Thursday, 26 June 2014


They say the older one gets, the wiser we become, and while this little pearl of wisdom may be accurate in most cases, it doesn't mean that we have to be happy about it. No matter how optimistic one’s outlook on age may be, we can’t avoid the unnecessary and somewhat superficial panic that goes hand in hand with getting older. Those calories that were once so easy to shed now seem impossible to lose as they find their final resting place in the form of hips, back-fat and Oprah wings. Those delightful crevasses that allegedly give us "character" begin cropping up more frequently than we like to admit. Hair that was once thick, lush and flowing continues to sprout in abundance...that is everywhere except on your head. IBS, cellulite, balding, crow’s feet. How the hell are we supposed to age gracefully when the act of getting older seems to be so undignified?   

For the neurotic at heart, a birthday can be a depressing state of affairs especially when 40 happens to be the next big milestone. Not only does it increase the awareness of our body's inevitable decay but it also makes us question our life choices and where we find ourselves at a particular point in time. Just how much do we really change in a year? Are we really like wine that gets better with age or do we stagnate in pools of complacency, too afraid to plunge into the unknown? And then there's marriage, financial freedom and that timeshare holiday home in Betty's Bay. Why haven't these things fallen into place yet? Have we wasted precious time worrying about the future instead of living in the present? Did we party too hard in our wasted youth? What have we done with our lives and where the hell are we supposed to go from here?

It happened. I turned 31 this week and just like Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, it came with a series of mixed reviews. I could have easily fallen victim to another year of self-deprecation but chose to look at the upside instead. For the first time ever, I focused on what I had achieved in a year instead of what I had not. I had nurtured my talents, produced a sports documentary, forgiven, forgotten, loved, allowed myself to be loved and made my theatrical return to an off-Broadway community theatre production. It was the first time I felt accomplished and comfortable in my own skin, and the first time I couldn't care less about what people thought about me or my opinions. Did I sometimes wish I had the liver and appearance of my 20-year old self? Hell yeah, but do I really want to relive the fresh hell and dramatic antics that come with being twenty-young? After thirty-one years I can finally say that I like who I am and what I have become...and it feels fucking fantastic.

As I watched the flood of cyber-love stream in through facebook, twitter and whats app birthday messages, I felt a certain kind of love and appreciation that I had never felt before. I had made an impact on so many lives and left my mark deep in their hearts. People who cared and loved me for all the crazy that I am genuinely thought of me as beautiful and talented, and that certainly beat any worry I had about stiff joints and Vitamin D deficiencies. It was the first time I learned how to take a compliment for what it was. A compliment. While the actual day turned out to be a complete non-event, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these messages and appreciated each and every single one of them. You just don't get that kind of maturity in your twenties.

Another life lesson I picked up on along the way is that our mistakes and failures are only as damaging as we allow them to be. We all fuck up at some point in our lives but it's how we pick ourselves up and learn from these blunders that makes these lessons worthwhile. I know it sounds like a total cop-out but when you enter the other side of 30, you finally see life as that incredible journey people tell you about and not a destination. We're all so caught up in rat races and finish lines that we completely forget to pace ourselves. We'll all get what we want eventually but only if we endure, even if it's only one baby step at a time.

And then there is the greatest love of all. Love for oneself. No one is going to ever truly love you back until you respect yourself enough to realise that you are freaking amazing. I'm not talking about that self-assured, narcissistic, my-shit-don't-stink kind of love but the self-appreciation kind where you no longer need someone to validate who you are. It's the kind of love that comes to light when you learn to forgive others and yourself for the past, the love that comes when you let go and embrace all things good as well as all the tragedies and maladies that measure our strength and define who we are today.

I know it sounds as if I popped a handful of Valium and chased it with a dirty martini before I wrote this, but the truth is that turning 31 is really not that bad at all. There's a greater sense of calm knowing that who you were back then is certainly not who you are right now. Part of me is wiser, stronger and more self-assured than I was a year ago. I am braver and confident, more willing to take chances and risks, even if it threatens the barriers of familiarity and comfort. If you love yourself completely and wholeheartedly and keep good friends around you for as long as you can, you'll be surprised at what kind of human being you have the potential to become.   

When it comes to getting older, I couldn't help but wonder, do things only get better from here?

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