This blog post comes more than 1 month late, but here they are: thoughts from my 22nd birthday.
First of all: I am not a big believer in birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, New Years’ celebration etc. I think that we should strive to show our love, spend time with our family and celebrate each other no matter the day of the year. What I do however like about these special celebrations is that they offer you an opportunity to reflect. What has happened in the last year? How has my life changed? How have I changed?
The night before my birthday, I somehow started thinking about something that has always played a big role in my life: the fear of not being good enough and of not having achieved enough for my age.
Especially for events like your birthday when it comes to reaching a certain age, you ask yourself: “Oh I am now x years old, I should have achieved this and in the next 5 years I must achieve that in life.” Age somehow still plays a huge role in every aspect of our lives. Say you suddenly start liking someone who is 15 years older than you, you might experience some critical feedback from the people around you. If you leave your job at 40 and decide you want to travel the world, a lot of people will probably judge you. One of my friends recently quit her successful cooperate job at age 30 to follow her dream and start her own business. Many would have probably been too scared of making such a decision because they would think they are “too old” to take that a risk.
We oftentimes let age be a definite guideline of where we should be in life because age offers us an amazing opportunity to compare ourselves to others: What have other people my age accomplished? What job do they have? How is their relationship going? Here the quote “comparison is the thief of joy” applies, because we will never be able to properly compare our life to that of someone else. We oftentimes end up comparing our struggles with someone else’s highlights that appear to be their life. I recently found myself falling into this age-related fear trap a lot. I realized just how bad it was when I started thinking about how if I and Alex were to break up, there was a chance of me never finding anyone else again and dying alone. I am 22 years old and I know just how ridiculous this sounds, but I suppose it is just what happens when you take age as a reason to let the fear of the future into your life.
Who gets to decide at what stage in our life we should be, once we have reached a certain age? No one does, not even the ideas and social constructs that been introduced into our lives ever since we were kids. Just because you are 30 doesn’t mean you have to have a secure job, being 16 doesn’t mean you are not mature enough and reaching 60 certainly doesn’t mean you can’t start all over again. These life constructs are probably one of the reasons that I allowed the fear-based belief: I am not good enough into my life. I mean- what had I really achieved by age 22? Other people my age already had a college degree and/or a secure job at a big company. Was I really making the most out of my life? What helped me get out of this situation of self-doubt was the following quote: “We overvalue what we are not and undervalue what we are.”
I had to remind myself that fear-based thoughts never get you anywhere so I decided to look at the other side of things. I did something I should probably do on a daily basis: I made a gratitude list. I wrote down all the things I had achieved in the last 22 years and thanked for all the good things in my life. It is unbelievable how different I felt afterwards. Before, when I was comparing myself to others and I put my focus on all the things I hadn’t accomplished yet, I thought that I was “not good enough”. However, after switching my focus towards everything that I can be proud of, I started feeling so incredibly blessed and happy with myself.
Age should never define your choices, your actions or your attitude towards your achievements. One size will never fit all- we do understand that. However, when it comes to “one path never suits all” we have trouble understanding this concept. If we cling too tightly to the things that we “should” be doing and we “should” have achieved, we lose track of our own magic. We lose sight of what makes us who we truly are. Sometimes we need to lift that curtain of self-imposed rules and age limitations to see life as what it truly is: a never-ending journey of learning that is unique for everyone (no matter how old or young they are). We need to understand that we are good enough and worthy of love no matter our actions or achievements. No matter our age.
For my birthday this year, Alex got me a super cool present: A film camera!
Here are some pictures from the first roll of film I ever shot: