On Saturday I turned 26, and as my cousin put it I’m “officially on the wrong side of 25”. Uh oh.
While I was growing up, having my birthday so close to Christmas was both good and bad. We had usually already broken up for school holidays, but people were also often traveling with their families as well.
December was always a crazy month, with my birthday, Christmas, and then New Years, and then nothing for the rest of the year. But my mum always made sure my birthday was kept separate from Christmas so that I’d feel special. She wouldn’t even put the Christmas tree up until after my birthday, which is the 13th (no matter how much we begged).
One of the consequences of turning another year older at the end of the year, is that I usually begin evaluating my year a few days before my birthday. This year was full of highs and lows, and while China definitely wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I don’t regret moving to Beijing at all.
This year I took my mum back with me to Cambodia, visited Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, danced on The Great Wall, explored Myanmar with one of my besties, and learned which qualities I’m looking for when it comes to the opposite sex. I made incredible friends from around the world, and somehow, inexplicably, I’m about to end the year exactly where I started it, back in Chiang Mai.
So why was I feeling a little…down? I had looked around at my crazy, incredible, roller coaster life, and as I compared it to the lives of others my age, I wondered if living my rather hedonistic lifestyle was the right decision.
As we grow up, we all enter certain life-stages at the same time. We head off to “big kids school” at around five years old, do our time, and then it’s straight on to high school. After high school, we’re supposed to magically know what we want to do with the rest of our lives, even though we’re barely 18, and all we really want to do is party.
After high school, all of my friends went to university, while I saved my ass off and did summer camp in America. A few years later, I was back in the states working as an Au Pair, while my friends were all finishing their degrees.
Now that I’ve spent the last year and a half in Asia, most of my friends from home are done with their degrees and they’re all in the “real world”, with “grown up jobs”. Most of them are also in long-term relationships, while they work their way up the corporate ladder.
I love my life. I think I’m incredibly lucky to have friends from around the world, to have spent so much time traveling and living abroad, and exploring the world. But as the year ends, and as I turn another year older, it’s easy to look around and question if I’m doing the right thing. Not because I want the regular nine to five, mortgage, travel-once-a-year kind of life, but because part of me wonders if I should be wanting that.
And then I slap myself across the face and wake the hell up.
This year I’ve met so many different people, from all walks of life, and many of them are in their twenties. And one thing I’ve learned from talking to them, is that no one feels like they have this whole life thing sorted out.
Some people have a lot of money, but their personal lives are shit, or they’ve got it all sorted when it comes to travel and friends, but they’re dead broke. I’ve learned that you can never quite have it all.
And that’s ok.
I’ve written before about how social media often makes us compare our lives to others, when really we need to focus on what we already have. Most of the time we’re so busy showing off our amazing lives, that we forget to be vulnerable. We forget to show people that we’re struggling too, that we’re all just trying to figure out this crazy ride called life.
So it’s ok to not have it all together in your twenties. Or your thirties. Hell, some of the best people I know are in their forties and still have no idea what they want to do with their lives.
As for me? Well, next year may be the year that I finally invest in some wrinkle-preventing cream. But I’ll also be focusing more on what I want from my life, and less on what my friends are all doing with theirs.