Monday, June 4, 2012

40 is the new 18

So...the 'big 4-0'.

Over the past half a year, I've witnessed many of my peers arrive at this point in their timeline (mostly via Facebook) - some with trepidation, others with celebratory mirth, and most, with resigned humour.

As I post one birthday message after another, I often add a line saying that I would be eagerly joining the club soon.

That is not a lie. I have never felt better about myself - where I am in my life and where I am going to go - than I do now, as I approach the cusp of mid-life.

''40 is the new 18" - I've told everyone who was patient enough to listen that this is my new tagline for the way I live (and want to be living for the next 40 years).

In so many ways, I've been blessed with the opportunity to live as if I was 18 all over again, albeit with the hindsight of experience and insight of maturity that I did not have back then.

This time last year, I was making the most amazing, life-changing journey on a fellowship to study ethical issues in journalism through the Holocaust. I spent my birthday, at the end of that trip, across three cities - Krakow, Frankfurt and New York - with a group of people I would cherish for the rest of my life because of the spiritual, emotional and intellectual bonds we had forged.

Something shifted inside after that journey. I came to understand that it was the universe's way of preparing me for this next half of my life.

Now, I'm doing the work I love and had dreamed of as a child. Everyday, I feel connected to the principles that had first inspired me to choose this path.

Looking back at the anger and disappointment in my younger days when the work I was doing then did not match up to my ideals, and the subsequent quests to find something else that could, I understand now that those were all part of the lessons I had to learn to arrive at this point where conviction and action can meet and move on together.

Putting career on hold and quitting work when the kids came along meant paying the price of having to start all over again at mid-life when everyone else had ''arrived''. But because of those ''lost'' years, I'd gained the priceless gift of being there every moment of the early years of my babies' growth and the incomparable happiness I felt teaching yoga to kids, making and selling my own accessories and writing without fetters.

I had resisted moving back to Singapore late last year with a vehemence that led only to much wasted energy. But I realised that even those were not ill-spent. The process of resistance at all cost was necessary for me to understand what I didn't want - and what I did.

But more importantly, there were old chapters back here that needed to be closed, before I could begin the next book.

Being single again is probably the best thing I've done for myself, next to graduate school.

Most of the first half of my life had been marked with the fear of being alone and hence, the spate of one disastrous attachment after another. Yes, I know I didn't look it - I've always played the part of independence really well.

But now, singlehood at mid-life is feeling extremely free and refreshing. I had thought I would need some time to overcome the fear of going it alone - especially given the challenges of single parenting in a society that still harbours strong discrimination and prejudice under the veneer of progressive speak.

But no, there is no fear. Perhaps, it is precisely because I am now a single parent at mid-life that I feel no fear. Sure, there will be some frustration, annoyance, and occasionally, anger at roadblocks put in place by bureaucracy and prejudice. C'est la vie.

So, on D-day, I'm taking stock of how it feels like to have the next half of a wonderful life before me, with plenty to look forward to.

It's like having that same fire in the belly at 18, but also the magic power to not let those flames burn out of control and destroy the people and things around me that I hold dear - or, myself.

That wild, dangerous fire is now a silent, steady flame, which I have come to recognise as what strength, freedom and independence truly is.

It doesn't get much better than this - so much to see, do, and experience.

I have a very long bucket list. For a start, Im going to learn Korean, pick up boxing and take the kids to China and imbue them with a sense of culture and heritage. At some point I will run the Great Wall marathon (OK, maybe the half).

Last, but not least, when I'm approaching 80, I would like to write a blog post titled ''80 is the new 28''.

Journey - on track

No comments:

Post a Comment