In less than 24 hours, I will have hit my third decade of life. I don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning and be different, feel different – no, not at all. But in a society that puts so much pressure on staying young, by any means necessary, and the stereotype of women lying about their age – it is hard not to, um, FREAK OUT about my age.
I’m one of those people who absolutely loathes her birthday. I’m very uncomfortable being the centre of attention (says she writing the blog for the world wide web….ok, i’m trying to be more comfortable in myself people!). I go into a sort of depressive state around my birthday and I’m really not a fan of the calls… I’ve cried on too many birthdays to count. Yet, this year, is different. Maybe one can put it down to wisdom with age.
Its no secret that I’ve had a rough start to 2015… And through periods of self reflection I’ve been tracing my path over the past ten years.
I was a veritable mess before and on my 20th. I could not stop crying. Up until that point I had not left home (apart from maybe a week where I “tried” to stay close to university, 45 minutes away and epically failed – I still get reminded of this). On the eve of my 20th, perhaps as a sign of what the next decade of my life would look life, we had a break-in at home (my parents home). We were all fast asleep and someone came through a window and helped themselves to our phones, watches and cash. To me, I still find it surreal – I half expect to walk outside and stumble across my cell-phone. I have never felt violated before- somebody came into my room, watched me sleep and helped themselves to my things next to me. Needless to say it freaked me out.
My first year into my twenties brought along a lot of change…I became obsessed about my body and consequently lost a lot of weight very quickly…only to put it all back on (and more) about two years later. I also made the decision to move to Cape Town for further my studies. By the time I was 21, I was living and studying in Cape Town and something that would remain somewhat constant for the next 7 years. Cape Town is where I grew up – prior to that, I was incredibly spoilt (I did not even dish up my own food!) and somewhat sheltered. Living on your own changes all of that, pretty damn fast. I had to become self-sufficient and independent. I had to do things I took for granted – washing, ironing and cooking for example. Having my sister with me did help ease the pain of leaving home (though there were many tears every time I left home for a about a year after I moved). Having successfully integrated into a new life my focus then turned to my career – which I built along the years.
While my early twenties were predominantly about growing up, my later twenties were all about change and curveballs…and trying to be ok with it all. I did have a”quarter-life crisis” which subsequently plunged me into a deep depression…who was I? It is then I had to radically assimilate my dogmatic thoughts from a typical Type A to someone who has the ability to change and accept that I needed help…something I equated to as failure and I was not supposed to fail. I honestly don’t remember much of that time – my brain blocked out the majority of it. My initial visits to therapists were mostly they asking questions and me providing mono-syllabic answers…in between ugly-crying.
Having jumped through that hoop, more change was in store. I spent a semester abroad and while terrifying at first, I quite enjoyed my life in a new country – more exposure to change…from someone who had not take the public bus anywhere before in her home country, to being a regular on the Chapel Hill bus route (they had Wifi on buses!!!). My nephew was born at the end of 2011 and as someone who was not really a fan of kids it was surprising how much I adored this little person!
I thought I was mastering the concept of change in life. How wrong was I?
In 2012 life took on a whole new meaning – my uncle passed away unexpectedly. In the space of four days. It was the second death I experienced in my 27 years. The first was my maternal grandfather when i was 16 – also in the space of four days. To say this was a shock to my system, and that of my extended family, would be an understatement. Like so many other events thereafter, intellectually I knew it was inevitable since he was on life-support the day after admission. Emotionally I blocked it and tried to be strong for my loved ones. It all seemed to work well until I was making cupcakes (my uncles favourite) for the 13 day ceremony and I broke down…over the consistency of my buttercream icing. I don’t think I have fully dealt with his loss – I still expect to see him when I visit, have him ask me genetics based questions, have conversations with me on the phone.
Six months after his sudden death, in 2013, my paternal grandmother passed away. In her nineties, she had had a good innings but it was hard to see her at the end. From someone who was strong and commanding, she became a person who relied on people for even the basic necessities. She only had been gravely ill for the last six weeks of her life. More drawn out and you could she her suffering but I do feel it did allow us to deal with it and almost say goodbye. Intellectually and emotionally we all understood and accepted it – well, that was my perception.
2013 was also the year I made the move from Cape Town to the “Joburg jungle”. I was offered and accepted my first ever job. I was excited and so keen! Adapting to the Joburg lifestyle was quite different – I did not have my support system, as I did in CT, and everything was new…I had to find new supermarkets, petrol stations…things I had down to a fine art in Cape Town. Work was interesting and challenging at first. Tragedy struck professionally when my colleague passed away. I had to take over the majority of the work without proper training. In hindsight I think it was an achievement though I don’t think it is seen, at the company I worked for, in that way. The rest of the year had me form new relationships and enjoy the work setting. At the end of the year we made the trek to our ancestral village in India…needless to say it was one hell of a shock to the system!
The start of 2014 saw me professionally question my current status. Work became boring, frustrating more than challenging. I found myself on numerous occasions do the same thing and expect different results – the definition of insanity. I was quickly slipping into depressed and quite honestly was over it. I longed to be back in the lab, helping people at the most basic level. Things became so bad I resigned with no other job offer. After I handed in my resignation letter I felt a weight start to lift. I also needed to resign to save my relationships with those I was close to there. Professionally, I was offered a position at a lab that I grabbed with open arms… I am still there and happy. My health also took a toll that year. I made rash decisions without thinking it through and considering the consequences of my actions. Something I am only dealing with now.
While the end of 2014 saw me flourish professionally, my personal life and health were rapidly deteriorating. Again more change. i was too proud to seek medical advice once again. The start of 2015 saw me deal with heartbreak (what a bitch!), medical scares and death, once again. All the while my professional life was – well – awesome. More change. I’m still struggling with many of the things that hit me this year but each day is better. The final months of being 29 hit me like a ton of bricks – and taught me invaluable life lessons. These past few months epitomised the two predominant themes in my twenties…growing up and change.
Through it all, the last ten years have taught me many things. I’ve learnt that I am privileged and grateful on so many levels, even if it is the simple fact that I am literate and encouraged to form an opinion. I’ve learnt aging is a privilege denied to many. And I feel selfish and awkward to not embrace my growing older. I welcome the (dirty) thirties…and hopefully there won’t be so much change!