Updated: Jan 24, 2022
I always admired older women. In contrast to the twenty-somethings, they exuded a certain confidence and beauty that I knew comes only with age and experience. Now, almost at the start of a new decade myself, I realize that I have grown the same way. Hence, this March, I will be thirty and I am thrilled.
But this has become a milestone to celebrate for additional and deeper reasons.
First, I am alive. A few years ago, a severe mental health crisis, suicidal attempts and an accident could have easily ended my existence. I survived and the path to recovery shaped me in countless ways. Perhaps, above all, it fostered a deep appreciation of life, in all its forms. From plants, birds and animals to sunshine, the skies and outer space, there is a wonderment at what is and what might never have reached my eyes. This gift, even on rough days, is one that I am eternally grateful for. Life is precious.
Second, I overcame. Child abuse. Domestic abuse. Depression. Anxiety. An eating disorder. Injuries. A relapse. C-PTSD. It is no surprise then that starting therapy and trying to really comprehend my past—and manage my present state—required more physical, mental and emotional energy than anything I took on before. The result is that I am self-aware and grounded in my own being like never before. Of course, my history is not solely tragedies but being able to address these traumatic events brought on a liberation.
Third, I have purpose and I know what gives me meaning. Family, friends and people are the most dear to me because I understand the fragility of life. What is here today can be gone tomorrow and although this realm has been a source of pain, it has been a spring of healing, support and joy as well. Besides, I have seen darkness and loneliness and there is nothing to be found there. People need connection, and to feel connected, to live and thrive. The challenges amongst us and in our world exist, to be sure, but our essence as human beings is the same.
"The longest journey is the journey inwards," wrote Dag Hammarskjöld. This is why in some ways, this is also only the beginning. There is ADHD. There is (usually) an invisible disability but learning more about myself, what I can do and what I might have in life is a delight of its own every time. I can start a foundation. I can learn languages. I can sing. I can be wildly funny. I can bring people together. I can help others. I can work on global issues. I could return to the gym. I should return to physiotherapy too. I could love anyone. I could have a family. What is there that women cannot do, anyways?
To my peers, and anyone else turning thirty this year, I hope that you will find the time to appreciate what you gained and consider the things that you can do, rather than worrying about the problems society often associates with getting older. There is a hell of a lot more to you and what you can offer than just a white hair.