I recently had my 30th birthday in Europe. It seems that starting the beginning of any decade can be a monumental time in one’s life. I had the feeling, accompanied by affirmation from others, that the way I would go into my 30’s would set the pace for this next decade of my life. This brought to my attention questions about who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to be doing with my life. And yes…I am still asking myself these questions at the new age of thirty. I hear from those even older, that they still ask themselves these life questions as well.
I love Europe and there is so much in that part of the world that I have not seen and experienced. Keep in mind though, I don’t want to see and experience Europe the same way that most Americans do. I want to visit there for a while and stay with locals. Gist is, I want to live there for a period of time.
Giving attention to these questions stirred up desires and passions that I have for traveling and people. This involved some reflection on the past decade of my twenties and I feel that overall I can say that I spent my twenties knowing who I am, but trying to conform to what my surrounding society expected of me, especially when it came to career. The first big thing to understand about me concerning career is that I’ve known for a long time, since I was a teenager, that I could not have just one type of job or career my whole life. There was no way I could see myself doing just one type of work and being with one company throughout my life. The idea terrified me with boredom and seemed so down-right typical. So it’s no surprise that throughout my twenties, I had numerous different kinds of jobs in a variety of companies. Our society doesn’t look very highly on that so I encountered feelings of needing to change or that I wasn’t doing things right…in essence, that there was something wrong with what I wanted and where I was at in my life.
Flash forward now to current day: I turned thirty almost two weeks ago on April 4th. Where did I spend this special occasion? I was with my two dear friends, Marilena and Anne, in Milano, Italy (and that’s the Italian way to spell it, by the way). You see, back in the summer I was working for a great corporation in a fantastic position. I had a nice office, good title, wonderful colleagues, and…I had to be in an office at a certain time, was compared to my co-worker and thus expected to be in the office earlier and stay later, and wasn’t traveling. Some things just aren’t for everyone and as nice as the security can be, I didn’t see it as bulletproof, ever-lasting security. Haven’t we learned that by now about companies in our economy and times?
Then the ideas came, fast on the heels of my desires that I started to pay more attention to…I longed to be in Europe for my 30th birthday. Heck, if I’m already over there, why not make the most of it and be there for a little while. I could see countries I hadn’t been to yet, like Italy and Switzerland…spend more time in Spain to discover more about my family roots there and finally become fluent in Spanish (which is long overdue since my mother is Dominican and Spaniard and her first language is Spanish). And who knows what else I would discover about myself by living in new countries. For more reasons than I can list here, it was becoming more and more of a desire and more ideas were being born.
Have you ever found that when you start asking yourself hard questions and then paying attention to what you find, that you become motivated to essentially “put it out there”…to yourself, your friends and family maybe, even putting it out there over any of your fears and discouragement from others…And that’s when things start to fall into place and doors open. I always like to keep in mind that at times it may seem that doors close, but that’s only because there is another door or even window that opens.
I started to put out there my desires and from that formed a plan. The windows and doors that opened and closed over many more months orchestrated the possibility of where I am now and the fulfillment of one of my aspirations for how I would set the pace for my thirties. It may seem cliché, but there is a reason why people pose the question “If you only had one month or year left to live, what would you go do?” I spent years putting that question aside and doing what I was told life looked like to be responsible, secure, and happy. I really did. I had the relationship, the house, the yard, the dog, the job (well, in my case jobs)…and you know what…it didn’t bring security or success or happiness for that matter. In and of themselves these things are not wrong, they’re not bad. I am simply sick of the unbalanced value that some societies can put on them. And I’m hopefully learning that I should not find my value and life in them.
Now back to a couple of weeks ago…I spent my 30th birthday in Milano, Italy with old and new friends. Marilena and her fiancé Flavio (now husband) took us to the most wonderful dinner for the special occasion and absolutely spoiled me with their company during the week and a half that I was visiting. Overall, my favorite aspect of my experiences so far was not only my birthday, but the day after was Marilena’s birthday and then a week later was her wedding. This was very special for me since I love to travel by experiencing local Peoples and cultures and attending a matrimonio Italiano (Italian wedding) showed me the best of Milano and Italians.
Catch up to where I am at this very moment and you find me writing this from the train as I head from this past week in Geneva, Switzerland to Venice. The sun is still bright as it starts to set and there are lush fields of grape trellis’ in vineyards flying by my window as I travel further into renowned Italian wine country. It is quite like the scenes many of us have seen in pictures, movies, and first-hand…but for me this time, its reality. And I feel at home. I feel at peace and excited…if this is what the start of my thirties can look like, who knows what else I have available to me throughout the next decade.