On the 5th October, I will be twenty seven. This time last year, I was full of dread. I was terrified of turning twenty six and what it meant, I was so lost and confused about the direction of my life. I am still terrified and lost and a little bit ahhh but I think this year, I have realised that everyone is pretty much there with me. In two weeks time my masters degree will be over, I will be handing in my dissertation (Reconciling masculinity in post-apartheid South Africa, if you’re interested) and I’ll have to figure out who I am without academia and if I’m going to follow that path. Maybe the distraction of that has left me less focused on what I want to achieve in the next year, or just more focussed on what I’m doing and less on how it seems like everyone else is really good at adulting and are having all the babies (on purpose) and getting married and achieving those landmarks that feel so much more important than the things that I’m quietly doing. In the way that some people make new years resolutions in January, I make them with each birthday in a way to consciously strive towards the person I would like to eventually be. Or at least, try to be.
Reading back over my blog from this time last year when it was two weeks to twenty six, I could’ve written that yesterday. I still forget to eat and spend too many nights awake and I’m still scrambling for that little bit of extra time. I’m not sure exactly what my masters degree has taught me – other than I’ve gotten pretty good at footnoting – but I have discovered how much I value time, how it really is the most precious currency we have. How I want to spend it doing things I love, value and appreciate. This year we lost one of my favourite people in the world and he lived a full, long life with interesting stories and an amazing journey to show for his time here and I want that. I imagine that when the time came, his slideshow of his time was packed full of memories, like a photo album filled with love. As opposed to being annoyed that one time somebody pushed past you on an escalator or forgot to bring you that glass of tap water at dinner. We’re all only human (probably) and so let’s make the best of it.
My physical health has struggled over the past two years but mostly my mental health has taken the biggest hit whilst I’ve juggled too many hours at multiple jobs and a masters whilst still struggling to keep my head afloat but I most firmly want to be alive, when I can say with some certainty that there were times that I wasn’t so sure. Recently, somebody who was only very briefly in my life committed suicide and I feel such a loss. I am able to pinpoint the selfish aspect part of this loss, the part that reminds me that I am alive and so incredibly lucky. But also, a huge sense of loss that she had so much potential but so much sad and I wish that I had reached out, I wish that she had reached out, I wish that I could’ve given her something to live for. Realistically, I barely even knew her, but I wish that there had been another way. Life is hard and sometimes it’s a bit shit, but here we are, battling through anyway and turning up for ourselves when people aren’t always around to notice that it’s Thursday and we’ve not slept in a few days. So you have to put on a nice outfit and try to eat something like quinoa because it’s meant to be healthy to feel like we’re a little bit more present. And how lucky are we that we get to do that?
I’ve been thinking a lot the last month about who do I want to be once I turn twenty seven, what kind of person do I want to be and what mark do I want to leave on the world. Twenty five was the year of being more ‘fuck it’, twenty six was the year of bravery and kindness and I think twenty seven is the year to practise a little more gratitude. And I think also to acknowledge my resilience. In the very moment of writing this, I have decided to take part in a project of 365 days of gratitude and maybe that will take form in annoying instagram posts where I use tags like #createyourownhappiness and #positivity. Maybe I will keep a journal. Maybe I’ll use post it notes in a photo album. Whatever medium I choose, I want to find the good and great and so that one day I’ll have a slideshow full of amazing stories and a warmth that allows me to rest easy when my time comes. Maybe this is all a bit morbid when I’m only (hopefully) a third or a quarter of the way through my life, but unfortunately, who knows? Life is so short and the years are flying past faster with each sort of season that we have.
Maybe I’ll get to November and think, wow being grateful for the little things sucks but honestly, I don’t know how else to live a life that I’m most proud of. If I can’t find the peace and joy from the little things, how will I ever find the joy in the bigger things? I believe that we are the energy that we send out and even though I’m currently caught up in a string of bad luck, I know it will not last forever (hopefully). I am frightened that if I don’t know what it’s like for things to be a bit rubbish, how will I appreciate and be grateful for the life changing moments that I’m collecting for my slideshow and I’ll miss them or dismiss them.
Maybe when I turn twenty seven, finding the gratitude for the little things will teach me that we don’t really know what life will throw at us but by finding the good, we control the direction of our individual journey. Maybe things will happen, but they won’t happen to me as such, I’ll have some kind of control and say over the journey of events and experiences that add up to who I am as a person. Or maybe, in a years time, I’ll be almost twenty eight and still stuck in a string of bad luck and have to use all of my practise saying ‘fuck it’ and be like ‘well this is me now’, but hopefully even if that is me, I’ll still be able to find things to be grateful for.