17 Musings of a Jamaican Canadian

A few musings and nuggets that highlight the random thoughts of a Jamaican bred, Canadian.

  1. Packing so I’m not overweight is my struggle. I have definitely been ‘that’ person moving things from my checked bag to carryon at the airport – and more than once.
  2. Yes, I’ve felt the lack of diversity at school and in the workplace like so many minority professionals. But the sole advantage of this is being able to kiss my teeth freely (if you don’t know what this is – urban dictionary is your friend) knowing no one is there to chastise me for it. I have and will continue to take full advantage of this solitary pro.
  3. I’m always on the hunt for a quality box lunch (Jamaican take out lunch meal) in Toronto.
  4. There is absolutely no reason why the line at the bank and the passport office in Jamaica need to be THAT long and THAT slow.
  5. The look of confusion on my face is downright obvious when people say they can’t tell that I have an accent. Is this because I’m speaking standard English and not patois? *waiting for an explanation*
  6. But at the same time I walk into Canadian Tire (home and hardware store) and have a conversation like this:
    1. Me: “Excuse me where are the portable heaters?” (because I’m obviously always cold)
    2. Sales Rep: “sorry?”’
    3. Me: “the portable heaters”
    4. Sales Rep: “I’m sorry, what?”
    5. Me: “the portable heeedders”
    6. Sales Rep: “oohh, aisle 7”
    7. Me: *still waiting for an explanation*
  7. I still struggle with these lake “beaches”. I have yet to full enter into one. I think I’ve stuck my big toe into the water twice – that’s about it.
  8. Sometimes I let out those old(er) English words and phrases in regular day to day conversation… words like “abreast” .
  9. Living in Jamaica I always thought it was better to be cold than hot. Canada has revealed the fallacy behind that thought process.
  10. Canada and the US are definitely not the same. And I came to this realization well before Trump was elected.
  11. Living outside of the Greater Toronto Area I question: WHERE do all these people of colour (I’m talking like entire families!) come from every spring? It’s like they’ve been hibernating all winter making me feel like more of a minority than I actually maybe am.
  12. Can you really call yourself my friend if I’ve never busted out some random patois phrase or Jamaican idiom in conversation, regardless of whether or not I think you can or would understand?
  13. When you complain about the potholes in Jamaica, but also complain about the road construction every spring in Ontario to avoid the same potholes you can’t stand and would otherwise complain about. A bit cyclical isn’t it?
  14. Tim Hortons is basically the Jamaican equivalent of a patty shop. More or less everyone can appreciate Timmy’s in Canada or a patty in Jamaica – regardless of your background.
  15. I’m pretty sure Goodlife fitness sells more Goodlife branded gym bags than actual gym memberships.
  16. *fries plantain* …. *eats entire plantain while frying said plantain*
  17. When people open the car door in the middle of oncoming traffic in Toronto I have to wonder – do you want to keep your car door? In other places in the world (Jamaica) that would be detached from your car before you could blink.

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How to Survive Long Distance Relationships

The heartache, the anticipation, the joyous reunions, the practical benefits of a bit of time and space apart.  Each one of us at IfSheDreams has gone through a bout of long distance with our beaus (current or past) and we’ve all lived to tell the tale, although tales there are many! We decided to chat about it and share our stories, just as we usually do over eggs benny or wine, except this time in words right here on this blog. Read on to hear more about how we got through it.

Rebecca:

My fiancé and I have spent two thirds of our relationship apart. We shared a postal code when we began dating in Spain and then later in Toronto for a bit while I was finishing law school. Apart from those two interludes, our love has stretched from Canada to Spain, Australia to Canada, Canada to England, and now Canada to India. We have lasted up to six months without seeing each other, but usually manage to jump across ponds every couple of months now. Finally, finally, after we get married in March, we will at long last get to put our books on the same shelf (my milestone on what a home with my boo looks like).

Endurance of the heart is absolutely necessary to make it work. But then the reward at the finish line is so great!

