Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Because Tomorrow I Turn Thirty

When paying for a bottle of wine at Morrisons over the weekend, I was asked for an ID. Although it is legal in the UK for anyone over 18 to purchase alcohol, many retailers follow the Challenge 25 protocol which requires anyone who looks under 25 to show proof of age. I thought the cashier was having a laugh but her face said otherwise so I brought out my driving licence and commented that I will be 30 in a few days. Not that I felt like it, or what I thought I was supposed to feel like. But given that Isaac's great grandmother who will be 90 this year still drives a car and lives on her own, age is but a number.

Still, it is always good to take stock of your life occasionally and the last day in your twenties seem to be a good chance to celebrate what you have managed to achieve in what could be a third of your lifetime (if you are lucky). I could not boast of what most of my 'Facebook friends' have already accomplished in three decades when it was their time to publicly count their (material) blessings (yes, I have seen this posted in my news feed!): a four-wheel drive, a home ownership and a high-flying career, standards by which my old culture measure success by, for I have none of them. But my substandard existence, as defined by social media, is filled with a lot of ordinary and unexceptional things to cherish.

Like pushing a second hand smart trike in the park on a warm Friday morning when the sun is out and watching the glee in my little boy's face as we approached the glittering pond where a noisy congregation of birds are waiting for our crumbs. Did I imagine, as a 20-year-old University student in a busy fishing town in the southern tip of the Philippines, that ten years later I would be in this other side of the world, trapped in an intoxicating state of domestic bliss?

It's not always bright and cheerful of course, for this simple way of life comes with a price. When I was younger and quite idealistic with an inflated sense of importance (err...purpose), I actually thought I was meant to do great things that would make a big difference to a lot of lives. I have prepared well - with Latin honours and Leadership awards at university, an accountancy qualification and a job at a Big Four audit firm - it looked like I was primed for a successful career in the financial industry. But somewhere along the way, while most of my peers have carried on the path that I too was meant to take, I took a U-turn and could no longer find my way back. This meant that I would have to start from scratch, in a job I have very little experience and in a country suffering badly from the damaging effects of government bailouts and overspending.

But when life gives you lemons, you must learn to make a lemon drizzle cake. They taste sweet and refreshing and smells lovely when freshly taken out of the oven. Without business meetings to prepare for or late hours to meet deadlines, I was able to spend a lot of time doing things that give me childlike pleasure. Cooking up something new and delightful everyday. Taking up photography. Writing blogs. Learning a new language. Things that wouldn't take me far in life but that which makes my everyday existence a rich experience.

I may not be flying the banner for feminism but I am living my life with as much passion and purpose as I could. It didn't take me long to realise that most of us are not likely to do anything remarkable in our lifetime, that we are destined to live a life on a relatively modest scale. But we should not resent the apparent smallness of our lives because they are, in their way, as great and as exciting as the lives of those caught up in great events.

Yet there are times when I have wondered whether this carefree wantoning is good enough, moments when I am gripped with jealousy about the "exciting" lives everyone else seems to be living, especially when I look at Facebook. It would have been nice to visit families living abroad, to afford to buy our own home or to live in a place of seemingly perpetual sunshine. But there are things you couldn't have that you learn to live without and only then will you learn to be grateful for what you have. If not having a bulky bank balance meant I could kiss my child goodnight instead of blowing him kisses in Skype or Facetime, I would choose that any time. Happiness does not have to cost a lot and keeping my family intact mean more to me than the luxuries we couldn't afford.

So by worldly terms, I have not really amounted to much and it would certainly seem like I have nothing tangible to show for my efforts. I have always found the interview question: "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" a tough one to answer and something you couldn't be perfectly honest about. Five years ago, I was single and working as an accountant in Gibraltar who, aside from the country where I grew up in and where I then lived, have never been anywhere else in the world. Five years later, I have married, set up home in another country, travelled widely, took up a new occupation, obtained a new nationality and started a family in that order. If my life has changed that much in five years, who knows where I will find myself in the next thirty?


  1. I can relate with your experiences Ate most especially the Facebook part. But yeah right, when life gives you kalamansi, you must learn to make kalamansi juice hahaha. Love, nissan

    1. Thanks Nissan! Facebook can really be quite annoying and can make you feel inadequate a lot of times. But then we should never really compare our lives with others although that is easier said than done. I've read this great piece of wisdom somewhere that might help: we should not attempt to follow the paths of others or be afraid to get lost for ours is a world is meant to be explored, or something like that.

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