With the big 3-0 nearing, I found myself pondering all the ‘to do before 30’ lists. I once read a quote saying that if you haven’t achieved anything before 30, you never will. It always stuck with me, enticing me to do things and to try to become the best version of me as soon as possible. Before 30, anyways.
And you know what? It hasn’t worked. Or at least not in the way I imagined. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. Upon turning 29, I felt the pressure of having to write a book within the next year or give up on it altogether. No book has been written, and my 30th birthday was two weeks ago. I did not write a book before 30. I do write, and I think of myself as a writer, but the actual book I wish to write is not in me right now. And that is okay. The ideas are swirling around inside me, and slowly – very slowly – are evolving into something less like a wild snow storm in which to get lost, and more like the clear and bright day after, when you strap on your ski’s and follow the path down, going faster and faster until you’ve reached the bottom of the valley (from where you’re surrounded by the big mountains of having to turn those ideas into actual writing, but let’s not get into that).
It is strange, the emphasis and pressure we put on this specific number. I’ve actually been looking forward to being 30. Although I still often think that I am the same person I was in my early twenties, most moments spent with people who are in their early twenties make me realize just how much I no longer am one of them (and how good that feels!). Dear 30s, I am so ready for you.
With all the things that are still unexplored and undone – and without having come up with a before 30 list in time to actually cross stuff off before 30 – there’s a lot that I have accomplished by now. I have:
- climbed a mountain. A real one. Permament snow, glaciers, pickaxe, crampons and everything.
- finished my studies. Proud owner of an MA title in Archaeology of the Middle East and Heritage Management right here!
- run a 15 km trail run. Some walking was involved as well as there was a lot of difference in height, so there’s room for improvement in the running department, but still: my time was not too bad. Definitely felt accomplished afterwards!
- overcome some serious insecurity issues. In high school, having to perform in front of an audience would literally make me sick. Who would have thought I would grow to really enjoy it? Turns out, all it takes is just to be sure about yourself and your capibilities. Cliché, cliché: loving yourself really does come easier as you grow older.
- found out a lot about what kind of person I am and what makes me happy.
- landed an awesome job. Numerous awesome jobs, in fact. And then had the balls to quit them when I felt it was time to move on.
- traveled. It’s the best thing! I love that saying about how the world is a book and not travelling is like never reading beyond the first page. Personally I feel that a lot of today’s issues could be solved if everyone traveled, at least just once. Experiencing another culture and seeing the world from a different perspective does wonders for one’s personality.
- been single for years and lived in a number of apartments by myself or with friends. To me, this is quite necessary to get to know yourself and your needs in relation only to yourself. I’m not saying that the only person you should ever take into account is your other half, of course, but it’s so easy to lose yourself in a relationship if you don’t know how to be alone.
- dated. A lot. Which is why I knew things were right when I met the guy I now happily wake up next to every single morning. Figuratively speaking obviously, I do not wake up happy every morning. But seriously, guys: we all know it takes practice to become good at something, and the same is true for love. The act of loving itself is an instinct, and you don’t always get to choose who you fall in love with. But you can learn what kind of love is the good kind. Trust me on this one.
- lived in Syria. Worked there, too. And then I went on to Palestine for a couple of months. Obviously there wasn’t a war going on back when I lived in Syria, and it was the most amazing place. Stone deserts and lush oases, sand storms and blue rivers to swim in, and most of all the kindest and most generous people I have ever met, anywhere.
There’s so much more I could put on this list, so many experiences that helped me grow and become the person I am now, officially in my thirties. I guess that my advise to anyone in their twenties looking for what they should do before 30 is this: just live. Say ‘no’ more often to things that hold you back or bring you down, and most importantly say ‘yes’ more to experiences. Say yes to the new, the uncertain, the bold, and the scary. Say yes often. I promise you will not want to go back.