After Turning 31, This Big World Doesn’t Seem So Scary Anymore

Brooke Cagle
Brooke Cagle

On January 1st my resolutions are just a sketch on a paper: they never really get any shape before January 18th, this is when my year really starts.  I am like a Chinese year that just starts later and ends later, in its own microcosmos. When fireworks and vacations are over, I take my few days off for holidays, and travel somewhere to celebrate my new age.

Sliding into 30th was smooth and warm, whilst entering my 31st was preceded by many heartquakes. Thus meeting my 31st winter, that turned to be as snowy and sunny as my 1st day on this earth (according to family legend) I came up with some truths about different aspects of my life.

Myself.

By 31 I have learnt that the most precious present for a day is waking up in a warm house, being able make myself a Greek coffee and have a plan for the day (the latter may vary from conquering the Everest to reading a book on a couch).

By 31 I have understood that waking up with someone in the morning is a beautiful option, but not necessarily a precondition to a happy life. Happy life is a whole puzzle, and I am still learning to put those pieces together. Quite a job, I’d tell you!
By 31 I have changed enough homes to learn to detach from objects, and value that feeling of being at home whenever the morning finds you. That feeling is a gem I never expected to find along my way.

Love.

By 31 I have lived to understand that heartbreaks and heartquakes are inevitable when in love, and I better learn to live with them than run away and devaluate this feeling. I have discovered that I am still able to love, despite all my frustrations and fears. But moreover, I have learnt that I can walk away when love doesn’t come both sides. That strength cost me numberless emotional breakdowns, but it was worth all the penny. Being able to trust that no matter what goes wrong, I can make it through, is a fantastic feeling I wouldn’t exchange back for anything.

By 31 I have learnt that one break up story may had defined me, but all to follow-up break ups would be just life, as it is. I went into relationships knowing, not fearing, that it may come to an end. And while dealing with consequences, I met extraordinary people on my way back to normal. All those losses have been compensated abundantly. I have been blessed to meet in my most vulnerable moments most extraordinary people. They still exist, all of them. Some are close, some are far, but I am grateful to each of them for those nights and days when they offered their presence and compassion.

Family.

By 31 I have already started to accept that parents and siblings are that family, that would love me despite of who I am and what roads I shall take, however they.must not necessarily understand me. They will be there for me as long as they are alive, pausing from their life to find out about my joys and sorrows. But they will stay steady, in their own world, not following my dreams. And their staying where they are, would be always my cardinal point of return whenever I may need it, coming from each of my life trips.

By 31 I have discovered that my sibling is a separate entity now, with a life of her own, and her son – my nephew – is the next generation, and this is all extended family now. My sister is turning into a wonderful woman now, with her joys and sorrows, with her choices that I might not agree with, with her views I might not accept for myself, but staying blood-close and supportive. We’re on different roads now, yet we come back to the same origin to get the same refuel.

By 31 I have finally (hopefully!) stopped idealizing my mother, started loving and hugging her, improved my relationship with my father (thank you, my dearest therapist!) to the extent that I even enjoy spending time alone with him (like these days when I am writing my resolutions). The work on relationship, including the parental, will never really cease, but I have a feeling this is the road.

Friendship.

By 31 I have learnt a big deal about friendships. I have re-evaluated recently the relationships we, women, are building with other women. The energies that we exchange. The love we experience for our female friends. The boundaries we learn to set for a healthy connection. The goodbyes we have to say when time comes and we’re on different pathways. The amicable breakups we learn to implement in friendships too. The time we give ourselves to grief over the losses.

And yes, by 31 I have learnt grieving is always part of the story where two go separate ways. And the easiest way to go through is letting it come and live there with me for a while. For as long as it takes. It is not a forever feeling.

By 31 my heart hosted more friendships than loves, and they have all been different. I have learnt lately to give myself less but to more friends, meaning I would also not ask for more than they can give. Each of them is a separately beautiful woman, very unique and gifted with something else compared to others. In these friendships I am still struggling at give-take exchange, always fearing that I give less that I get.

