I turn 30 this month. It seems odd to me to be turning 30 as at times I still feel like i’m in my early to mid 20s yet at other times I certainly do feel a bit older than I would still like to be.
A few years ago I had a number of friends turning 30 and some of them were having a little bit of a freakout. At the time I said to myself that by the time I turn 30 I won’t be freaking out like they did. Well I thought that until the day I turned 29 and then over the last year I’ve had plenty of freakouts to a number of my friends.
Over the past few months I’ve taken some time to reflect on what I’ve really learned in life so far, not necessarily at an academic level but at a how to actually a meaningful life level.
As I planned to sit down and write these life lessons into a nice blog post, my mobile phone died, completely dead, not a chance of getting any data off it. So after an evening spent trying to get it replaced under warranty and setting up a new temporary phone I begin my list of lessons learnt in life with patience.
- Patience. The irony of putting patience as my first life lesson is it is something I still very much lack. But over the last few years I’ve learnt more and more to try and be calm and roll with whatever life and people throw at you.
- Take time out and pause. Along with a lack of patience I can also be a very stressful person, I like to keep myself busy and I like a challenge. However, again over the last few years I’ve learnt why taking time out to pause, get fresh air and see the sunshine is so vital to living a healthy life. I’ve learnt that no matter how busy I am there is always time on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon to head to the beach or a park and take a short (or not so short) walk.
- Have role models. I’ve been really fortunate throughout both my teenage and young adult years to have had a number of close friends who have been 5 to 10 years older than me. These friends have had such a positive impact on my life with their wisdom and advice.
- Take genuine interest in people. I used to hate the question “how are you?” I hated it because no matter how bad your were feeling the standard response is always “good”. I hated the question of “how are you?” so much that for a few years I wouldn’t use it when meeting with friends, until one day one of my best friends challenged me that instead of hating the question I should genuinely answer it and see where that conversation leads to. In doing this and being genuine in expressing my feelings with others I’ve had others expose their genuine feelings with me and built some really solid friendships as a result.
- Some great friends are transient but acquaintances last. I moved to Australia at the age of 22. At the time I thought I would only live in Sydney for a few years (it has now been over seven years) and I would be able to maintain a lot of friendships. I’ve since discovered just how transient friendship can be. Friends who you spend almost every day with for years can fade away pretty quickly when you’re in a different city or even work environment. However, I’ve also discovered my friends who I may only see every few months or years have built friendships with me which have now lasted over 10 years.
- Travel and experience culture. One of the best things about living in Sydney is the amazingly diverse people you meet. I’ve been so fortunate to have built friendships with people from literally every continent (except Antarctica). I’ve also been extremely fortunate over the last five years to travel to three continents and twelve countries outside of Australia and New Zealand for both work and pleasure. During these trips I’ve had many friends show me their culture and homes. I’ve also made many friends while I have been travelling and this experience is something you simply can’t get by reading a book or watching a documentary.
- Experience art. I’m a scientist and I’m a nerd. With the exception of classical music I never had any interest in art. But again this is where friendship really matters. In the first few years of living in Sydney I had friends literally drag me along to events such as the Biennale of Sydney, but since then I’ve really grown to appreciate the wonderfully diverse ways in which people can express themselves, their views and their emotions.
- Read. Not only does reading teach you amazing new things but it also gives you an outlet to escape and relax.
- Learning never ends and you learn more outside of university and school. The more I learn the more I feel that I don’t yet know. Furthermore, what you learn in formal education can only take you so far, but what you teach yourself and have a passion for will propel you further.
- Argue and debate but don’t fight. Mobile phones have made debating a challenging task as you can very easily fact check almost everything said. A good debate, even if it doesn’t change someone’s mind can really flesh out an idea, but narrow minded arguments are black holes that go nowhere.
- You’ll never have enough money. Living in Australia makes me among the richest people on the planet. However, somehow no matter how much I earn I find new ways for the money to disappear.
- Faith is hard. I grew up in a very conservative Christian community. As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered that a lot of my faith has been rooted in restrictive rules and regulations rather than reasoned theology. This leads to my final lesson learned:
- Gospel is a lifestyle and not a religion. In recent years I’ve found that my faith has become rerooted in the relationships and the community I’ve had with other christians than arguments and rules about what you can and cannot do.
Overall I still have my anxiety, fears and goals which don’t go away easily, but these life lessons have hopefully taught me how to be a more well rounded human being.