Joyeux anniversaire to me! And so I say goodbye to 28 and welcome 29 with open, yet fearful arms because it means I’m one step closer to 30 and it’s looking a lot different than what I imagined it to be.
Last year, I wrote a blog/letter to my 18-year-old self, advising a younger Nur of what lay ahead. This year though, I’m doing something a bit different.
I have a little tradition I’ve kept for a while – I strictly don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, and instead make Birthday Resolutions (after all, my birthday is my new year). So for today’s post, I’ve listed my resolutions for 29 while also looking back at my top five lessons learnt during 28, and all told by the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch.
My 29th Birthday Resolutions
Be more positive
No, this isn’t about simply being grateful for all I have. This is about changing my speech, my actions and even my thoughts so I can have a positive impact on those around me. It’s as simple as writing a little note to my friends to remind them of how wonderful they are, practicing active listening and most importantly, reframing how I say things. For example, rather than ‘Sorry I’m late’, I’m going to say ‘Thanks for waiting’. The biggest thing for me (and many other women in the workplace, I know), is saying ‘sorry’ even when it’s not needed. I will stop apologising unnecessarily and instead be more assertive and confident in my approach. #sorrynotsorry
Another thing I do each birthday is pick out a theme song for the year ahead; it will be my ‘pick-me-up’ song for whenever I’m feeling down, or doubting what I’m doing. This year my song is ‘Defying Gravity‘ from the musical Wicked. This song perfectly sums up my attitude for the year – I’m no longer playing by anyone’s rules, I’m setting my own bar, I’m going to trust myself more and won’t let anyone, or anything bring me down.
Focus more on my studies
I started a Masters at the end of last year, and it’s been beyond difficult to get into the groove of a work/study/social life balance. I didn’t do too amazingly well in my first semester, and dramatically improved in my second, due to actually committing time to studying rather than doing the bare minimum. This year, I’m going to completely knuckle down and give it 110% because I can’t afford (literally) to fail!
Reduce my fashion carbon footprint
When I came back home, I was overwhelemed by how much stuff I owned. In my year of living out of a suitcase with the bare essentials, I had forgotten about the rest of my material possessions, and there was so much of it! Getting rid of my clothes was made easier by the fact I couldn’t fit into half of them anymore, and realistically probably never will. I also realised that having a minimal wardrobe made getting dressed a lot easier and forced me to be a bit more creative in how I dressed, which is always the best of part of fashion and style. This year, I will try to limit the number of new clothes and shoes I buy, and try to purchase pre-loved items where possible. There are so many clothes out there that get thrown out after as little as one wear, so why would I let such a fantastic piece of clothing go to waste?
What 28 taught me
It’s ok to go backwards
After returning to Australia and my home town of Port Hedland, I went back to my old job which was a bit of a letdown for me, especially as I was adamant I’d never go back. However, it was the right choice at the time as I was broke and needed to ease myself back into a normal work routine. My god, the first week back was a nightmare – I had forgotten what it was like to actually multi-task and manage competing priorities! I worked back late everyday for the first week, trying to cope with the pace and amount of work. Looking back, I’m glad I took the job as it allowed me to pay for my studies upfront as well as set myself up financially so I could ‘resettle’ into my Aussie life.
It’s also ok to have regrets
Every day, I always wonder ‘what if’. What if I didn’t come home, and decided to stay in Asia and teach English. What if I took the job offered to me to work in Melbourne. What if I went through with the job interview with the Fred Hollows Foundation in Darwin? So many what ifs, and also so many regrets. But I know the difference is being able to live with the regrets; I know I can live with them and there is also no point dwelling on it because I was never meant to know.
Having tolerance and practicing tolerance are two different things
Tolerance was one of the biggest lessons I took away with me from my time living in Laos. Before moving overseas, I couldn’t tolerate a lot – I was very impatient and demanding, and I looked down on those who didn’t meet my standards or expectations. But when the tables were turned and I was the one who didn’t understand or meet expectations, but was still treated with respect and tolerated by my peers and colleagues, it made me eat a huge slice of humble pie. The biggest challenge coming home wasn’t dealing with people I couldn’t tolerate before, but tolerating the people who I used to be! It takes a lot more patience to tolerate the intolerant than to learn tolerance in the first place.
I am grateful for all I have
Living in Laos made me thankful for all that I have: a roof over my head, food on the table, access to fantastic education and healthcare, freedom of speech, a job that I enjoy and pays me enough to have a comfortable life, supportive family and friends and most importantly, independence. It wasn’t until recently that I realised how this thankfulness impacted me and those around me. A friend told me that I always seemed so happy and never complained about a thing (I do complain, but maybe less than before). It wasn’t until I really thought about it when I understood I have nothing to be unhappy about – I am so lucky and so fortunate to have the life I have, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Life is a dance; you just need to find your rhythm
One of my biggest weaknesses is constantly comparing my life with those of my peers – I used to always get annoyed when I saw someone I knew in uni in a better career position than I was, wondering what on earth they had that I didn’t; or always wondering if there was something wrong with me because all my friends are married with kids, while I am still hopelessly single, plotting where my itchy feet will take me next. But during 28, I’ve suddenly learnt to accept where I am in life, and understand one person’s path isn’t the same as another person’s, and both of theirs aren’t the same as mine. We all have a purpose in life, and finding it can take as little as three months, or as long as 28 years.