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!

Life lessons…from an almost 30 year old!

As my (dirty) thirties draws ever so close, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons, experiences and adventures I’ve encountered along my way of almost three decades.

Now, I’m neither old nor wise but I do believe I can share few (29) nuggets of wisdom…warning – some are cliched, it sounds pessimistic at times but please bear with me. I am by no means a master of all these – I am very much an early work in progress. But these are the things I am taking into the start of my thirties!

1. It’s ok to ask for help
When you need it, and especially when you think you have it all covered. You don’t. I’m a typical Type A personality – one who has very high (almost impossible) expectations of herself and did not believe in failure and definitely did not believe in asking for help (it was equivalent to failure in my world)… Boy, was I wrong! When everything around you is crumbling and all the balls you’re juggling drop (at around about the same time), just suck up your pride and ego and ask for freaking help. Those you love and support you will ALWAYS be there (for more on this see below).

2. Failure is inevitable. In every area of life.
And it’s ok. It is not the end of the world. It sounds more depressing than it is. We all make bad decisions and mistakes. Sometimes other peoples failures affect you or you are blamed and that happens. Its shitty, no doubt about it and you will want to strangle people to open their eyes to the truth but it happens. Its ok to mope around for a while and “grieve” but definitely not for TOO long. I’ve been down the road of moping around for days and all that did was made me feel worse…I know its the worst thing in the world to hear someone tell you to “suck it up, and move on”. But there will be that little voice in your head that eventually picks you up.

3. In tough times (literally and figuratively), you learn who has your back and who doesn’t.
I’ve had a few “rough” patches in my life (rough being an understatement). They all occurred at different stages in my life, and for different reasons. The common thread? My family who bent over backwards for me. My best friends who checked in constantly. When I needed to cry and they didn’t know what to do or say, they sat down and cried with me. The phone calls, messages, brunches and hikes with amazing people having deep meaningful conversations…. Thats love and support and care. its rare. I know these are the people who will drop anything for me, and I for them. THEY are your family – in my case I am lucky to share DNA with some of them…others are amazing friends who mean the world to me and I could not live without. They are also the people to call you out on your shit. Not fun, in the moment but you will thank them. These are the people that are always honest with you – even when it hurts because they love and support you too much to have you being fooled by a lie. These people are my rocks. And I thanked each and every one right before I posted this.

I used to think I had a lot of friends – yeah, I was wrong. Most people are honestly just “window dressing” – with you cos you’re the flavour of the month and well, they use you in a manner of speaking. I know, lately I’ve asked for help (go me!) and they, well, ignored me. See, I’m a “giver” and I’ve met far too many people who “take advantage of that”.

4. Work is a big part of life. If work is killing you, leave.
There’s a saying that goes something like “if you do something you love, you will never have to work a day in your life”. My first foray into the working world came late in my life. It was fun, exciting and new – very different to my studies. And then, it became boring. The “same shit, different day” saying applied to my life in more ways than one. You could say it ate away at my core being – I was doubting myself, made to feel incompetent, being blamed, unhealthy, not sleeping and became depressed to the point of understanding why some people commit suicide.

There will be politics at every job you have. But take away the politics… you like what you do? Is it what you want?

There is no money in the world that will make you feel like you are contributing to the world, make you be able to sleep peacefully at night. For me, I need to help people and make a valuable contribution to the world — diagnostics and research is my niche. Find yours.

5. There is no person, no material item, no amount of money that has the ability to impact YOUR happiness…only YOU do that.
I’m still learning this one. I’m pretty sensitive and take everything personally. Yet as I grow older I learn to like myself more and stick up for myself more. Its damn hard, but you learn a little bit every day. Money can never buy real happiness, love or relationships. Yes it can buy things that give fleeting happiness – but not the real wake-up-with-a-smile-on-your-face happy.

6. Sometimes people suck and your faith in humanity is tested. They lie, disappoint you, crush your soul, blame you, try to make you look like the bad guy. 
In these times, go to your proverbial rocks. As Dr Seuss once wrote “Those you matter don’t mind, and those you mind don’t matter.”


7. If you like cheesy pop music, own it.
Theres a good chance the majority of the world does too (even though you are mocked for it) – how else would those songs/bands/artists make so much money?

8. Have no regrets.
Sometimes this is not in your control.There is a popular saying “When one door closes, get a hammer and nail it shut.” I don’t really believe that. Try with all of you to resurrect/save something. If all else fails, and you know you have tried everything – then you will have no regrets. Life is neither black nor white; there is an array in shades of grey. Explore the shades of grey before you shut the door for good.

9. Exercise
Its good for you. I hate it – I dread going to my classes. But I know it gets the endorphins going…and makes me feel good about myself – I definitely have less anxiety after a tough class (and I can get to let out my frustration without hurting people, which is always a good thing!).

10. People you love will die, or leave. 
I have been privileged to spend the majority of my life to date with three of my four grandparents. The first “close” death i experienced was at 16, with my maternal grandfather. My uncle then passed away unexpectedly, when i was 27, and my paternal gran six months later. Don’t waste time – tell your loved ones you love them. Don’t sit on your phone while having a conversation with anyone, be present and in the moment with them. Make time for them. A phone call, a visit.

11. Vote
Yes, even the most cynical’s person vote counts. In some countries women are not ALLOWED to vote.

12. Travel with loved ones and alone and maybe live in a country for a while
Far and wide, within your own country, down the street. It broadens your horizon.

13. Live alone
It made me independent and self-sufficient. It makes you grow up pretty damn fast!! Even though I do still have my rants on the phone to my mom!

14. Be grateful – take nothing for granted
It can disappear in a heartbeat.

15. Take care of your health
Physical, mental, emotional health. They are all equally important. When one takes a dive, the other two are sure to follow. Look after yourself: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, take time for yourself to relax. Sometimes all you need is a victory to lift your spirits… for me that was conquering Lion’s Head – at a time when I felt lost, disheartened and was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

16. Over-thinking is a bitch
I overthink everything. And it never works out. I go through a hundred different scenarios in my brain – a waste of brain power and cause of worry and stress.

17. Be a kid again
My nephew shows me a whole new world – his stories, imagination and antics never fail to bring a smile to my face. Have fun. Don get so caught up in life and work that you forget to live a little.

18. You don’t always get what you want
And you have to live with it. Maybe in the long run you’ll get something better. Maybe you won’t. That life. Unfair.

19. Go to therapy of some kind
We all need an objective view about something or the other in our lives. Especially with HUGE decisions. It can only help you – even if it just gives you a new perspective.

20. Have an open mind
You’ll learn more and view things from someone else’s shoes. It is make you a more polished person. And who knows, maybe introduce you to something you did not know you were passionate about.

21. Yet never take anything at face value… Have an opinion and thoughts of your own
Be curious. Ask questions. Google it. When you have all the information you can or want, then you can make an informed decision.

22. Never stop learning and read often
Whatever, whenever. Don’t be a close minded fool. Be open to new perspectives and ideas.

23. Be a nice person

24. Say no
Don’t think you have to please everyone all the time. Say no. As a people pleaser, I’m downright rubbish at this!

25. Live in the present
Put down the technological device. Try to have conversation with someone without being distracted by a text/tweet/facebook post.

26. Save money
You never know when there will be a rainy day.

27. Find something – a phrase, breathing exercise, meditation – that can calm you down when life gets shitty
You’ll need it. Find something you can do anywhere, anytime.

28. Smile 

29. Make time to dance everyday. Even if just for one song. 
In your room/house/work, while driving (I’ve mastered that skill!)/cleaning.