usual dumb jokes and hilarity that I always get from this group. They all chipped in and bought me a really nice pearl-colored purse clutch. I doubt that the guys really participated in the purchase anyway (thank God, otherwise I might’ve gotten a really ugly handbag. Or a car polish.). One of the guys even pointed out that he didn’t even know what a clutch was.
And the birthday cards and well-wishes from everyone else just absolutely made my day. It only goes to show that a bit of kind thought from you can bring so much positivity to someone else, so we should all strive to appreciate the people around us and LET THEM KNOW THAT.
So here’s to remembering and appreciating people who exist in our lives!
A week after my birthday. Yep, I thought my birthday excitement had died just as fast as the Bieber Fever. But I was wrong.
In the morning I ate some suspicious-tasting breakfast. Well, it's damn suspicious alright. I got hit with the food poisoning effects right after lunch - stomach ache, spinning headache and I threw up a few times. My friends asked me to get together for some karaoke jamming session that night but honey, me and pukes and loud awful voices just don't go together. So I declined.
Well it turns out (surprise surprise!) that they had a birthday party surprise for me! So there were people and cupcakes and no birthday girl (she was busy sitting by the toilet bowl). But that didn't stop them, no sir.
They brought the party to my house!!!
Sure I was green and looked like Coutney Love on a bad drunken day (which is everyday for her, really), and I think I smelled like porridge. But good friends and cupcakes? Ultimate remedy.
They even brought me two accessory necklaces (thank God they were super nice and tasteful. Otherwise it'll be like that time I had to wear a fugly shirt with prints that looked like cat poop because I had it as a present).
Thank you guys! I know that it's inevitable that one day we might go our seperate ways and won't see each other as much. But this is definitely one of the things I'll remember for a loooong time.
Well at least until I'm seventy. Who knows if I'll even still remember my name by then.
I hit 24 last Wednesday. I don't feel any different. I felt exactly how I felt when I turned 23 last year. Except maybe last year I was riding cabs, now I've got a car. Last year I was using someone else's handphone, but now I've got a sweet iPhone (that thankfully doesn't need me to shout everytime I'm on the phone with anyone, as if they're at the other end of the football field). Last year I thought Megan Fox's assets are real, but now I know better! I suppose birthdays are times for you to celebrate milestones, as opposed to huge-ass drastic changes. Even if they're small milestones.
When you're single and you live in a big city people tend to worry about you. Will you be celebrating birthdays in your own room, in the dark, with one cupcake lit up with a candle? Will you be buying yourself flowers? (noo!! don't ever do that! I know feminism states that you should, but honestly I think it's a little too sad) But luckily I am one with a lot of great, great friends. So on my birthday, besides the endless thoughtful birthday wishes, I also got TWO DIFFERENT SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTIES! How awesome is that??
PARTY 1 - Organized by my roommates. Good old Nando's, eating chicken primitive-style (I thought the boys were primal enough, until I saw my pregnant girlfriend wolfing down a half-chicken like she was the Werewolf of Fever Swamp). A big fat chocolate cake as dessert by Dessert Bar, who could ever complain?
PARTY 2 - Organised by girlfriends from high school. At a French restaurant, Marche. Cupcakes by Wondermilk. We ate Rosti and Pizza and Crepes and Pasta and sausages, which later became a huge glob of cheese-covered things. Birthday dinner with people you've known for 11 years - how could it ever go wrong?
When you're younger birthdays are always about an excuse to party and bringing the house down, where the more is always the merrier. Now it's... well I'd be lying if I say it's not about the partying. But it's also about spending the day celebrating life with family, friends and people who matter, whom your life will never be the same without.
July 20. It's the Sultan's Birthday. And mine! I didn't start off my day very well. I found out I was to go on a vessel for work, for 3 bloody weeks starting the 23rd July. I keep picturing myself getting off the boat after 3 weeks with a long unshaved beard and hairy chest (like how Tom Hanks looked like in 'Cast Away'. But I like that part where he got skinny, though). Plus I had an argument with a best friend so starting off a birthday with a sour face is not exactly great.
But at lunch break my friends threw me a surprise birthday party at Pizza Hut. Okay fine. Let's just cut the crap shall we? It wasn't really a 'surprise'. I mean, if your friends seem to eat lunch everyday at the foodcourt and today, they all seem to want to Pizza Hut, you've gotta be a bit of a Paris Hilton to not figure that out already right? But I was still touched. They were almost all there, the familiar faces, the ones I've always had fun with. And there was of course pizza and pasta and a birthday marshmallow cheesecake and gifts and cards. My housemate bought me Nine West purse and handbag. I loved them! And my best girlfriend bought me a book about Manhattan girls, which was because Manhattan was always part of our dream place to visit before we grow up and have kids and husbands. Balloons and cards too, I loved them all!
Birthdays are great. Besides the fact that you're one step closer to reading that botox brochure, it's also like God's permission for you to officially start over. And you have birthday parties like these where you have really great friends and great food. Really, what more could a girl ask for?