The distance has been agonizing at times – most times – but we’ve dealt with it remarkably well, I think. We’re both quite intense when it comes to our endeavours, which is the real reason we’ve spent so much of our relationship at a distance. The time apart has allowed us to give work and study our all when required, whether it was articling in Toronto or a PhD in Punjab. And sometimes when you feel lonely, work is all you can do to fill the gap. So I try to think of long distance relationships now as rather productive ones and keep myself from being idle at all costs!

Long distance is a marathon – you have to stretch your patience over months or weeks, making it last to the final drop until you can replenish. Endurance of the heart is absolutely necessary to make it work. But then the reward at the finish line is so great!

That is the beauty of long distance relationships: the frustrations are many, but the joys are so joyous!

Jean:

LDR = long distance relationships

Ok, full disclosure—I thought LDRs were just endurance flogging. No physical intimacy. No shared adventures. No stealth eating the last of their favorite leftovers. No hand holding. (I love holding hands. It’s right up there with eating your partner’s OFF-LIMITS turkey sandwich over the kitchen sink.) Plus 2-3 hours per day of phone calls, texting, emails, skyping, naked pics… Equals a constant feeling of being whipped, and not the kind anyone likes.

Oh and I’m the WORST candidate for LDRs.

I rarely have my phone on me. And when I do, it’s usually dead. Or, about to die. Or, cracked and malfunctioning. Or, about to be abandoned, lost, or forgotten.

I have an insatiable need for physical affection. No, I’m not talking about sex. I just like to be touched. And held. And to hold others. And did I mention holding hands? Sign. Me. Up.

I’m also a bit…. Random (a nice word for unreliable). I tend to change plans, reorganize my schedule at a whim, and cancel way more than I should. This means that if we’re supposed to talk at 8PM, that may or may not become 10PM, or 11:30PM or 1PM the next day. I have good reasons for my randomness, but excuses are the first stop toward Breakup Ville.

If that isn’t enough, I guard my independence and freedom so savagely, you’d think it was a vintage Louis Vuitton handbag.

Soo.. when I met my fiancee in New York (where I didn’t live and had no intention of moving to), I thought summer fling. But, he has perfect teeth, legendary Italian charm, a list of interests as long as… (I don’t kiss and tell) but it’s LONG 😉

He laughed me out of a comatose state on the same day a friend took his own life, a feat for which he should win a medal. And I never have to ask him to hold my hand, or wrap me in his arms, because he’s always already doing both. How could I not fall in love with him? And how could I ever let him go? Impossible. He’ll be next to me when I’m gray and creaky and my only joy is chucking pebbles at teenagers from a rocking chair.

We’ve been in a LDR for a year and a half now. There are times when I’d gladly take a few lashes to have him next to me. And, now that we are expecting a son, I miss him more than ever. I miss his hands on my belly. I miss him playing guitar to our beautiful baby. I miss him setting a sandwich next to my desk, and squeezing lemon into a glass of water for me. I miss curling my foot over his at night, and our late night talks in the shower.

Just keep the finish line in your sights and bear down for a marathon of the heart.

I only sugarcoat cake so I’m gonna be straight with you. It’s awful. And, it only works for us because it has to work. Being without him isn’t an option. If that’s how you feel about your partner, don’t worry. You’ll make it through. Just keep the finish line in your sights and bear down for a marathon of the heart.

Valerie:

Spicy man and I have been together for almost nine years. We spent a year apart when I was in school. Overnight, our time together transitioned from being together everyday to daily phonecalls. The transition was very difficult but also strengthened us both individually and as a couple. As a couple, we had shared many of the same classes in university and volunteered with the same organizations when we were together. Being away forced me to do things completely on my own and reminded me of what my interests, passions, strengths and opinions were as a individual. This time helped make clear my individual identity and in this way, improved the health of my relationship.

There were difficult times. Arguments were difficult to completely resolve if one person was busy or wanted to hang up. If one of us wanted to share some immediate news we’d have to wait until there was some free time in the other’s schedule. These challenges made us appreciate our time together that much more. There were lovely surprise visits when I could introduce him to new friends, take him out on the town, etc.

