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“So. How’s it feel to be turning 34?”

The question came from my good friend during a steep hill climb. I stopped to catch my breath and replied: “Umm yeah. You know. It’s not that big of a deal.”

I didn’t have much to say in that moment. But as I took the rest of the hike to think, the answers in all of their truth started to show up. This birthday is a big deal. For the first time in my adult life, I feel a real sense of stability. A big win made bigger given the landslide that was 2020.

You don’t need to have read my posts (Change / COVID-19 and Anti-depressant diaries) to know the deal. It was a tough year – one of several setbacks. My biggest blow was being made redundant. But I’m proud to say I’ve more than just recovered. I’ve reclaimed all lost ground and gone even further.

I’ve managed to knuckle down and turn a short contract into a permeant Government job with a promotion; nurture my relationship to the next stage of growth (moving in); and graduate from my counseling studies. With Boy Under the Bridge, I’ll be hosting a public exhibition for my poetry, holding more workshops for school students, and soon offering counseling services based on the feedback from a prospective employer who assured me I have something to offer.

Life is falling into place. I say that but still feel slightly uneasy. When you’ve lived your 20s drenched in doubt of both where things are going and your capabilities, trust takes time. So I’m working on it. I want to strike that balance where I know how to relax but not too much. I want to have a healthy relationship with working hard.

I’ve come to believe that one should make sure their doing isn’t grounded in the goal of becoming enough – because that’s a hamster wheel that never stops spinning. The goal should be exploration. This means feeling enough as I am, while being excited to see what I can become.

The point of life

The meaning of life has been on my mind as someone close recently had their grandfather pass. It was due to natural causes at old age. He had reached his 90’s which means – as he often said with a chuckle – that he’s “had a good innings.” He had a collection of stories that honestly belonged in a movie. And it’s looking like they will be collated into a book for the family.

I hope to have a good innings too. To get to old age retaining my sense of humour and having lived a bunch of stories to share… surrounded by people to share them with. To which I’m on the right track. My birthday celebrations over the weekend confirmed this.

It was some much-needed social time with a small, yet highly treasured, group of friends. Something I think we all took for granted until we were locked down. Only know what you got when it’s gone aye? The last year highlighted how important people are to keeping me nourished and thriving. So I’m becoming more committed to upkeeping my support system; my tribe as I head into the next year.

On paper, 2022 promises to pick up where 2019 ended. Although I’ve learned you can’t be too certain about anything; I am certain about my ability to pivot on my feet. Even the most terrible times have their takeaways; COVID showed me how deep I can dig. How resourceful and adaptable I can be. The motto I’ll be taking forward is: the path changes, but the destination remains.

Are we there yet? 

As I started in 2020 with my few minutes of fame, my journey is about showing up as my best self in the world. I’m not sure exactly how that looks, but I do know if I’m going the right way. A good cue – as discussed in Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art – is the amount of resistance one encounters. And right now I’m definitely dealing with doubt. I’m untangling thoughts that I’m wasting my time. That I should stay small. That there are others so much better than me. Which is true. I’ll never be the best. There is going to be a limited amount of people at the top of every field, but there is space for us all to be our best. Fulfilling one’s personal potential leads to a fulfilling life.

I know there are many people offering counseling services with way more experience, business owners with huge marketing budgets that will make it hard for me to get noticed. I know there are people making video content with much better skills and gear, and time on their hands. But none of that takes away from the truth that I’m going to be much better off leaning into my natural strengths. Again, even if I’m not the strongest.

Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’ve got the roof over my head, food in my gut, and friends. So now I’m working towards self-actualization. For this, I believe the challenge isn’t knowing; it’s in the doing. And everything I’ve read, from Joseph Cambell, Lara Honos-Webb (The Gifts of Adult ADHD), Elle Luna (Crossroads of Should and Must), Emily Esfahani Smith (The Power of Meaning) advises going with what you’re good at.

Life should be easy flow

My 20s were tiring because I worked so hard to fit so many molds. Understandably, this is a rite of passage. As you get older, you get to know yourself and with that, where you belong and what you want more of.

Like my year living in Tonga, last year was a shakeup that brought me back to my appreciation of simplicity. What I want is a life where I can be connected with people, not get caught up in corporate fluff. I want to be a decision-maker rather than be micromanaged. I want to see an observable difference from my work. I want to be myself, which means bringing my humour with me. I want to have time for my partner, friends, and local community. I want to spend time in nature and silence rather than stuffed into public transport surrounded by burnt-out and stressed people. I don’t need many things, but I want to keep creating. A minimalist life, rich in the most important ways.

Acknowledging where you want to go is the first step to getting there. So guess we’ll see what 35 brings… Which according to a wise man my father met in Sri Lanka, it’s due to be one of my most significant years. Given that his previous predictions of coming change during May 2015 (moved to Sydney) and May 2016 (moved to Melbourne) were correct, I can’t help but be extra excited to flip these following pages.

Thank you for walking alongside me. I hope this post gave you some food for thought, that’s as delicious as the cake I had.

Much love,

Ricky

Bonus content: I’m starting a practice of casual, unscripted video diary entries. Here’s the first entry.

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