thirties

The old man in the alley

The old man in the alley

Growing up and until my early thirties, I just assumed that I would be a mother. It wasn’t something that I felt pressured into, yet something that I somehow thought I had to be. Motherhood is such a natural part of my culture, that it never occured to me to question it. I have friends who’ve struggled with trying to conceive, and I also have friends who chose not to have children. Then a few weeks ago it hit me. Whether or not I have children of my own in the future, I know that they’ve been an integral part of embracing my purpose. No matter how much I’ve tried to walk away from teaching, I somehow find my way back to it - whether it be teaching English or dance.

Maybe I thought that having children meant that I wouldn’t be alone in my old age. I grew up in a culture where the older generation were cared for by their children, or at least younger relatives. I didn’t even know that rest homes existed until we moved to New Zealand. There, I’ve seen once active people go into rest homes and over time lose their joie de vivre, not from old age, but from feeling like they’ve been forgotten.

There’s an old man that lives in the gap between my apartment and a brick wall. It’s below my bedroom window on the first floor, so I hear him every night. Sometimes he sings, sometimes he laughs, sometimes I hear him have arguments with an invisible foe. I see him arguing with himself more these days. He’s in a permanent state of stupor but never has he been rude to me, in fact he holds the gate door open for me, especially when it rains.

Why taking a gap year in my thirties has been the best decision ever

Why taking a gap year in my thirties has been the best decision ever

If like me, you’re single and in your thirties, you’ll probably relate. I go through a cycle where I’m super comfortable about where I’m at in life - I do what I want, I’m going out and having fun and just doing me. Then,
I meet someone who either makes me rethink this whole being single thing, or it reminds exactly why I like being single.

People usually take their gap year after high school, but what happens when you get to your thirties and you feel like you’re on a raft in the middle of the ocean without a paddle? That’s why I decided to take a gap year. Sure, it isn’t the most adulting decision ever, but that space, time and permission to start over and get to know the real me again has been a real game changer. I’ve made some incredible connections and taken up new hobbies that I never thought I would, like rock climbing.

Taking a gap year in my thirties is not like a holiday, that’s the mindset I had to adapt. I knew that if I worked, I could live in Peru for at least a year. I had no plans of spending my days lying on a tropical beach somewhere - my gap year had a purpose, even if that purpose has changed somewhat throughout the months I’ve lived here. This wasn’t about taking a break from my ‘real’ life, everything that happened this year has shaped who I’ve become, as much as the memories I made in New Zealand.

# 21 Find yourself in Singapore

The view from my hotel window at the Orchard Grand Court in Singapore.

The view from my hotel window at the Orchard Grand Court in Singapore.

Every woman has several of these 'I need to find myself moments' in life, I think I've had about three so far. The most recent was when I turned 30, and in the back of my mind is the faint ticking of my biological clock, which was drowned out when I started travelling again. Children are a blessing, but for now, I still have a great yearning to experience different cultures, people and eat delicious food I didn't have to cook.

This time last year I was in Singapore too, and I experienced the Lion City as a lone traveller. Travelling alone has never phased me, as I consider myself a social person, not too reckless but still adventurous. Although, I did vow that if I was to return, it would be great to share it with someone else. So I did, but I will cover our dance camp adventures on another post.

When people talk about 'discovering yourself' or 'getting away from it all', most will think of a scenic beach on a tropical island, bathing in sunshine. Add in minimal clothing, late nights and midday sleep-ins, and if you're lucky, you won't bring home mosquito bites for a souvenir.

A band-aid of invisibility

As I waited for the red light to turn green at the pedestrian crossing, I'm surrounded by a milkshake of ethnicities, so blended it's hard to tell who are the locals, foreign workers and visitors. In the vast sea of people, I realised the pavement was my beach. In this modern Asian metropolis I felt calm in my invisibility, energised by its hustle, and surprised that the unknown excited me because it was filled with potential, instead of fear. They didn't know my story, and I didn't know theirs. This band-aid of invisibility was further helped by the fact, that although I had places to be, all my destinations were temporary. My real life, at this crossing, was at a stand-still.

I felt calm in my invisibility, energised by its hustle, and surprised that the unknown excited me...

Getaways are pattern interrupts, a great term explained to me by a business mentor. He said that people often become trapped in comfort and routine, and a pattern interrupt is a bit like a slap in the face of that routine, and gives you a chance to look at the bigger picture and gather your resources. Singapore speaks to me because they too chose to make the seemingly improbable a reality in just a few generations. It challenges my perception of what it is I am missing out because I have chosen to stay in fear.

Potential is ageless

I have always taken for granted that I don't look my age, and I probably won't appreciate it until I am well into my sixties. Because people didn't know my true age, I felt I had wound back time, and that I didn't feel the same pressure to make life altering choices as I do in my day-to-day living. Potential is ageless. Here I was taken back to my twenties, the age most people thought I was, and it felt like a chance to do it better. Years I spent being self-conscious about my body, my career, and whatever else I was disappointed at. 

Here I was back in my twenties...(sic) Years I spent being self-conscious about my body, my career, and whatever else I was disappointed at.

It takes me about a fortnight to recover from the Singapore hangover. To get back into routine and restart my life in Whakatane. I would watch videos from the camp, and wish I would be transported back. Insomnia creeps in like a ninja. Living with me at this time isn't easy, but eventually it wears off, and I see what the experience for what it is. A place to be excited about my own potential again.

You don't need to be fearless, just be brave enough

Sometimes we get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. Waiting for the perfect time, having enough money or feeling like we are 'good enough' to begin. That's just it, how do we measure these things, when we are only accountable to ourselves in finding that 'perfect' moment. You don't need to be fearless, just be brave enough to make a start. Learn as you go, ask questions, make mistakes. Live, love and travel. And eat good food.

So go forth, and conquer...start with yourself.