What does it mean to have existed on a planet for thirty rotations around a sun? A sense of temporality set in.
A week ago, as I went for my first morning walk as a thirty-year-old, I felt a sense of relief, a sense of excitement and a sense of fulfillment. After what feels like four years of growing anticipation (weighted by the 2012 Mayan Prophecies, the “4-years go” campaign, and an interrelated growing eco-social conscience), I had arrived. I wrote in my diary:
“My twenties were great – packed with so many different worlds and experiences. Yet I don’t think I’ve been as content in my own skin as I feel in this moment. I’m healthy and happy in mind, body and spirit. I’m working in an area that makes me feel good, with people who are incredibly inspiring, and I have wonderful friends and the most supportive family I could ever hope for.
I also feel a sense of unattachment, of truly accepting the flux of life. Nothing, nothing, is forever.
Fact: in the flash of an eye I will be 60, and then 90, and then I will die.”
The last 30 years have flown by. We each share the experience of a fleeting life: through childhood, teens, twenties, thirties… sixties… nineties… well some of us get to.
Each bracket, a stage in life, a bunch of society-driven expectations attached to it. We can accept these social goals, or we can reject them; we can make them our own and judge ourselves by them, or define new ones and measure ourselves against that…
A pendulum swings: conform — conflict; conflict — conform; conform — conflict. And through these oscillations, through the conflict and conformity multiplied by billions of decisions made by each of us each day, the world changes. The pendulum evolves into different shapes and forms… and the swinging continues.
At times I feel overwhelmed by the smallness of my “self” – one human in a world of 7-billion; a drop of water in the ocean; a speck of sand on the shore; a tiny expression of life in a massive complex system of people, institutions, and life systems, on a planet within a vast emptiness and complex universe of its own.
I am nothing… and yet I am something pretty special.
‘”Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but earth remains forever. The sun rises and he sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises… There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11)
Is life is meaningless and futile? For some, yes it is. Is there a purpose, some value from our toil? Yes, for others this is so.
We create meaning, we narrate a purpose, we act, and the consequences of those actions are the fruits or poisons for the “Self” that lives on.
“We can’t change the way things are, so we may as well enjoy it,” a friend with similar critiques of the world but with a few extra years of cynicism, justifies his decision to pursue pleasure and avoid self-sacrifice. As we “grow up” we seem to lose touch with the child inside us that screams “I want to make the world a better place.”
The institutions and fear-driven concerns swallow us alive. One throws up their hands and says:”What difference can I make?” A voice answers: “Nothing – you can’t change the injustices that cause exploitation of the “third-world” and of our planet.” Another voice answers: “Yes, you can.”
Whether you choose to see it or choose to ignore it: everything is changing. Right now the world is changing. Just as you are changing and so am I. In each moment of each day. Whether you do something or whether you do nothing, in your choice to conflict, or choice (or default) to conform, you are changing the world.
Are you changing it in the way you desire? Or are others controlling your part of the change? That’s hard to say, even for those who think they are pulling their own strings. Our strings are tangled up in each others’. Each person has an affect on the people around them, each species affects the rest of life. We are all changing the world, whether we like it, know it, want to, or not.
“Don’t compare your life to others’, you don’t know what their journey is about.”
At the turn of a new decade of my life, a time where many of my friends from school are married with children – living a very different journey to mine – I find this advice (caught from a random post on Facebook) particularly useful. And a couple of other pieces of advice from a site I randomly came across:
- Friends really do come and go. Some come back. Some don’t. That’s OK.
- Nobody cares about you as much as they care about themselves.
- Animals kill to survive. Humans kill for “fun” (also know as a psychopath) or because they’re ignorant of the consequences of their actions.
- It’s OK to be different.
- You’re not as different as you think.
- Most people won’t agree with you.
- The people who really care will still care whether they agree with you or not.
- You don’t need anybody’s support to make things happen.
- Arguments are pointless. You can’t change anyone, don’t try.
- People will rationalize and justify anything and everything to be “right.” Let them.
- It’s easier to take a small action now instead of a big action “some day.”
- Some day never comes.
- It’s OK if you don’t like something. Just don’t pretend that you do.
- Don’t listen to anybody who tells you “you’re missing out” by not going somewhere or doing something. You’re only missing out if you believe you’re missing out.
- Don’t think of cost. Think of value.
- Stop depending on other people.
- It’s OK to complain sometimes. Don’t make it a habit.
- Do what you love even if you don’t get paid for it.
- Stop texting or checking your phone when you’re with other people. It’s rude and it’s sad.
- Drink more water.
- Memories are priceless. Write them down daily. Even if they seem trivial.
- Show gratitude.
- Make more mistakes.
- Everybody lies. Trust people anyway.
- Define your own rules for success. It’s a lot easier to rule your world than someone else’s world.
As I look back over my twenties I see I achieved the dreams of my teenage years: I fell in love, I modelled, I travelled, and I learned about the world. I also developed skills in myself that back in my teens I didn’t dream were possible: writing (English was my worst subject at school), photography (I was a “mathematical” person, destined for a career in accounting not creativity), Pilates teaching (as a teenager I couldn’t even touch my toes), public speaking (my whole body used to shake, ok maybe sometimes it still does…)
I wonder if my thirties will bring to life the dreams of my twenties, and what things I have not yet dreamed might surprise me along the way.
Learn from the past, plan for the future, live in the present – this moment is the greatest gift we will ever receive, so make the most of it.
 I took my favourites from the 101 lessons written by Karol Gajda reflecting on his 29-years of life: http://www.ridiculouslyextraordinary.com/101-life-lessons/