Tag Archives: life lessons

Making your own goals and 7 other things about being a grown up

Recently I had one of those birthdays that makes you question, “Am I finally a grown up now?” The clichéd answer: Yes and no. Upon reflection, I don’t believe anyone ever wakes up and says, “Ah yes, I finally feel like what I expected a grown up feels like.” What I do believe is that we get better at being people, and understanding how our own and others’ weird, confusing but wonderful minds work.

Here are eight things about being a grown up that I’ve discovered in the last few years:

1) You’ve never been more in tune with your body, yet are somehow detached from it. You notice the effects that big nights and bad food have on you. You workout, scrutinise labels and invest in quality. Yet, when you’ve been a bit lax, any extra bulge is an alien, an impostor. It’s not even part of you. “WTF is that and HOW did it get there?!” You ask yourself in the mirror, pointing and pinching at unwanted bits. When you’re young, you shy away from them. When you grow up, you confront the issue and squat, plank and green smoothie it away.

Image from here

2) You don’t care what others think of you. Yes, we’re human and intrinsically we need to feel valued and loved, but speaking your mind and being bold is only a sign of strength. You know all those super embarrassing things your parents used to say and do? Yep, you now do them, and then some. You hold your own and know that your words and actions can and will make a difference. When you’re young, you chant in a choir. When you grow up, you’re the lead singer.

3) You get sillier. I realised this one a while ago, but worth mentioning again. GROWN UPS ARE SUPER SILLY. When you’re young, you’re blinded by all the grown up stuff like cufflinks and big words. When you grow up, you see through all that. Grown ups are often much sillier than kids, but as long as we’re honest and kind, it’s all good!

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4) You make all your own goals. Because of historical and societal ‘norms’, most of us had an idea of what we imagined our lives to be like at certain milestone ages. Not being at those ideals yet being happy without them means we realise how fast time does go by and how our priorities change over the years. Our precious moments are not to be wasted and our goals are to be OUR OWN, not somebody else’s. When you’re young, you want to be normal. When you grow up, you realise that nobody is.

5) You don’t feel ready to be a parent, but you’re ready. Many of your friends are successfully proving that procreation is both a financially and emotionally viable experience. The prospect, although often terrifying, is now one that you know you’ll be able to handle in the future. However, the logistics of childbirth will never cease to concern you.

Why are human babies’ heads so big?! (Human, left. Kangaroo, right) 

6) Any patience you had left with people continues diminishing at a rapid rate. Maybe this one is me being naive, but I never understood in my early 20s when friends told me that they had to end a friendship. Now I know better. People change, and you just don’t have time for people who don’t make positive contributions to the friendship bank account.

7) Everything is about sex. Not in an overt way, but subtly, in the background, like the hum of an airplane. You might not be in a situation that calls for sexual connotations, but yep, there in the background are all the puns, innuendos, cupcake boobs and penis-shaped zucchinis. And it’s all very hilarious. When you’re young, you quietly giggle. When you grow up, you gain a teenage brother who sits on your shoulder and turns mild situations into impossibly lewd ones.

Zuch-peeny

8) You know that nobody has all the answers, but momentum only comes from just doing things. Sometimes you’ll be right, sometimes you’ll be wrong, but both are better than not being anything. When you’re young, you spend too much time worrying about correct processes and the ‘right way’ to do things. When you grow up, you know that paths to destinations are always different and there is no ‘right way’. You just have to keep on moving.

What’s defined ‘growing up’ for you? 

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Being bold and other lessons from 2012

December is a time to reflect and know that we’ve all grown over the last year. We’ve learnt new skills, we’ve met new people, we’ve seen new places and we’ve come out the other end with a better understanding of that unbelievably fun, odd, sometimes exasperating but wonderful thing called life.

Lessons from 2012

Here are my top lessons from 2012. Some of them are serious, some are light. Take from them what you will:

