This week, a dear distant friend wrote me a very short, direct message, it said: I turned 30 in April. What would you be able to share with me? I trust you, and I need direction, I need something...
Little did she know that this message was actually a gift for me, as well. As I begin to slowly leave my 30's behind and approach my 40's, I have been looking back and reflecting on this last decade of my life with great intent. On December 3rd I turn 38, and I have begun thinking very deeply about what it means to leave such turbulent times behind, but also wanting a time of deep healing and self-discovery, and moreover know what I want to do, and who I want to be from now on. Truthfully, I would like to be peaking into my truest and most beautiful self by the time I am 40, and so this is an opportunity for me to start doing that work now.
First, I thought I should give her some context, because our experiences were wildly different, not only due to our geographic reality (I am in North America and she is in Asia) but because in my 30's, I had 2 kids and was mending from a disastrous and failing marriage, whereas she’s living wild and free, while working hard at research and teaching at a time when academia is under deep crisis, and still having to manage a cultural context which questions her choices to remain free every day.
It's important to keep context in mind, while we try to get to the essence of it, with this being said, however, I suspect that she and I are about to enter the same dimension of time - even though we exist almost ten years apart from one another. After all that I have observed, I have a feeling there's an alignment happening regarding women everywhere who are having a chance to educate themselves and learn about whatever it is that they desire. Learning promotes simultaneous growth, and I believe in a collective consciousness that is pushing us all to grow into a better future.
So if you are close to turning 30, here's my bit of wisdom:
Make friends with women of different ages and cultural backgrounds. One of the greatest discoveries I made in my 30s was realizing just how important it is to surround ourselves with women of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Intergenerational and culturally diverse friendships are crucial to our growth and development, and they keep the wheel of life spinning. These friendships bring us hope and perspective. They are like beacons of light in your hardest moments of darkness.
It is important however to remember that you are also a part of this wheel, and so you owe this hope and light to other women as well. Don't ever forget that, and foster that. Surrounding myself with women of integrity, character and to be honest, faith (regardless of denomination) is the only thing that has truly made a difference in my growth as I desperately sought to root myself in a different country (for context, I am also an immigrant). They have kept me grounded, they have kept me wise, and they have reminded me that I could still strive and grow and lead a life of purpose well beyond my 60's even.
The Wisdom of Children
Children everywhere matter, whether or not you want to have your own. In an attempt to achieve and gain power in a neo-liberal world, sometimes I feel we've all distanced ourselves from our only true connection to the future: children. And let me be clear, I am not saying this to women only - I'd be saying the same thing to a young man as well, and in fact, I have.
Children are dying everywhere, and they desperately need our collective love, kindness, and care. If not us, who are adults, then who? Who is to care for the environment they will be growing in? Who is to lead them into a better future? If having your own truly does not feel right to you, that is purely your decision alone, but to care for those who are more vulnerable than us is our duty and moral imperative as we age and gain power and space.
We must, all of us, care for children and actively work in all sectors of society to show that this type of parental care belongs everywhere. Our children need all of us to grow up. Not to mention, their love is free and it will renew you if you dare to allow yourself to feel it and form relationships with them. They often speak the truth, and they will return what you give often, so they are also very honest mirrors.
Your own body's wisdom
Take care of your body and your health. In our 30's we start having cysts, so keep yourself in check with that. I never knew it was a thing. Well, it's a thing. I currently have a tumour on my left breast, and I am ok, dealing with it, but it was very scary because I didn't know it was so common and I honestly thought I was going to die for a while until I educated myself further.
Making better choices around my stress load has had a clear impact on my well-being and unfortunately, modern Western medicine still does not take women's health seriously, so you need to be proactive and be ahead of the game as much as you can. If at all possible, I even suggest you quit drinking...I know it's controversial, but I did and so did John Meyer and for the same reason: a deep desire to achieve our full potential (I like to think that John Meyer and I have shared the same vibes...)
The Wisdom within You
Be reflective. When I turned 33 I decided to look back at my whole entire life and ask myself a very honest question: why do I feel so broken? I had so many reasons to have so much going for me, and yet there I was: getting divorced, in a distant country, without any family, and with two kids to care for on my own. I couldn't understand how come everything had spiralled downwards when I was so intellectually capable and had a great education and so much going for me. So I decided to go down on a path of restructuring myself through memory.
