To the end of winter.
Into the fire. Some people get really sad and anxious about turning 30. There is a whole narrative about the ‘death’ of one’s twenties that seems pretty pervasive. When I was 29, friends asked me all the time, how I was handling the impending birthday, as though I should in some way prep for the apocalypse.
But I had a secret trick that helped me. I hated my twenties. Like, generally interesting memories and lovely new people in my life but my struggles with mental health and identity felt never-ending and almost insurmountable at times. I would look around at my friends and peers who were my age and not quite understand why my life didn’t quite seem to match up. And then people would talk about how as women get older, they enjoy their life more and more. And I just thought, “well, I guess that will be me, all my enjoyment will happen exponentially in my life.”
So in January, when I turned 31, with exciting projects and life changes in the pipeline, I expected the euphoria to kick in. This was it, this was the long-promised Glow-Up that my twenties had foreshadowed.
Two steps forward, one step back. For somebody like me, who has had some cultural identity disruption, home is a tricky concept. But there are aspects of my life that I believe conjure similar feelings. One of them is standing in a clearing, with my eyes closed as I listen to the wind in the treetops and. just. breathe. A second is when I get to spend time with my family, and slot securely into a space that is always open and waiting for me, where I am considerate and bossy and young and old and all the things I am with no shock or surprise, only resignation and equal parts delight.
Every family has been through their version of a trial. Difficult times that either sinks them or grows them. For a time, our trials seemed so significant, it was simply about grit, determination and survival. But there was a moment. When I was gently breathing, where I saw the present and a perceived, hopeful future. And I could see us there, content with the journey and with who we all had become. Through the fire, to the other side.
This was 31 now, more comfortable with my self, and as a result, more comfortable with others.
It’s about more than that. When everything seemed to be improving, my state of mind arrested and swirled gently down a spiral. All the things that I had shut the door on in my twenties reappeared. Even though it was brief, it shook me. I thought this was supposed to part of the exponential joy? The sweltering Kenyan heat of March emphasized the frustration of the month. I thought to myself, “You’ve come far, but not so far, then girl.”
OK, here comes the lesson.
The only way through, is through. We take all the things with us, for whatever distance, in whatever time frame, unless we stop to unpack them.
This is the visual I am using.
I pull off to the side of the road on a sunny, dry day. I step out of the car and walk to the back. I unlock the boot and swing it open to the daylight. One by one, I remove the items. Sometimes they are heavy, sometimes they are tiny but as hard as a rock and unbreakable as a diamond. I lift them up to the light and attempt to look at them so intensely and purposefully, that I can see through them. To their core and past. The longer they remain in the light, the easier it becomes, until I try to look at them, and they have shrunk and are now permanently iridescent.
I do this to each of them and hold them to the light.
It is a conscious effort, but 31 year old me holds myself up to the light.