  • There are no rules. Nothing is black and white, except mathematics.
  • Be wary of anyone who professes to be bored. Either they have limited vocabulary or they are actually boring. Bored is a terrible word. Instead, people should say, “I am feeling lazy and want to be entertained.” That’s fine – it happens!
  • Rarotonga is an actual haven and if you ever need to take time out, go there, snorkel and indulge in sunshine.
  • Floss every day. Dentists just know.
  • There’s always someone out there who’s been through something you may be going through. Lean on them when you need words of wisdom, and be generous in passing the favour on to others when they need you.
  • Don’t continue with anything that you’re not enjoying. Often people try to finish books that they’re not getting into. Just drop it and pick up something that you love. There are way too many great books out there to waste your time struggling through one that isn’t inviting you to turn the page.
  • People are inherently really willing to help out, but they’re also inherently laid-back in doing so. You have to push them, give them something back, and they’ll give you something too.
  • If you have your health, you really do have it all.
  • Keep your passions next to you. Ensure there’s always something that you absolutely love doing/seeing/hearing/eating/spending time with close by, such as art, flowers or puppies.
  • Cutting out sugar does wonders for the body.
  • Immerse yourself in knowledge and networking. You’ll gain so many opportunities, meet interesting people and obtain insights you’d never have thought of.
  • Some choices you’ll make because you will have a gut feeling. You’ll often only work out the logic behind why you made them at a later date.
  • Coconut oil is great for cooking.
  • ‘This too shall pass’ is fact. During tough times, hold onto it.
  • Read a lot.
  • Some of your closest friends come from the most unexpected scenarios. Don’t be afraid to start conversations.
  • Cardio work is great but for true fat loss and muscle tone, weight training is where it’s at.
  • It can be a challenge to live in the present – often we’re preoccupied with the past or we’re contemplating an imagined future. Like anything, it takes practice but focusing on the moment is rewarding.
  • It’s a small world after all. Degrees of separation? Not what it used to be.
  • It’s so, so, so OK to ask for help when you need it, and we need to look out for people who don’t yet know this.
  • Like every relationship, it takes work to keep your relationship with technology and social media healthy.
  • Mistakes and failure are a part of both personal life and career. Fail fast, learn quick, get better and kick ass the second round.
  • Be bold – your desired career path won’t take care of itself. You need to take complete responsibility for it.
  • Look after your biggest organ – your skin: take fish oil, use rose hip oil and wear SPF30 on your face every day.
  • In winter, a good Shiraz. In summer, Rosé and Chardonnay.
  • Things don’t end – they evolve.

It’s cliché to end a post like this with a quote, but this post is really one big cliché, so here goes:

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  – Maria Robinson, author

Happy New Year! On the 31st I’ll be toasting to amazing experiences for us all in 2013 – look forward to seeing you in it!

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What I learnt from the ladies at a nursing home

A few years ago when I was 25, I armed myself with a pen, a notebook and a mind full of questions and visited a nursing home in search of answers from older, wiser women.

At that age I was trying to figure out what to do with myself and I was going through a transition: I wasn’t a girl any more, but I didn’t feel like a grown-up woman, either. The transition left me querying how emotional changes continue throughout a lifetime. When do other people feel grown-up? How do women think and feel at 90? After possibly having children, grandchildren, a career, various defining moments, what is it like to reach that milestone? What occupies their thoughts at that age? Do they still have insecurities? Do they still long for the same things they once did? 

I kept that notebook safe since then, and now I share the experience.

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I’m guided into the rest home by one of the nurses on duty.  She tells me that the first lady who is willing to chat with me is Violet, who’s 92. I enter the sitting room and she is there, tiny and frail, with liver-spotted hands resting calmly on her lap. We commence.

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Violet’s hands are still as she speaks. She doesn’t look at me, but I’m not sure where she’s looking. It seems she’s gazing only a few centimetres away, into the glass panes of her spectacles, but not beyond. As I listen, I start believing that perhaps, framed in her glasses are her memories. Violet remembers going to the snow as a three-year old with her aunt, who brought her up. She followed a nursing career and then became a farmer after marrying. Children came next and Violet claims her life was very easy until her husband died. “I was absolutely heartbroken for a long time but told myself to ‘pull yourself together, you’ve got to get over it’.” She is appreciative of the fact that she had someone to love during the majority of her life. “Many people don’t find their person….I was lucky.” I ask her what her concerns were at my age, and what she thinks of the world now. The differences must be so great to her, that she doesn’t even know how to describe them. “Our life was so different to what the world is now. The world is….it’s upside down….it’s gone topsy-turvy…..”

I strain to pick up her thoughts when she hesitates to continue.  Is she tired? Has she forgotten what we’re talking about? Or is it simply that time goes by faster at that age? I ask her, and she tells me that yes, time goes by very fast, that the days and weeks blur together. “I can’t keep up anymore, I blink and ‘woosh!’ There’s another year gone by.”

She lights up when she talks about her five grandchildren, who visit her often. She has a favourite, who visits more frequently than the others. “She’s a trick, she’s probably trying to get the lion’s share of the inheritance I’ll leave behind. If only she knew how little there is now!” Her eyes finally reach mine and we both laugh.