For every hole in my heart or in my soul, I found ways to go back there through reflection and memory and full-on face them. I took accountability for much of the damaged by asking myself an honest question: did I have any degree of fault in the things that hurt me deeply and if so why or how? How would I do it differently? And most importantly: now, how could I truly let go, and forgive myself? In all honesty, this is the only thing that has allowed me to close some very old wounds but it's important that I mention that it was not a linear process, and it was long. It took me about 5 years (I think you can do it faster). I am only now getting to the end of it, and I never felt so healthy in my soul.
Love and Strength
Don't be afraid to be whole. Patriarchy is about silos, detachment, and severance, and sometimes I suspect that this is because it's all they can handle: one thing at a time, one part of us at a time because ultimately women are incredibly powerfully. But I also believe we can prove to patriarchy that we are not scary, by making a conscientious choice to remain loving - and this love is not for anyone in particular, but it will make your life feel better. It's about self-love and then authentically transferring this love and nurturance towards your community, and even perhaps a partner if you so choose. But the point is: there is nothing wrong with being strong and setting clear boundaries while also remaining loving.
Stay spiritually open, sexually healthy, emotionally balanced and intellectually sharp. Patriarchy is scared to shit of women like that - who are whole. So this fear is a hint in my opinion that this is precisely the one thing that will keep patriarchy in check: women stitching themselves up and becoming whole again.
Wisdom and the Cosmos
Align your brain and your heart with the gravitational forces around you. The universe is vast and we are dust (learn about it, because it really opens our brains to possibilities - Carl Sagan should be mandatory reading in this day and age). We are more like pixie dust, it's true, but dust nonetheless. The best recipe I found to not cause any harm with my power is to always try to be thoughtful and compassionate of others, even the ones I can't quite stand at times (I try to see where they are coming from, I see their trajectory and what led them to be a certain way). And with that, I move forward in a more mindful way.
I also no longer allow anyone to poison my heart of my mind. I know what the truth is - and it's in nature, it's in the stars, and it's in me. And I stick to that beauty and faith in every step I take - this gives me authentic mindfulness and it frees me to be attuned to a system that is much bigger and powerful than the sterile and fabricated one we've created.
Wisdom and our Digital Tools
Don't be afraid of digital tools - use them. That's where the power is in the next century. Own them, and use them to shape the future in the way you envision. They are powerful tools and I believe the world will need every brave woman of character to protect themselves and others with them and to make their dreams come true as well, by designing with them.
Learn from Lessons Presented
Don't be afraid of love. Partnerships are what we are - it's about the law of attraction (remember the pixie dust?). If you attract someone problematic and who's unhealthy, don't feel you need to stay there - reflect, learn the lesson life is trying to teach you, and get out of there right away and move right along. I truly believe that partnerships are either about healing or about helping each other to achieve their full potential by building something solid with someone who has a shared dream and vision so don't ever shy away from that.
I don't seek anymore. I am in peace with who I am, but I am certainly open, for when the right person comes along. The beauty is that if it doesn't happen, being whole and in peace with myself allows me to keep moving forward regardless.
Wisdom and Your Particular Happiness
Stay grounded in homely things. I realize now that so much of my understanding of feminism was actually toxic because ultimately feminism is a construct that surged within patriarchy (albeit to destroy it). But it still operates under a patriarchal construct, even if so defiantly. Don't get me wrong: we absolutely need feminism. I am not saying we don't. But I am also saying: don't let it remove you from things that give you pleasure and that have a more nurturing purpose.
In my old and mistaken views of what constitutes a strong woman, I had also let go of so many simple things that brought me joy, like cooking a meal from scratch to my family. Nothing is black and white. I, particularly, find joy in natural textures, in chopping colourful vegetables, and these simple tasks of sometimes folding laundry help me stay grounded and connect me to what is real.
Wisdom and the Help You Need
It's OK to ask for help. There are no superwomen in our humble real lives. All of us, who look like we've got our shit semi-together have an army of support behind us. Be either family helping taking care of our kids, or in my case, a hired assistant to help me with my house cleaning every two weeks. There is no shame in asking for, and receiving help as long as you are truly putting your best effort forth and you are treating those who are supporting you fairly and respectfully.
So on this very long note, happy birthday to us! I so looking forward to seeing an entire generation transforming their lives through empowerment. May this deep transformation turn into a massive ripple effect towards our world.
Happy Birthday! Feliz Aniversário!
With love, Carolina