Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Decades Done

the Bistro girls, circa 2003
Six or seven more to go? It's an interesting thought. I feel like most of the first decade of my life is now a thin collection of blurry film-like memories that slick over the surface of childhood. I remember how much I hated it when I was turning six, and I tried to stay upstairs because if I didn't go down to celebrate then it wouldn't really be my birthday and I would still be five. I also remember how much I disliked everyone saying "ooOOooh!  Double digits!" when I was turning ten. I think I tried to ward off this irritating chorus by making something up about zero not properly being a digit.

at the Patty House, spring 2006

My second decade is a little clearer, though the anguish of being a teenager has faded, thankfully, into something curiously odd. It's as if I'm looking at a tiny goblin through the magnifying glass of time, trying to figure out what she's always so sore about. Teenagers are unbearable, even to teenagers. And now, dear friends, the third decade of my life is also coming to a close. Next Thursday marks the end.

me and my besties, August 2006, before
I left for Scotland.

My 20s are easy to remember at the moment, though I really have to reach back to remember where I was and what I worried about when I was turning 20 years old. It was the end of 2003. I would have been half-way through second year of undergrad, living with my roomie, Rachel, in a small but clean basement apartment. I took a course on existential philosophy and realized the world was an empty box that I could fill up with meaning as I chose to.  My 20s were wild and adventurous. I'm a seeker of experiences, and so I experienced. I partied, I learned; I moved to Europe, I came home; I did an MA, I fell in love, I moved to Europe again. Then I came home again, moved again, and finished out the decade in Toronto with my partner and my cat.

me and Ambie, just after I moved to Montreal, 2007
Some friends who have turned 30 this year seem to lament the passing of their 20s, and even feel a little nostalgic for "their youth." Seemingly in contrast, though I'm sure that my friends are really quite happy with who they are and how their lives are going, I'm happy to say goodbye to my 20s. It was a really good decade, but also full of crap. Just think of all the crap I waded through in my 20s: crap boyfriends, crap jobs, crap internships (unpaid!), crap wine (silly, ignorant me), crap apartments, crap decisions (see: boyfriends, jobs, apartments, wine.); it's crap all around. Of course, all this crap was tremendously useful to me in figuring out what is not crap. Sometimes it takes mistaking heaps and heaps of crap for not-crap to realize what the tell-tale signs of not-crap really are. That's what one's 20s are for. I definitely used mine wisely.

Katie and Amy and me (and Chris)
New Year's eve, 2007

Now, with a firm handle on how to discern not-crap people and things, I have a life full of Good Stuff: great partner, great friends, great apartment, great job, great plans for the future. That said, now is not the time to become lackadaisical. There are things to do in the coming fourth decade of my life.

I want to get a PhD - round out my academic portfolio with yet another degree, and use it to push my career forward. In academia or in governmental work, this will be useful to me. Even if it wasn't, it would still be worthwhile, because learning and undertaking an intense project like a dissertation are valuable. I'm also excited to take a break from 9-5 for a while - even with rewarding work, the routine can feel like drudgery.

Grad Students on Strike! McGill, 2008

I want to make a decision about getting my black belt. I suppose that I've been thinking about doing this for a while now, but in my 30's I'm challenging myself to make a decision about it. I will either decide that I really am driven to finish my training and get my belt, or I'll decide that it's actually not that important to me and I'll set the idea aside in a more serious way. I'm always dithering about getting it, and I dislike that. I will decide to be satisfied with a brown belt, or I will get the black.

I want to move somewhere new. I hope that Drew is on-board with this one, and I know that circumstance will have a lot to do with it, but I'd love for us to move to a new city. Nothing against Toronto, but I like discovering new cities, and though I've only been in Toronto for three years (and four months), I already feel the pull of a new place. Perhaps a smaller place. Maybe Halifax, or Fredericton, or Winnipeg, or Saskatoon. Maybe Thunder Bay, maybe Ottawa. Just some-place new, small, easy to exit and enter, with really serious winters and affordable rental properties that have little yards where I could plant a vegetable garden and maybe have backyard-chickens. Where Drew can be a physiotherapist and I can do academic and/or policy work. Some-place like that.

en route to a Dream Party,
with Lisa and Elaine, dressed
as David Bowie, 2008
I want to become an Eccentric Aunt. I do realize that this one isn't totally within my control, as it's highly dependent on my sister and my friends having children. However, as it's likely that all of them will have children in the next decade (because I think all of them have stated that children are a goal of theirs), I'm not overly worried about obtaining children whom I will Aunt. My role in fulfilling this objective is to become the zaniest, weirdest, out-going-est Aunt who is always wearing amazing and unusual outfits and brings strange gifts from other countries that the kids can keep in drawers and never quite know what to do with, and have really fun and adventurous sleep-overs. Imagination mandatory.

my 25th birthday (and
perfectly decorated cake)
I want to travel lots more. This is an essential part of fulfilling Eccentric-Aunt-related goals, but is also a passion of mine, so I think it might happen even it if wasn't explicitly on my fourth-decade list. That said, there's no better way to ensure that something happens than to list it outright, so here it is. Some of my top places that I want to travel to (and with Drew, I hope) are Japan (specifically Shikoku, with Haruka), Hong Kong (with Melissa), New Zealand, Reykjavik, Scotland (specifically to drive the coast to the Highlands with Drew), Kenya (with Lisa), and Berlin. I'm so excited to start ticking these off! I also really want to take another trip with my sister, this time without a whole brigade of people with us.

I want to take more time for snuggles. I'm the type of person who will use all the time available to do things that require doing and which I don't want to do before doing something that I do want to do. I will put the laundry away or do dishes before I sit down to read my book for a few minutes, even though I could easily do these tasks some other time. Sometimes when Drew pulls me onto
walking a vineyard in
Beaujolais with Amanda and
Marianne, 2009
the couch my mind automatically flies through the list of the next few tasks I need to get done, until I quiet it by remembering that these moments are made of gold, and can't be wasted. I need to be reminded that taking five to sit on the couch is not only OK, but EXCELLENT. It seems like it's ever easier to forget to take a few minutes' break before leaping into some kind of action. I will remember to do this, and I won't lose sight of the importance of these small moments and gestures.

I want to wear Fun Things every day. It's too easy to be boring and lazy when it comes to getting dressed. I have deep respect for comfy jeans and a t-shirt, and I know many days on which this is the perfect outfit. I also know that getting dressed for work sucks, and that a professional dress code is death to creativity. I have a wardrobe full of really interesting clothes, and this decade, they're going to earn their keep. Shoes, this is your warning. Be ready.

Drew and me at the Paulaner brewery,
Starkbierfest, Munich, winter 2010

I want to love deeply, be grateful, and stay open-minded. Age and stress and responsibility can really take all the magic out of life, amirite? I'm staging a resistance. I've been staging it all my life, but I'm redoubling my efforts now. The main requirement for loving deeply, being grateful, and staying open is the same: letting myself and my ideas be vulnerable. I have to trust that I won't get hurt, but foster resilience in case I do. Resentment, disillusionment, cynicism, and discontentment are all sorts of markers of adulthood or maturity that we put up, as if you're not really a grown-up until you can look at the world with jaded eyes and say "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." I reject that. It's a crap attitude, and I'm leaving crap in my 20s. Hope, optimism, and trust are as delicate as snowflakes; all it takes to crush them is a negative thought or a careless word. I will work to cultivate positivity in myself and around me, and use it to love people, work for a better world, appreciate the universe around me, and never close myself off to wonderment and joy.

Get ready 30's, here I come.

Me and Drew, snowshoeing in Algonquin,
winter 2013

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