Piha, Words of Wisdom
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Turning 30: I’m still lost but at least in the right direction

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Exactly one month ago I turned 30. Quietly, without a big party, without friends and family, just by myself so that nobody would notice how old I am getting. I took my birth date off my Facebook profile, I didn’t tell anybody in New Zealand, I did it so well that even I almost believed I am not turning 30. Only almost though. Thanks to the lovely people calling from all over the world reminding me.

Of course I had planned it completely different: Whenever I thought about turning 30 I imagined myself amidst a huge party, with all my friends. When the magical day got closer I looked up where I would be and oh – how lucky I felt when I figured out my birthday would fall on the same day as Cardrona’s end of season party. I could already see myself celebrating with all the ski instructor mates – partying the night away, feeling like a dancing queen and celebrating life – just like we used to do during the season. When I decided to leave Wanaka earlier than the season’s end there was this massive question mark hovering around me: Where would I spend my 30th birthday? Who would I spend it with? Could it ever be as magical as I imagined it?

Obviously it wasn’t. When I turned 30 I was in Wellington, still suffering from the aftermath of my glandular fever. I was so tired that I slept through the day – which was good in a way as it kept me from thinking too much and getting a major anniversary depression. But don’t feel to sorry for me – I did leave the bed, celebrated in style with a massive iced chocolate by the ocean and did some secret things that I enjoyed a lot.

Just one month later, sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning, listening to the waves, I come across the article “Das Dreissigste Jahr – Eine Generation im Zaudermodus” (in English: “The thirtieth year – A generation of indecisiveness”, for the non-german speaking readers: The main idea of the article is that those turning thirty these days have too many options, unstable relationships and get more and more depressed as they realize that the clock is ticking and their dreams didn’t come true.) Thanks to my journalist friend Nina for sharing it!

I read it once and felt sorry for our generation. I could find my-(older)-self in a lot of his thoughts, such as looking at your life and thinking “I still don’t have a proper job, I still don’t have a serious and set life and no family of my own. And I can’t get rid of the idea that every day my options are shrinking…. and that hurts.” Especially when I look at Facebook updates I see how my friends are having babies, I notice their picture-perfect lifestyles and read that they are getting engaged, married, and promoted. (funny that no one ever gets fired or divorced in the holy Facebook world). Then I start comparing my life to their lives. To YOUR lives, actually – as you are one of them creating the picture perfect Facebook world. We all are, aren’t we? And just as I start feeling miserable I remind myself of my silliness, I laugh at myself for getting into the trap and stop comparing my life to others’. Because from lots of personal e-mails, Skype conversations, coffee meetings and helping through crises I know that no one’s life is perfect. Not mine, not yours. We all just pretend it is… even to ourselves.

With this new mindset I read the article again – and I disagree. Big style. Because in the end, the life we look at on our 30th birthday is the life we created – all by ourselves. No one forced us to take that well paid office job. It was our decision alone to move into this or that city. Having broken up with that long-term boyfriend was something we came up with by ourselves. And even if we get depressed looking at it, we still have another thirty years left to change it. Even more than 30 years, if we are lucky.

I can see where the author is coming from because I have been there: Living in Switzerland, with a good job and lots of francs in my bank account I was overwhelmed with too many options. So overwhelmed that my life got empty. Life nudged me to change but I resisted for too long…  until life knocked me over and forced me to change radically. And now as I sit here on a beautiful paradise beach in New Zealand I am pretty content that I did change to finally follow my dreams.

As I type this I sit in a flat half the size of my old one. I earn not even half of what I used to earn. I do not wear high heels or rush to fancy restaurants in Zurich. Instead, I sit here with bare feet and my next destination will probably be the beach just outside the house. Next to me is no longer a white board with scribbled sales numbers but a bright-red surfboard with melted wax on it. When I look out of the window (that is always open by the way) I do no longer see a car factory but a lush green rain forest. And instead of my manager asking for yet another graph the person knocking on my door is a four-year old in a princess dress, asking if I want to go for a swim with her. I smell the sunscreen as she cuddles up next to me and in that moment I know that amidst all those uncountable options there will always be a right one, at the right time at the right spot. You just gotta do it. Dreams don’t work unless we do but when the right opportunity shows up just grab it and live the dream. I am glad I did as I couldn’t be any happier and richer in my life right now. And those experiences will enrich me for a long time – even when I’ll already be chasing the next (im)possible dream.


PS: This post wasn’t planned out like that. Just happened as my mind was going into all directions, my fingers scribbling on a piece of paper and my thoughts flowing out. Sometimes it’s just nice to let the creative flow take control… and see what comes out of it. Hope you still enjoy!


    • Hi Meret – Danke für den Kommentar….Wolltest du uns allen deine Kontaktdaten da lassen, damit dich wer anrufen kann und dein “Hir-schbricht Meret” hört (und dabei weg-brich-t vor Lachen so wie ich immer wenn ich daran denke?) 😉

  1. Hi Eva,

    uups, I forgot your birthday while being occupied in Nairobi – shame! 😉

    I really liked reading this post of yours – it´s a fun reading:-)
    And let me tell you, what you describe is not only and primary bound to the age of 30something – you can have a similar “thing” going on even later in life!

    But, after my incredible experience in Nairobi and having met this amazing bunch of people, I know,it can be different. Yes, it is all about our decisions and how we decide to live our lifes, if we want to turn left or right in the morning, keep doing what we know (but maybe don´t like that much), or taking the other turn to try out something new, different, unknown and might enjoy the power and freedome of doing something the very first time!

    I think, a lot of my “depression” and being lost came from having too many options at once and building up the pressure on myself to chose the one and only passion in life – let me tell you a discovery I made over the last weeks and month: I don´t care about the one and only – as long as I can be passionate about what I do today, it will be fine and will become better!
    What we have discussed a lot over the last couple of weeks is all around give it a try, do it, make it – and if it´s not gonna work, fail fast and fail save, learn from it and get up again. One of the most inspiring moments in the last year I had during an event from our Amani Institute which was called FailFair – yes, an evening event about failure, how and why organisations, ideas and projects fail – and let me tell you, we had soo much fun and learnt such an huge amount of inisght – priceless!!

    And totday, after this 5 month program is over, now, that I sit here in Durban, SA, watching out to the beach, hearing the sound of the waves and feeling the wind in my face I can fully understand your feelings there in New Zealand – but that´s not my point. My major point and learning is about the huge impact and power of being surrounded be the right people! That is my key – I developed my passions, my ideas and my projects over the course of the 5 month, I changed it a lot and each time I came up with something new, I had the support of my group. And even, when I finally came out of the closet with my huge, big, crazy, world saving and changing idea around the oceans and its pollution on the very last weekend – they where there for me, I got the full encouragement and support, even names and lists of contacts, the offer to set me in contact with people working on it…let me tell you, I´m stil full of energy from that weekend!! Nothing can beat the support of having your people around you, nothing!!

    Keep going, enjoy the feeling of being lost and stuck and embrace what´s coming next! The big dream is just around the corner – or on the beach:-)

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