My suggestions in helping you survive an LDR would be to schedule regular calls and make sure that nothing comes in the way of that. Your commitment to that time will indicate to the other person that they are still a priority, commitment and fun part of your life.

5 years after our LDR I still have our bracelets and they serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come together and how much stronger we can be.

I also used and recommend ordering a rubber LDR bracelet that I ordered from this site: http://lovingfromadistance.com/ldrbracelets.html – there are three colours: purple, pink and brown. I wanted to publicly brand spicy man as taken while I was away – don’t worry – I didn’t make him wear the pink one. These bracelets were cute and reminded me of him when I’d look down at my wrist. 5 years after our LDR I still have them and they serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come together and how much stronger we can be. We’ll be getting married in June! 

Michela:

It’s more and more likely that at some point you’ll be faced with making the decision about whether or not you can, or more importantly, whether you want to make a long distance relationship work. In my experience long distance relationships aren’t easy to navigate and may require attitudinal shifts, but definitely require communication and persistence. But having been through one that didn’t work –I’m actually not jaded by the ‘long distance’ part of relationships.

Honestly, it’s not the “let’s talk every evening at x time” type of communication I value, but instead it’s the depth and honesty of communication.

Ensuring both you and your partner are on the same page about your goals and intentions for your time apart, and for your relationship, are important. Long distance relationships take work – and it usually becomes apparent if you both aren’t in agreement on how you see each other in your life. How can it work if you both don’t agree on what you want the end goal to look like? Or at the very least, how you’ll develop a strategy to figure out what it looks like.

Having been through one that didn’t work –I’m actually not jaded by the ‘long distance’ part of relationships.

After that, it’s the spontaneous messages and calls that keep the connection going…

Yes, you’d expect that in any relationship, but I think you need it even more so when you don’t see each other regularly. If you’re together it’s likely because if something happens in the day that vexes you, you probably want and appreciate your partner’s opinion on how to deal with it (or not kill someone), or maybe something makes you burst out in laughter, that you want no need to share (even if it’s mad corny).  

Long distance relationships work when 2 people want them to…

Only when no matter how hard it is with travel, time change and separation, it’s just simply harder on the heart to be apart.

When the tables turn, that’s probably the point when it’s time for you both to consider accepting the lessons you’ve learned from each other, and then part ways.

 

Trump’s Race

The U.S. 2016 Presidential Election will likely go down as one of, if not the most, divisive in history. I’ve observed and studied policies and laws that negatively impact disenfranchised groups but never have I seen a presidential candidate call Mexicans “rapists,” propose a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., brag about grabbing women without consent and call people with Black skin lazy.

When he won, I was deeply troubled. I’ve always known racism to be a real issue in North America but the way Trump fuelled the racist tendencies of some of his voters reminded me of historical conflicts that began with racist language. In the Rwandan Genocide, Hutu extremist groups set up radio stations urging people to “weed out the cockroaches” or kill Tutsis. In the opinion of a Holocaust survivor, Hitler rose to power, in part, by building a brand of saying what everyone thought but was too afraid to say – he too shared a mission of making his country “great again.

When Trump won, everyone was talking about it. I sat down with a Trump supporter to listen to their opinions. In particular, he focused on Trump’s 10-point plan. He felt confident that Trump would increase jobs and bring back wealth to the country because he was a business man – he couldn’t care less for Trump’s racist remarks.

And I guess that’s the point when I was reminded of how individualistic we are. If you haven’t been seriously impacted by racism, then you have the luxury of not caring about the leader of the free world making such comments. You don’t have to worry about Trump’s “tough on crime” proposals that will disproportionally affect Black men. You don’t have to worry if you don’t wear a headscarf or if you’re not a Mexican-American. You have the luxury of focusing solely on economic policies.

Maybe Trump will bring positive economic changes to the U.S. but it doesn’t excuse or legitimize his racist rhetoric. He remains unaccountable for the factually incorrect statements that won him the presidency. The divisiveness of this election shows that race is still a very controversial issue.

