When I turned 30, my last so-called milestone birthday, I was unemployed, broke, and heartbroken. I was totally and completely lost.
I was still at that age, where there was a lot of pressure to “achieve” things by certain points in time. By 30, I had reasoned, I should have my shit together.
I should be relatively successful, have a social-media-boasting – worthy partner and generally be on a rapid upward trajectory.
But I didn’t have any of those things, and the closer it loomed, the more things fell apart.
As a result, I was forced to let go of my ambitious expectations of life, and all the greatness I was clearly destined for (as a millennial, it is my birthright to feel that I am special, as anyone who has grumbled about our generation will agree).
I had to embrace the reality, which wasn’t all that pretty.
On a side note, I did have a lovely celebration in New York with some close friends. But in terms of my life plan, I was VERY behind.
I was living in Toronto at the time. A little over a year earlier, I had quit my job, to become a writer. I started out in full force, but somewhere along the way, my drive began to fray at the edges. It was then that I met the man who would later break my heart, in that traumatic way that only toxic love can.
Shortly after my 30th birthday, I reunited with the man that had broken my heart. However, we still weren’t a good fit for each other. This was an affair that would continue in a very mercurial way – we were either totally in love or in fights so bad, I never want to relive them.
Although there may have been a lot of love, we were not mature enough perhaps to be good for each other. We didn’t bring out the best in each other, rather we inadvertently pulled each other down.
For a time things picked up, largely because I went back to real and got a decent job and a steady income again.
When I got the job at H&M, a year and a half later, I couldn’t believe it. Twice-yearly trips to Sweden, an office that was walking distance from my house, and a gorgeous view of the Toronto skyline. I was sorted. Things were looking up!
But 11 months later, about half a year before my 33rd birthday, I was miserable again. Now two and a half years into that same relationship, but worse still, as a result of intense bullying from my boss, and a toxic unsupportive work environment, I ended up quitting my retail job cold turkey.
It was the second time I had done such a thing. The result, because of short tenures at my previous organisations – was that getting a job in the same field was near impossible.
On a whim, I came and spent a month in Delhi, with my parents.
That’s when the itch started. I knew I was spinning my wheels in Toronto – it was comfortable, if a little boring, and oh so cold, but I really wasn’t getting anywhere.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed inevitable. Before I knew it, I was wrapping up my affairs in Toronto, and making preparations to move back.
It was the first of two major changes I would make in the decade.
India – well Delhi – had changed greatly in the 15 years I had been away. It was no longer the challenging place of the 1980s, nor the post-liberalisation Delhi I remembered from the 1990s.
It was strangely liveable – in a way that I had never imagined it to be as a child in license raj Delhi. Adapting to India in 2013 was a piece of cake compared to what my parents had gone through 30 years earlier.
I joined the family business, but remained a bit rudderless, not really having a clearly defined role. I embraced being a social butterfly for a time, developing a wide circle of friends, and spending a lot of time out.
Six months after moving to Delhi, I finally pulled the plug on my old relationship, in a way that left me completely and utterly shattered. It took me a long time to recover.
I tried to date, I really did. I had a few short relationships, all of which were disastrous, partly due to the baggage, and partly because they were just poor fits.
I couldn’t adjust to the heavy emphasis on marriage, the strange power dynamics, and the fact that I was not able to find a situation, within which I was comfortable to be vulnerable, and myself.
It was in Delhi that I first truly embraced therapy. I did phone consultations to work through a number of issues and insecurities that I was grappling with – leftover from a confused career trajectory, a massive heartbreak and some intrinsic shortcomings that had been there long before all this transpired. I didn’t realise how much this would come to help me in the years to come.
Three years later, my father (who is also my boss) dropped a bombshell on my colleague and I. He wanted us to move to Mumbai.
I have never had to “adult” in India. 15 years in Canada was no preparation. I had always been afraid of trying to make it on my own here – I had always had family support, and doing things like managing help and commissioning plumbers in Hindi was not my forte.
Mumbai challenged me and stretched me in ways that I cannot describe to you. I tell Mumbaikars, who chuckle at us whiny Delhiites, that it made me a better person.
My first few years in Mumbai were full of minor breakages – and I became very familiar with plumbers, carpenters and a variety of workmen, who shielded me from leaky pipes, broken doors and rogue pigeons who absolutely needed to nest, and consequently shit, all over my balcony.
I gave up socialising, because quite frankly, after commuting through traffic, who wants to go out again. My friends were largely in Bandra, which was 40 minutes to an hour away (again, because of traffic – at least half that time was spent leaving Andheri).
Although I tried very hard to meet new people, I found myself attrcting a very needy, clingy variety of people, whose ilk I could not handle. So, I turned inwards, embracing the introvert I had long repressed, and found myself enjoying my own company much more than that of others.
In a way I felt like I had found my way home – to the person I was as a child – happy on my own, and content without the validation of others.
I embraced my solitude so much, that when I met my current partner, it was difficult for me to let go of that need for personal time. I wasn’t used to being around someone else so much, and it was a huge adjustment, but a worthwhile one.
That was another major milestone for me, finally meeting someone that had the same approach to relationships that I did – someone who didn’t covet a title or a certificate, but saw the relationship as a living breathing thing, that needed a lot of hard work but was worthwhile.
The most significant major shift,, happened about a year ago. I finally got an opportunity to do work I loved.. While writing has always been a passion, I did not enjoy it as a job – as my primary source of income.
I did not expect to enjoy coaching as much as I did. It started when I became an LMI licensee, and then moving into OD, executive and life coaching, I have found a lot of meaning in my work.
Although coaching sessions demand a lot of personal energy, I find myself energised and excited after a really great session. It has also allowed me to connect with a lot of very interesting people through my coaching classes and the community I’ve joined.
In a way, I found my Ikigai – a thing I’d been searching for, for a long time..
I’m entering a new decade tomorrow, a little more sure of myself, and with a few less hangups about who or where I’m supposed to be. I haven’t figured it all out yet, if anything, far from it, but I guess knowing that makes the ride more interesting.
I’m looking forward to another decade full of adventures, bumps and bruises. Who knows what it will bring, but at least this time, I can go in with an open mind, and zero expectations.