When I grow up I want to….

I have to admit that I was quite distressed by the idea of turning 30. I hadn’t “achieved” any of the things a lady of the ripe old age of 30 was “supposed” to have achieved. Not married. No children. Not bought a house. In a slightly precarious job. Oh dear… A combination of biological and social programming tends to lead the majority of us women to believe (even against our own intelligence and, one could say, better judgement) that we should have done certain things by the time we’re 30. As the big day approached the sense of failure and impending doom (I was about to be over the hill, past it, left on the shelf, etc. etc.) increased to the point where the whole business became so scary that there was only one thing for it. I decided to sweep the problem under the carpet and pretend it didn’t exist. Ignore it altogether. But how? What could I do that would take up sufficient mental, emotional and physical energy to overshadow the terrible old age and decrepitude that were about to come over me?

I decided to do something I’d always dreamt of. To go to a place that had held my fascination since a school geography project some 17 years previously. BORNEO. To cut a long story short, it worked. I spent three months (the trip got extended in the planning – one of the perks of the slightly precarious job) challenging myself physically (summiting a 4000m mountain at dawn on my birthday) and emotionally (doing voluntary work in a school for refugee kids and in a community theatre project for recovering drug addicts, some of whom were living with HIV), discovering  mouthwatering new foods, meeting new friends, swimming with sharks (small ones, but sharks, nonetheless!), guiding newly hatched baby leatherback turtles into the sea, sleeping in a hammock in the rainforest, gawking at the weird and wonderful wildlife (proboscis monkeys, orang utans, hornbills of various types, snakes, frogs, fireflies), drinking as much delicious iced mango juice as my stomach could take and spending hours just sitting and looking at the beautiful turquoise water on the most exotic islands I could have ever imagined. In short, having such an incredible adventure that I couldn’t have cared less which decade I was entering.

Some five years later here I sit. I turned 35 three weeks ago, on holiday on another exceedingly beautiful island: Sardinia. As I sat looking at different, but no less beautiful turquoise water and sipping not mango juice, but a no less delicious cappuccino, I couldn’t help but wonder a) how five years had flown past so quickly and b) whether I’d really achieved much since my age-related panic. At face value the answer was a resounding “no”. Still not married. Still no children. Still not bought a house. Still in a slightly precarious job. But did that really mean that nothing had happened in the past five years? I thought about some of the highs and lows: traveling in Iceland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda and Uzbekistan, a relocation to live in the wonderful, wonderful city of Copenhagen, taking on a not so precarious job, hating it, finding the courage to resign and return to precarity, being in my first (and no doubt last) professional play, running a half marathon (not bad for an anti-runner), losing love, finding love, making new acquaintances and reigniting old friendships. Quite a number of achievements large and small for mind, body and soul. No sense of failure. No impending doom.

As I ordered cappuccino number two – the weather was beautiful and my little spot by the olive tree on the terrace of the cafe was too good to leave – I started to think not just about how lucky I’d been to have so many extraordinary opportunities come my way over the past five years, but also about how many things I’d wanted to do but hadn’t. Not enough time? That’s a hopeless excuse. Not enough skill? Hmmm. More likely not enough courage. How many opportunities had come my way that I hadn’t actually taken? I decided to make a list. I know various people who have a “bucket” list. Things to do before you die. That seemed a little morbid to me, while I am – touch wood, thank whichever deity you choose to believe in and wish on lucky stars galore – in good health and not (quite) past it. So I decided to call mine something else. “To do” list seemed a little mundane for a list that included such an eclectic collection of adventures as trekking in Palestine, starting a jewellery business, watching the northern lights and cuddling a koala. So it’s now affectionately known as the “F*** It” list – as in, if I want to do these things then f*** it, I should just get on with it! Initially I’d intended to list 100 things, large or small, significant or insignificant, that I’d love to do. Turns out it would take rather more than the time it takes to drink a couple of cappuccinos to conjure up 100 things to put on a wish list. So I decided to stop at 50 and keep the process organic. As I continue on my journey new wishes will be added to the list. Some can be achieved more or less immediately, others will take time. They’re listed in no particular order.

As I write, I’m ticking off No.9 of 50: start a blog.

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