One thing that I am committing to is welcoming one-on-one conversations about race without judging the person who brings up stereotypes and prejudices – as long as they come to the table with a willingness to listen and learn. While it makes me happy and comfortable to surround myself with like-minded people, not effectively engaging with people who disagree with me does a disservice to our community and propagates divisive institutions.

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is an organization that engages in conversations about race in the workplace and is calling for unity and dialogue after the US election. Check out their blog. Engaging in an open and respectful dialogue about race is one form of positive change that we can collectively participate in as a response to Trump’s racist rhetoric – I hope you’ll join me at the table.

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Balance: Making Space

You know that moment when you realize you’ve exceeded your limit? When you’ve said “yes” too many times? When the weight of all of your load seems heavier than ever? And then something happens and the mountain of responsibilities comes crashing down on you?

They aren’t nice, those moments.

We’ve all experienced them – myself included.

To keep that feeling from recurring, I’ve asked myself some tough questions: Why does this happen? Does it need to? What have I done to contribute to it? Am I creating a problem where there isn’t one?

The answers to the above are endless and personal and shift from day to day. But the response that remains consistent is BALANCE. And more of it. The subject of many conversations, in law especially but across fields, balance can be an illusory goal, albeit a necessary one.

I’ve noticed that balance is commonly described in hours: finishing work at a certain time, spending so many hours with family, exercising for X hours per week. I, too, have conceptualized it in this way before.  However, my notion of equilibrium has shifted recently.

For me, now, balance is about open spaces. It is about leaving room to enjoy. And for things to go wrong.

That might seem like a rather negative approach to the concept; counterintuitive to the idea of balance itself, which is meant to uplift, not bring down. I don’t mean to be pessimistic. Rather, it’s my attempt to be realistic about how to keep the scales aligned (and spirits high) when, inevitably, life gets tough.

Work gets intense. Period. But we are trained to allow it to, to think that is normal, even to seek it out. The legal profession, in particular, is an extreme one. Lawyers face numerous deadlines, great responsibility with greater consequences, and enormous effort required at all times. It’s pretty hectic. Even if you manage to contain work within certain hours, the sensation of pressure remains when you’re off the clock because you feel like you have to keep going, a break is a failure, a lack of ambition.

I also realize that – like many of my colleagues – I put a lot of pressure on myself. To perform. To perform well. To perform well all the time. I am constantly pushing myself to do more and do it the best I possibly can. This drive isn’t a bad thing, but I admit that, sometimes, I’m a bit out of touch with reality. First, it’s impossible to 1001 things really well all at the same time. But also, even when a project isn’t an instant success doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Such reminders have been good for me. And acknowledging how I contribute to my own stress is important to rectify it.

Our professional lives are always going to occupy a large part of our lives. Understanding why and how is important. The question here, however, is how much space do we give this sector of our lives?  When we become so consumed by work and let it absorb all of our energy and capacity, we don’t leave any room for the rest of our lives. We take on so much that in order just to function and get through it all, there is no choice but to run at our highest capacity all the time. So, as soon as other aspects of life become complicated, breaking point arrives instantaneously because we haven’t left any room.

Those complications could be as simple as a cold: when you get sick, how much does your world turn upside down?  Or it could be a fight with a loved one: how low do you drop when that happens?

But when shit really hits the fan – serious health problems or financial struggles or deep emotional upheaval – then what?

Well, without balance, rock bottom is far closer than it has to be.img_4077

On the flip side, when life is going smoothly and we don’t overburden ourselves with work, we have the scope to really enjoy and savour the good times. We are fully present with our loved ones. We are better parents/partners/daughters/friends. Sleep is deeper and more fulfilling. Food even tastes better because now it isn’t simply fuel but ceremony.

Yet if anxiety seeps into every corner of life, the little pleasures are ruined, too.

So this is a call to leave room. Create space. Feel better.

Build Your Wealth & Freedom

Let’s talk money.