The next woman I speak to is Ethel, who prefers her own room for our chat. She’s 90 years old and cheekily tells me that she’s “a Libran most days, but if I don’t like the horoscope then I’m a Scorpio.” Ethel’s hearing is weak, her body worn and tired, but there’s a fire in her voice and the clarity of her thoughts shines through. “I spend my days doing crossword puzzles to keep my mind active,” she says, looking down at her legs dismissively. “I can’t do much else, my walking’s gone.” When she’s not doing puzzles, she rests. “I don’t get bored because I sleep day and night. Some of the poor souls here have sleeping problems….I really do feel for them.”

I want to find out about Ethel’s childhood and how she feels about her life’s achievements, but I don’t know how to broach it without alluding to the fact that she’s near the end of hers. I’m dazed at the thought that so much can happen between my age and hers, and I struggle to form the right words and sentences.

On Ethel’s bedside table are several family photos. I ask her about a husband and she lights up. “He would call me his princess….and I’d call him a silly old so and so.” Her endless love for him is obvious as she looks away melancholically into the distant depths of her memories. She sparks up again as she leaves me with a morsel of insight. “After he died, I never remarried. I didn’t meet anyone my age that I felt the same way about, and I’d rather be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.”

Ava, nearing 97, tells me that she was the baby of her family. “I was always a bit spoilt…” she trails off. We chat about the aging process and Ava doesn’t grasp my desire to discuss what it does to the mind rather than the body. “I’m being conceited now, but my legs were my only beauty.” I try to steer the conversation by asking questions like, “Do you remember what occupied your thoughts when you were 25?” For a moment I think she is with me, but then she proceeds to tell me about her arthritis. I imagine it’s difficult to talk about anything else when your body is in constant pain.

Ava tells me that her family don’t visit her very often. “They’re young, they have better things to do than come see me here.” This fills me with sadness. Before I leave her room, I give Ava a warm hug.

I’m disheartened. I don’t feel I’ve learnt enough about the psyche of these women, and I start thinking that perhaps, ‘growing up’ to them was a very different experience than what it is for young people now. Milestones were more clearly defined and to an extent, mapped out. Career paths were limited and there were possibly not as many choices to be made. Women generally became mothers earlier in their lives. I start thinking that I’ve perhaps approached the topic with a generation too distant from my own…..and then I meet Carol.

Carol has lost her senses of sight, smell and taste. “The old grey mare isn’t what she used to be!” She laughs and dives straight into an anecdote. “Once I lost my glasses and I couldn’t see anything! I searched everywhere for them, I even felt the top of my head to make sure they weren’t there. Finally I did find them, and you know where they were, dear?” She points to her nose. “Right here!” Because she can hardly see me, a gentle smile isn’t enough for her to know that I’m following, so when she laughs loudly, so do I.

We have a long discussion and she’s inquisitive about me, too. When I tell her I’m from Argentina, she asks me where that is because she was never very good at geography. “At school I was too busy drawing spectacles and moustaches on images of people!” I picture her as a little girl in the 1920s with ribbons in her hair, drawing Dali-esque or Connoisseur moustaches in her school books.

I ask her if she likes living at the home. She doesn’t fancy the dining room – it’s too quiet. “Everyone eats in silence, as though not to disturb or encourage the fate that’s waiting for us here.”

Carol never married, but at the home she has her nurses. “I have three toy boys here, but unfortunately I haven’t got any money to leave them!” The soft folds of her crêpe paper face fall into place with ease when she laughs. Of course they do, she’s done it countless times, and emotions have memories.

I like Carol a lot, and when I ask if I can come back to see her, she leans toward me and quietly whispers with fabricated solemness, “It might be for my funeral, dear.” I interject, and she tells me not to be sad about death. “Our lives are funny things, they go by so fast. We are here for a short time….just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it’s nearly the end. Sometimes I say……I say, that we were born to die.”

With those words, spoken with not even an ounce of remorse, she unknowingly answers all of my questions at once. I can see that her body – her shell – is misleading. Below the soft wisps of snow-white hair and tucked within the many folds of her matured face I find the experienced eyes of a woman, but also the youthful soul of a girl.

On the drive home I realise that becoming a woman isn’t a milestone, it’s a journey. Transitioning from a girl to a woman – or a boy to a man – is a lifelong expedition. Growing up and living aren’t exclusive of one another – they travel together, hand in hand, through the winding course of a lifetime.

Quote by Fr. Alfred D'Souza

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