The Final Countdown: 29 Years and 11 Months

Dearest Reader,

I am only one month away from turning .., well you know. The big 3-0. I thought this would be a very timely reflection of what it has been like to be 29.

Mostly, I’ve done a lot of sitting and thinking, which sounds a little basic but I don’t recall doing this much before hitting this final countdown to adulthood.

I have thought more about my health, my social life, my friends and my family. I have also thought more about the things in my home, the things I want and the things I definitely don’t.

Overwhelmingly, it has been a positive, happy year, and not the scary nightmare I thought it would be.

Yes, noticing the first lines on your face is a total downer, but being faced with your own mortality kind of motivates you to take care of yourself. This year I am proud to say that I have been walking to work, running in the park, getting up early to do Pilates classes, calling in sick when I am sick, not eating fast food and cutting down on the ridiculous amounts of nachos and beer I was consuming regularly.

I have also finally made peace with the fact that I am happiest in my PJs, braless, at home, watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I no longer feel the need to prove to society that I have a thriving social life by attending outings at places I hate with people I have little to talk about.

Of course, I still enjoy socialising with my friends, but I have certainly said goodbye to those nights when you squeeze yourself into an uncomfortable dress, then fight with your face and hair before forcing your feet into shoes that feel like you’re wearing barb wire and then partying all night simply so you can be seen and known as a sociable person.

So, embracing my inner couch potato has been amazing, and I don’t care who knows it.

Finally, let’s talk about stuff. Consumerism is deeply embedded in our culture, and I have certainly fallen victim to it. When I started reflecting on the things I have, I realised what a fortune I have wasted on skincare products, expensive ‘special occasion’ clothes, and even just ‘cute’ stationary. So 29 has been all about getting rid of shit – especially things that made me feel guilty, annoyed or anxious.

For instance, I have given away clothes that don’t fit me, because it is highly unlikely that I will get back my figure from high school because yes, I had a pair of jeans from when I was 17 that I was hoping to fit into, and it was frustrating me that I couldn’t. I finally acknowledged that I won’t fit into it again not because I’m fat but because, well, I grew out of them!

You also chuck people – that person you worked with 8 years ago for 7 months? Really don’t need to follow their story on Facebook anymore. That high school friend that’s kind of the Eric Cartman in the group and their stupid face and attitude has annoyed you for over a decade? Delete their number. Making space for the people you really care about and dedicating your time to them is much more fulfilling. Yes, 29 teaches you that it is about the quality, not quantity of friends.

So does this make the 30s any less daunting?  

It really doesn’t. It still sounds scary as hell.

But I am ready to say goodbye to my 20s, knowing that I don’t want to be 22 again, because have enjoyed all there was to enjoy, made all the mistakes required to learn and done all the growing needed to face the next decade.

So here’s to all the 29-year olds out there, I hope this year is as enlightening for you as it has been for me.

 

Hugs: What are they good for?

Dearest Reader,

I am, as you know, continuously striving to be a decent human being and treat fellow members of my species with warmth and respect.

I grew up in Germany, which means hugging hello, with Mediterranean parents, meaning cheek kissing several times per day, on several cheeks, with different starting cheek directions. Today, I live in Australia, where I understand a one-kiss/half-hug combo is the appropriate greeting, and I have mastered over the years.

I don’t know about you, but I find our touchy-feely culture difficult to enjoy on most days.

If you are unlucky enough know me personally, you know that I appreciate a healthy distance; the kissing, sweaty handshaking and pressure to make otherwise physical contact with relative strangers is a difficult thing to adhere to.

When it comes to greetings, I really wish I lived in Japan, where one can bow, or wave, or just smile and it is sufficient to say hello. However, due to my love for bread, cheese and beer, I don’t think I’d be happy living there permanently. (Of course there is beer in Japan, but I am German. Enough said.)

Yet, I understand the need to make an effort in society, so I have a once-a-day hug mission. Once a day, I will give someone a hug. Most people are of course not aware of this and hug me without even appreciating that they are getting the only hug I’ll be giving that day.

I try to reserve my hugs not for greetings, but for when someone truly needs one; for example, because they just had news that emotionally stirred them up – this could be happy or sad. Now of course, I have to make a judgement here. Is the realisation of forgetting your lunch a saddening enough experience to get a hug, when perhaps in 10mins I meet someone who’s lost their job, and I’ll have already wasted my hug on some frivolous sadness.

In addition, I am quite short, so hugging someone very tall can be awkward in the practical sense, and I end up being squished into someone’s chest with limited access to air; this necessarily means that a hug must be short to prevent some sort of undignified suffocation.

But truth be told, some hugs are quite delightful. I appreciate one that has just the right number of seconds, just the right amount of back tapping (though I am not sure how I feel about back rubbing) and one that surrounds me with a whiff of something nice-smelling. I also enjoy happy hugs, perhaps my aversion is predominantly towards the sad kind, or the kinds forced by social etiquette.

Perhaps my favourite people to hug are babies of a good hug size. I don’t mean the really small ones which still have this kind of breakable chicken-neck, I mean the ones that are perhaps just about to start walking and have some control over their own saliva.

They are soft and squeezable, they smell of baby and they giggle. When you feel the hug has come to an end, you don’t even need to make conversation – you simply give them back to whoever made them, without the need to take this relationship any further, and with no hard feelings about the abrupt end to this social interaction.

Simply wonderful!

Why it’s ok to end friendships

Dearest Reader,

Friends are the stuff of life. They’re the family you get to choose, and the people who are with you because they want to, not because they have to.

Maybe it’s because I live in a big city, maybe it’s the era of technology, or maybe it’s because we’re all getting older, but something is happening to friendships. Something bad. And I don’t like it.

I have always been a social person and enthusiastically befriended everyone I met. But as I get older, I am slowly losing my patience with certain types of people because time is too valuable to be wasted on shallow friendships.

The most irritating type of people are those whose friendships are guided by the fear of missing out on something better.

The eternal ‘pending’ or a ‘maybe’ responses to invitations. These are very strategic bastards. It allows them the freedom to either come, cancel or pick up something better at the last minute without feeling guilty because, after all, they never said they’d come. You too can be strategic, dearest reader, so take a pen and cross them off your list.

Second on the list is flakiness. Everyone knows a person who suggests plans, but when it comes to scheduling, they magically don’t respond and disappear into a cloud of silence. Or perhaps they agreed to meet you, but they don’t show up, without even making the effort of at least pretending to have diarrhoea.

The next thing on the list are people who use you. Perhaps you have a skill they need, you have a network they’d like to tap into or you are simply a generous and helpful person that they can count on. Such friendships tend to be transactional and one-sided, and your investment is clearly turning into a loss for you. Time to take your business elsewhere!

Finally, people you don’t really have anything in common with. We often mistake old high school friends or work colleagues as friends, and we later realise that all we truly had in common was bitching about work or memories from school. I had this realisation when I sat with former co-workers who ordered a pumpkin pizza to share and spoke about having casual sexual intercourse with a friend. As I am too proud to consume pumpkin on a pizza, and I don’t casually fornicate, me and my ethnic Catholic upbringing sat very quietly and hungrily.

Please rest assured, dearest reader, that the abovementioned people are not your friends, and it’s ok to say goodbye.

Once you’ve done all the friendship list chopping, what remains are the people I talked about – the kind that become your brothers and sisters.