Most of us bought into the “baby boomer” dream:

  1. study hard
  2. get a good degree from a good school to get a good job
  3. work your way up the ladder over many years (don’t get fired)
  4. buy a home
  5. retire at 65
  6. travel and enjoy your pension

Millennials are between the stages of 1-4 right now and we’ve realized that for the most part, this dream is a lie. Getting into a good school doesn’t guarantee a job. Highly qualified and experienced millennials find it difficult to secure employment. Even when we are employed, most people don’t like what they’re doing from day-to-day. Permanent jobs have turned into contract work and saving enough for a down payment seems to be more and more difficult when the cost of living and price of houses continues to go up.

So, what do we do?

Seek a new dream.

Mine looks like this:

  1. Earn as much money as possible providing value to others even if that means working several jobs
  2. Save the money I earn (and eliminate debt as early as possible)
  3. Invest that money
  4. Refrain from buying a house for the next few years and use a small portion of earnings and dividends to travel and enjoy life

Personal finance wasn’t taught in school and it’s a shame. Universities and banks benefit from our ignorance. Since university/college tuition is at a price few students can pay upfront, students are forced to borrow from OSAP and banks. Universities benefit from new customers students. Banks benefit from the interest paid on loans and the longer it takes a student to pay off his/her loan, the more interest a student pays.

To make money I run my own law practice and tutor for the Ontario bar exam and I am looking to take on one or two more jobs. I want to work and earn more because my fiancé and I sat down with a few very successful entrepreneurs in the last few weeks and listened to their life stories. Each of them had worked several jobs or 16-hour-days, five to seven days a week in their 20s and 30s. Now, in their 50s, one entrepreneur lives in a big house on Rosedale, owns two restaurants and travels 6 months of the year. Another entrepreneur has five beautiful kids, two luxury cars and owns the building his business operates from.

Their successes inspire me. Everyone has a different perspective on money. To me, money is freedom. It’s a reward for providing value to others. It’s the ability to travel when you want, to control your time, provide for your dependents with ease and contribute to society at a higher level by investing in start-ups, donating to charities, etc.

Everyone has a different perspective on money. To me, money is freedom. It’s a reward for providing value to others. It’s the ability to travel when you want, to control your time, provide for your dependents with ease and contribute to society at a higher level by investing in start-ups, donating to charities, etc.

Some things you can do to get started on building your own financial security are:

  1. Try your best to pay off your debt as quickly as possible – live frugally and take advantage of bursaries, loan forgiveness programs, etc.
  2. Learn how to invest money – WealthSimple seems to be a great up-and-coming resource and I have a promo code that allows you to invest your first $10 000 for free. Comment below if you’re interested!
  3. Seek ways to monetize your skills to benefit others – offer your services at a market rate, support your friends businesses, etc.
  4. Contribute to your savings accounts

While managing money is important, I always keep quality of life in mind. My fiancé and I make sure to travel at least twice a year (going to Paris next month!!) and I will splurge on the occasional date/girls night. My friends and I help each other save by hosting dinners/hanging out at each other’s places, taking advantage of Groupon deals, etc. I’m excited about building towards my wealth potential and I hope you are too!

Building wealth is a topic that affects all of us. How are you doing it? Do you have any tips to share? Feel free to comment below.

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Converting Doubt into Fuel

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'” – Maya Angelou

Shortly after being called to the bar I had a conversation that sounded like this:

  • “So what do you do?” I’m asked by an acquaintance
  • “Oh I work in the legal industry”
  • They look at me as if they’re waiting for the rest of the answer… because clearly that was only half the answer to the question.
  • My friend chimes in, in a very matter of fact tone she says “she’s a lawyer”
  • Then feeling the need to affirm my friend’ s statement, I say “Yes, I’m a lawyer”

Why did I do that? Why did I somewhat unknowingly attempt to shy away from what it is that I do? Why was it that in that moment I felt the need to deflect, and detract from what I worked hard to accomplish? A lot of long hours and hard work went into me being able to say “Yes, I’m a lawyer”.