And by 31 I have discovered I can and should have boundaries, and these boundaries must be placed in both old and new relationships, with family, with people we love and with friends. And it comes without saying that I should respect their boundaries too. My struggling point here is that I sometimes invent boundaries that don’t exist and I create a whole mess in my relationships. You, recall any?

Social life, activities

By 31 I have learnt to dance lindy hop (swing) which have completely changed my relationship with my body, improved my self-confidence and taught me establishing a separate connection with my dancing partners, who are mostly men. I have not only discovered a hobby I love, I have also met incredibly talented and kind people there, on the dance floor. I went into dancing at 29 and in two years it has revolutionized my entire living, as if I always knew that time shall come and I will just dance it one day amd I will love it to the moon and back.

By 31 I went (driven by a very unclear promise of a life changing experience from a friend) into Toastmasters to hold speeches in public that frightened me. After a while, it made me rebuild the entire approach to who I am, why I am here – in front of this public, and what do I do with that attention. It made me feel down, scared and insecure. It made me feel arised, confident and reassured. It made me question myself where I go next and whether I have the same fears I was struggling with, just a year ago. It was worth all the sweating and shaking. I am a different person thanks to Toastmasters and all the people who believed in me (hello, Nadia!).

By 20 I have already learnt two foreign languages (English and French) I thought would tremendously help me in life. By 31 I went into the adventure of studying a new language, and learning Greek became like falling in love with a man you didn’t choose to be with, but who is yours for the years to come. It takes time, it is difficult, sometimes feels an impossible task to do. It requires patience and constant negotiations with yourself – but when you start being fluent in love, when you start speaking Greek, expressing your thoughts and describing your experiences, it becomes so rewarding, words can’t translate it. This is when you understand that 31 and Greek is not the limit. Nothing is!

Travels and jobs

By 31 I have travelled with planned working trips, with well arranged hotels; then slept on couches and hostels, travelling alone, getting lost and finding ways, feeling scared, promising myself “never again” only to forget it next moment I find the right destination. I have walked the streets of capitals like Rome, Athens, Vienna, Warsaw, Vilnius, Berlin, London, in comfortable shoes, with my people or meeting other people, falling in love with places, with civilizations, with people, with myself. I will never be done with travelling, even though my thirst is quenched. It is like water you always need to live longer.

By 31 I have studied and worked and went to study again, I have searched for a new job when the old got kicked and wasn’t afraid anymore to start anew. I have education, yet I am so excited to do things outside of what I have learnt. By 31 I managed to have a tiny view on the non-academic world, and I kind of liked it. By 31 i decided I will love whatever I shall be doing, because there is no other way to live this life.

Various.

By 31 I have finally started to use sunscreen for my face, learnt more how to deal with my swing moods, started to choose clothing depending on whether i want to be classy or comfortable. By 31 I never really got to have a musical taste well defined (my ipod and my spotify account holding such a variety of music, one would break his/her leg there). I have figured out that sleep is one of the few most important things to keep me happy and content whatever situation I find myself in. I have discovered I speak another “foreign” language I have never learnt – and that is the language of intuition, and this passed year it spoke louder than my Greek.

By 31 I understood that the world is a small village actually and saying good bye to people we care about today in one place we just let the new “hello” happen in another. Distances become less demanding. We become more flexible. The world seems smaller. We seem bigger. Life seems faster.

Instead of PS, to you. By 31 you will surely know the taste of that big hurting love that would try to define who you are. A big fire may happen, burning you to the core. You will go to pieces, you will turn into small burnt pieces of bones and skin that you’ll eventually have to put back together. You’ll have to remodel yourself. But most of them won’t fit anymore. Many pieces will be missing.

So you’ll start your trip towards finding yourself. You will meet many people after that, and from each of them you have to take that missing thing that would fit you. Some of those people will start negotiating that exchange: some will try to adopt your vulnerability, others will opt for your weaknesses. Take your lessons from them and continue your journey. Learn to let go of those people. Accept each loss. Then, you will have to cross a bridge, a bridge between who you had been once and who you shall be one day. Take time and patience to pass that bridge alone. That bridge is called Today.

When you’ll feel whole again, you will do your choices. And only then you can settle on equal terms. Big fires create new people. Be that one. Start to change the world from yourself. Maybe this is your mission on Earth. TC mark

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