What the hell. I’m 30. I have no idea how this happened. I vividly remember dangling my feet from my balcony watching 8th graders come back from school and thinking “wow they are SUCH ADULTS.” … a quarter of century ago.
Overall, I am now happier than at any other time I can remember since childhood. I’m a fuller and better human now than I was on my 20th birthday. And while I know that I’m still a work in progress, I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I hope that in 10 years, I’m still be able to say the same with even more confidence.
Before I rush into the next decade of my life though, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how I’ve changed and what has held me back over the years. The lessons that are fresh in my mind came from the last year, which has been a year of the most growth for me.
The struggles I’ve overcome
Since I moved to the United States I’ve been existing in a limbo – never truly belonging anywhere. Throughout my early 20s, wherever I was, I felt that someone always found a subtle way of letting me know I didn’t quite belong there. This battle of belonging upset me to the core in my early 20s, especially when I was visiting Poland.
But, this lack of belonging also became the defining feature of my journey. Since I was always a visitor, I was also given permission to never stop moving. This realization took me on trips throughout Latin America, and temporary residencies in various parts of Europe.
Nowadays, I understand that sense of belonging is not something that needs to be approved by another human. It’s a feeling you choose to feel yourself, and I’m fortunate enough to feel it in many places around the world.
As I cruise into my 30s, I hope that I will not lose this curiosity about the world and willingness to be nimble, adoptable and movable. I am still dreaming of taking a longer trip around the world and I hope that I’ll be in the position to do it in my 30s.
Lessons I’ve learned
If there’s one lesson I learned in my 20s it is that the world is more complex than I think. As a result of that, I am much more accepting. I try not to judge and I’m much more empathetic than my decade younger self.
The second shift is that I now understand my own privilege. I know that there are plenty people who are smarter and more hardworking than me, and I just happened to be born in the right place at the right time.
Lastly, in the last few years I realized that in this life, you either have money or time. While I’m finally blessed with a job I truly love, I try not to sell my personal goals for my job. I consciously put myself, my family and new experiences ahead of any perceived career growth.
While many things have changed, I find real comfort in things that have stayed the same. Some of these things include:
- The sound of the train at my grandparents home
- My cousins loud (I mean, LOUD) 1990s music
- Mom’s barszcz
And, my brothers helping hand. Always there, no matter where I am. I keep these things close to my heart – they are a reminder of who I am, where I’m from and how far I’ve come.
The demons I ’m still fighting
There’s one thing that continues to hold me back as much as it did in my early 20s – I care too much about the opinion of others. However, this past year has been the first year when I decided to train myself to not care. I started my own creative projects as a way to systematically put myself out there and not care while doing it.
I created this blog which has been a source of my unfiltered thoughts and a record of my adventures. It gives me real pleasure to write and if someone likes it, great. If no one does, that’s fine too.
I also made a video with my face in it, which is something I’d never dare to do before. There’s something so unnatural about talking to a camera and I’m definitely not comfortable with it. But I tried, and it was a fun experience.
Lastly, I’m a co-host of a new podcast about women and their relationship with the outdoors. It’s been a lot of work and I’m very proud of it (we recently hit a 1,000 downloads!). That said, I still cringe every time I hear my voice. Hopefully in my 30s I’ll find a way to be a little kinder to myself.
The year ahead
Last year, I tried to do something new every day – it was a year of “trying”. I think that’s why I had the most productive year – I just tried, and failed, and tried again in a different way. I didn’t care about the result, what I cared about was that I was enjoying myself.
This year, I want to continue trying, but I want to be more disciplined about it. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of projects, and quite frankly, my sleep, diet and health suffered as a result. For that reason, I want to start off this year with a solid routine and a limited number of positive micro habits that get me to where I want to be without sacrificing my desire to keep learning new things.
I hope that I’ll take the lessons from my 20s and apply them to the next year – to continue traveling, asking questions, putting myself out there and caring less about other people’s opinions.
Cheers to the next many decades and- I hope – many mountains ahead.