As a newly minted lawyer I suppose I still had doubts about professing myself to be one. It was almost like saying it too loud or too proud would create the expectation that I would have the knowledge base of a lawyer 25 years post call [to the bar]. Maybe I felt that if there was a legal question I couldn’t answer, I’d be a poser.

I had similar thoughts during undergrad. And at the same time that I had my doubts, there was always this air of over-confidence, sometimes even downright smugness, that seeped through the pores of some of my classmates. Yes, a lot of the men carried that air (some stunk of it), but so did a lot of the women.

“Do I even “fit” in this programme?”

Frankly, I confuse myself, because even in those moments where I had my doubts, nobody could tell me I wasn’t capable of doing the work and nobody could deter me from prying all that I could from that learning environment. I was going to do it and do it well.

At some point in law school the concept of the “impostor syndrome” came up in class. And I remember thinking to myself – I can relate. I’m not going to recount the scientific or psychological bases and implications of impostor syndrome. But for those who don’t know, I think of it as that feeling of being out of place regardless of your success – the questioning of how you arrived at any given point in school or your career.

Whilst I consider myself to be a confident woman (insert finger snaps), there are moments when I have my doubts, when I question my abilities and my success.

The doubts that prevent me from acting, the ones that stall growth, while not always easy, those are the doubts that I know I can’t keep around – those have got to go. I think we all have different strategies for figuring out how to get rid of those doubts, whether through turning to a network of family and friends or seeking the advice of those we admire and respect. There are different things that work for each of us.

But how can we make our doubts something else?

This is something I’m working on myself.

For one, I definitely subscribe to the “fake it til you make it mentality”. I also subscribe to the “say yes I can help and then figure it out later” mentality. I believe in forcing myself through situations where (in my head at least) uncertainty looms. Sometimes I say yes before I have a moment to think too deeply about what I’ve committed myself to. Once I say yes I’m less likely to withdraw, and more likely to charge forward. In those moments of doubt, I’m more likely to come up with and justify a “no” response, when I take longer to make a decision. Once I commit – that’s usually it. It’s a big part of the reason I rarely ever return clothes.

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I also oddly embrace the presence of some doubt in my life. I think in some respects when these doubts are converted into action steps for improving and bettering ourselves, they keep us in check. Perfection is an illusive concept. There is always room to be better. That’s something to be embraced, not condemned. If we wait for things to be “perfect”, or for the timing to be “perfect”– to me it seems we’d never move forward with anything.

Fear and doubt are real factors in our lives – maybe sometimes it hurts us more to be on a quest to ignore them. Maybe our focus should instead be on progressing, moving forward and challenging ourselves to address that fear and that doubt. There’s a sort of peace that comes with saying to myself: “I’m not sure, I have my doubts, but the fear of not knowing/doing/acting is even worse”.

positive-954797_1920Don’t let your doubts inhibit you. Like Maya Angelou, you keep writing, fighting, singing, lawyer-ing, starting your new business, studying, teaching, drawing, styling, or whatever it is that you do. Use that fear and doubt as fuel for growth and a means to avoid complacency. Turn something that on it’s surface level isn’t good, and make it work for you.

Hey, I may be an impostor, but the goal is to be so good at it, I’ll even convince myself.

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Turning 30: The QuarterLife Crisis

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Is this it?

At 29,  I looked around at the life I built, at the never-clean condo, the 15-minute lunches, the pencil skirts and dry-clean only shirts, and wondered aloud

“Is this it?”

It was spreading. Dating had a palpable urgency. Newlyweds were taking time apart. Friends were quitting their dream jobs. A chorus of discontent had become the anthem of my late twenties, early thirties peer group. The word dream had become vacation; clubbing was now brunch; and kids these days were no longer us.

It seemed as though for most of our lives, we had our heads down, counting our steps, certain that if we hit every milestone, the worst we’d face is baldness and an age-inappropriate car purchase.

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One by one, we were starting to look up.

One by one, we were starting to look up.

Had we made our high school teachers proud? Was it time to hang up the ballet shoes, the football helmet, the guitar? Had all the emblems of possibility been doused by the number 30?

