the big one

Tomorrow is my birthday. No, really, it is. And it’s not just any old birthday, it’s the one with the big ‘3’ in front. For the first time. I’m dreading it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my birthday. It’s insanely important to me. I’ve only ever met one other person who is as crazy about her birthday as I am, and she is the eldest of a large family as well. We think that might the clue to this feeling of ours, that our respective birthdays are the most important days in our lives. The one day when it’s all about us. No, change of personal pronoun. The one day when it’s all about me. I get to choose what is eaten, who is invited, what is being done, where I go, what music is being played… and I don’t have to respect anybody’s wishes and I don’t have to take a step back. It’s the one day in the year where I feel totally unabashed about being the centre of attention. Actually, it’s the only day in the year when I like being in the centre.

Also, I’m just happy on that day. I wake up with a good mood, I dance and sing the whole day like some annoying Disney heroine, I love everyone and tell them repeatedly (a bit like being drunk) and nothing can spoil my happiness – I can take anything in my stride on my birthday.

The downside of that: I’ve always taken it as a milestone. Because it is so important to me, I keep measuring myself on that date and compare how I ‘did’ during the last year, what developments I went through, what I succeeded at, where I failed. And because tomorrow is ‘the big one’, I’ve been trying to take stock of the whole decade in the last few days.

I found myself looking at what I wanted at twenty and how much of that I achieved. The answer isn’t pretty – it’s ‘Not much’. I haven’t sailed around the world, I still do not speak more than the two foreign languages that I could already speak ten years ago, I haven’t published a book, I’ve never ridden a horse or went paragliding. The list goes on, but I think you might get the idea. On top of that comes the realization of my present situation: unemployed, living with my parents, out of money, out of ideas, in debt, no practical work experience to speak of.

I *did* warn you, didn’t I? It’s not pretty.

However, the most important resolution I have made is not to whine anymore. Not even to myself, and most certainly not to my friends. So instead of looking at the deficit side (what I wanted and didn’t get), I want to take a look at the plus side. And I want to share it with you. So this is my list of all the things I achieved in the years between twenty and thirty, in no order whatsoever:

  • finished three university degrees
  • lived in six different towns, three of them abroad
  • made a huge number of friends
  • stayed in touch with most friends
  • lost some friends, but learned from the experience
  • fell in love
  • fell out of love
  • never quit writing
  • learned to go out by myself
  • learned how to be alone and to rely on myself
  • taught at two different schools
  • went through a severe psychological crisis and worked hard to come out of it again
  • survived a potentially dangerous illness
  • climbed mountains by myself
  • travelled with friends and alone
  • discovered new music and went to lots of concerts
  • never gave up my belief in humanity’s goodness, although often questioning it
  • helped people who needed help – not always, not everyone, but every time I could
  • read massive amounts of books and learned about humanity
  • connected people
  • never stopped trusting people and faring quite well with that policy
  • gained self-confidence
  • got experience and knowledge in a huge number of areas: love, friendship, how to listen, when to speak, what to say and what not to say, people in general, group dynamics, music, writing, myself, thinking
  • had lots of fun at so many concerts, parties, gatherings
  • saw beauty in all the expected and in even more unexpected places
  • never gave up questioning the world and reflecting my actions
  • never grew up to the point of giving up my dreams

I like this list. Some of the points might be repetitive, but I wrote them as I thought of them. This has helped. I think I’m ready for tomorrow now.

It’s time to go out and celebrate in style and welcome the 3 into my life.


About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on April 14, 2012, in day-to-day and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Love your list Antje! While this might be an uncertain time in your life, I am sure at the end of this particular journey, you would have added to the list above. I am thrilled that you are embracing the big 3 (as I did many moons ago :)! Have fun, as I am sure you will. You are a great example of a wonderful human being. All the best! x

    • Thank you dear Juan! You are always an example to me of how to to patiently and diligently work towards your dream! I admire you so much for going for what you want. And writing this list did make me feel better and more in control, so it fulfilled its purpose. 🙂

  2. When I read that you were having the “big” birthday and then discovered that you would be celebrating the birthday with the number 3 at the beginning , I smiled. This year I’ll be celebrating the one with the 5 at the beginning, and the 3 birthday seems unbelievably YOUNG to me. Recently I spent a lot of time with a fantastic woman of 103 years. She has lived more than twice as long as I have. To her, I’m just a baby. Never mind the number; it’s all relative. You’ve already figured out that joy and gratitude is the way to go, so no worries. You are on your way to one fantastic life.

    • Dear Arlene, thank you so much for putting things in perspective! 😉
      You are right of course – I don’t feel very old anyway. Still, it is a threshold of some sorts and even if I don’t particularly care about being ‘grown-up’, thirty seems to be an age where society kinda expects you to be. I’ve always liked that quote (can’t remember who said it first), it goes something like this: ‘It doesn’t matter how many years are in your life, but how much life is in your years.’
      When your big one rolls around this year, I hope you will have an absolutely fabulous time and remember your own advice about the numbers being relative. It sounds like you’ve got it figured out, so I’m sure you will!
      Thank you for your words!

  3. Feliz cumpleaños!!!! I loved your list, and I sugggest three more bullets:
    1. Enjoying the music to the highest possible level on earth
    2. Discovering and enjoying the wonders of photography
    3. THIS BLOG!!!!!!!!

    Hoping you have a wonderful b´day and to see you soon.
    Hugs from Colombia, MARIO.

    • I LOVE the first point! It’s so true. 🙂
      And have I told you that I’ve been reading about photography a lot lately and have started experimenting more? It’s so much fun!
      Thanks for the wishes! So far, the day is quiet but enjoyable and I don’t feel particularly older. 😉

  4. Wessen Jazrawi

    That is a very long list and one to be proud of! I am feeling a lot of the same things as you are right now but what I’m (trying to) keep reminding myself is that I’m following my dreams, and that I’d rather be doing that, than not doing that. We’ll get there – all of us! Big love and HAPPY 30TH! Much love, Wess xx

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