13 Going on 31: Time to Wake Up
Evaluating the first year of my 30s, did I pass or did I fail?
One year after writing this piece, a lot more has happened than I bargained for. In this short reflection, I think about the lessons I learned from my personal life and apply them to my professional career.
After complaining about being 30 and single, life gave me two back to back failed relationships. I did not get any breaks at all in between them. The first breakup made a small crack in my heart. It was a mere prelude to the second one where my heart exploded. The twin experiences I had made me finally realise what I want, what I need, what I can live with and what I can settle for.
It has honestly been one of the most challenging periods of my life. I had to apologise and get real with my colleagues when I felt like I could not perform my best. While 2020 gave me the anxiety of job insecurity, 2021–2022 gave me an existential crisis which made me question who I am as a woman due to my inability to keep a relationship. The psychological safety of being securely employed in Denmark is more important as an independent person. So on paper, 2020 should have been more difficult for me. But 2021–2022 actually hurt me more.
Through the pain, I began reflecting on all my past relationships. I realised that I lose myself because I try to change myself into a person who I think my partner would love, rather than the person who I would love myself to be. It’s a lesson I learned too late because the damage had already been done. There are parts of my soul that are already gone.
The Japanese concept of kintsugi takes broken things and repairs them with gold. I meditate daily and imagine myself healing and rebuilding those missing parts of me with gold so that it can never be destroyed again. Eventually, my entire self will be made of gold.
Fear or love?
Another important lesson I learned in the past year is that our relationships are mirrors of ourselves. In the loss of my last relationship due to somebody losing feelings, I realised that I believed in something else entirely. True love isn’t just a feeling. It is a choice and it takes effort. Just because feelings are fleeting, doesn’t mean you should give up on someone.
It reminded me of my lost passion for design. How I let my love for it die. I didn’t nurture it. And that if you put in the work, you can bring the spark back, but only if you want to. I won’t let the spark die like my previous relationship. It doesn’t matter if I am motivated or not, I simply have to do one small action per day.
Seeing the musical Tick Tick Boom on Netflix reminded me when I was 19 graduating college and I was deciding what to do with my life. I saw the university theatre group performing this play with a good friend of mine. She told me that the protagonist, Jonathan Larson, who was about to give up on his musical writing career because he felt like he was getting too old at 30. In the end, he chose to continue on despite the musical he worked on for 8 years not being produced.
My friend said the story made her think of me. After college, I became a designer instead of a developer despite the lower salary. My authentic self chose love over fear. This is the self I have lost in the past few years, as the pandemic has made all my choices about fear and leading me to low self-esteem and toxic relationships.
The universe always listens
I made a vow to work on my career and personal goals again instead of being too focused on finding a new relationship right away. A few days later, I started getting recruiter messages for my dream jobs. I didn’t get them but I took it as a sign from the universe that things will eventually make sense in the end. I also feel like there is more to do in my current job. Another week later, we won a project that I helped with the proposal on a mere 2 days after the breakup.
The universe was rewarding me for my efforts in trying to move on. This uncomfortable situation was a wake up call that I did not prioritise myself. Last year, I failed to work on a personal project related to Danish design that I committed to doing. This year I will finally put in the effort and let success happen naturally.
I have rediscovered my inner artist and have begun drawing and painting again which I continue to pursue as a complement to my creative work. Friends and strangers have told me that my art made them feel things which makes me even more passionate about the hobby. Art is more than just a distraction for the depressed mind, it is a healing spiritual experience.
Becoming the golden woman
Last year, I wrote about the gap between surviving and thriving. I survived the pandemic and now it’s time to thrive. I see a clear demarcation between the girl who I was before the breakup and the woman I am becoming after. I live life without anxiety now as the worst fear I had has already happened. It’s a coming of age story that I am writing through my next actions. I have no choice but to become the best version of myself. There is a certain comfort in knowing that nothing else can possibly hurt me as much as I’ve been hurt.
The truth is that nobody could have saved me except myself. The only relationship I needed to fix was the one I have with myself. Today, I confront my old limiting beliefs from my 20s. There is no reason to stick to them now. There is no purpose in continuing to let negative thoughts linger in my mind. I acknowledge them and let them go to make room for more positive thoughts and creative ideas to go in.
I am an emotional alchemist, transforming suffering into something meaningful. The pain is used to fuel the dream engine that helps me achieve my goals and ambitions. Every box I check is a golden medal, every brush stroke a coin and every goal achieved is a trophy. I melt them and fill up the void in me so that light can reflect off me and shine onto others. That is the mark of the golden woman.