I wasn’t ready.

I watched as friends and family bound and gagged their teenage dreams. College athletes became personal trainers. The best musicians I knew abandoned their bands, their solo projects, their promise to the rest of us that we’d be able to say, I knew that guy, when they struck it rich.

Shouldn’t I be a millionaire by now? Where the hell is my knight?

Every A+ and glossy degree had helped me earn a life I didn’t want. I was re-reading Eat Pray Love like a map back to the effervescent pre-teen me.

I never saw this coming. That’s the thing about the Quarterlife Crisis. No one ever sees it coming. Lavish buys are chalked up to naiveté; break-ups were inevitable; job changes are just growing pains.

The sitcom Friends iconized the ups & downs of the thirties as the romp life phase, wherein self-actualization can be won over coffee and uneducated waitresses end up working at Ralph Lauren. If we could only make it to 28ish, we’d bask in the Friends years – where soul mates live across the hall and a baby daddy’s major flaw is dinosaur talk.

But, what if there’s something more to turning 30? Something that babies, divorce, or even a Balinese medicine man can’t fix.

“Why God? Why?!,” Joey, from Friends, wails on his thirtieth birthday.

“We had a deal. Why are you doing this to us?”

By 30, most of us have known true loss.

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Ran off with Happily Ever After

The Prince/ss stole the fairy dust, kicked you out of the castle, and ran off with happily ever after.

Maybe there was a funeral. And you had to speak. And you thought back to the days when you were afraid of public speaking, when that was the worst thing imaginable, and how worst, the word worst, well you just didn’t know what that meant. So, you spoke at the funeral, and all along, you didn’t believe that your love was really gone, that this was really happening to you, not knowing that there’d come a time when you’d miss the disbelief, when you’d wish you could doubt that your mother, spouse, or best friend was really and truly gone. Because now there was no mistaking it – their absence, a saw, that cuts at the days, making bloody stumps out of old joys.

Or, maybe you fell out of love. You kept looking at the person that used to be your soulmate. Looking for the things you used to see and seeing ordinary and boring in their place. Of course, that didn’t make it any easier. When she took everything away – the first big purchase you made together, the L-shaped couch neither of you could afford, but could fit 6+ people and so became deeply necessary (even though 6+ people never did sit on the couch).

Or maybe you stopped loving yourself. Not because someone hurt you when you were young. You excavated that hurt in your early twenties. Not because someone didn’t love you right. You watched Oprah and starting dating better, kinder men.

It started with a Shush.

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The Right to Dream

The teenager in you, the one that wanted to become president, own multiple business, dance at Julliard, or travel the world was a bit too loud in your early twenties, when all you wanted to do was go out dancing. So, you shushed the teenager. At 25, you started talking back to the teenager with words like silly, stupid, and childish. So, the teenager bowed their head, and shushed.

You took a job you never wanted. And, 26, 27, and 28 became all about working, saving and earning the right to dream. On the odd day when the Easter Bunny, Cupid, or the American Dream scampered into your 9-5, you’d try to listen, but what grownup listens to Cupid?

What you didn’t count on is that you needed the teenager. You missed the teenager. You loved the teenager. So, shutting her up, calling her names, and leaving her alone for a decade would end up hurting. Because not loving all of yourself, hurts. Hurts a lot.

Here’s what we know:

Life is much harder than you expected it to be. Aging is the surest way to learn this. Age does matter. Statistically, as you age, you’re more likely to suffer from the kinds of challenges that make you wiser. The upside is that life is also much more beautiful, eons more fantastical, and replete with orgasms you never could have imagined.

The sooner the Friends fantasy loses hold – the better. Don’t wait until 50 to shake things up, face your mortality, buy a cool car, or shave your head.

Listen to your older sister. Listen to your older brother. Listen to your parents and your grandparents and your Uber driver and the man who makes the best cup of coffee on your street.

Listen to that shrill, heads-in-the-clouds, scrunchie-wearing, teenager, too.

Whether you like it or not, she’s in it for the long haul.

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