It’s finally here, my 30th birthday! I gotta tell you when I was a little kid of maybe 12 or so, it never even felt like I would get to 18. Not being morbid or anything, it’s just at that age you can’t really get a clear grip on the future and your sense of time is all warped. I remember watching 60 minutes and thinking it went for four hours. Turning 18 just seemed like a lifetime away and 30 sounded really old. When I would picture 30-year-olds in my head they were always super mature, all grown up with their houses and their cars and their babies and all that adult stuff. It’s still weird to think I’m 30, it’s like I don’t think I’m quite qualified to be.
Thirty definitely sneaks up on you, that’s for sure. It’s like one minute you’re at school and the next you’re saying goodbye to your 20’s! I’ve been a bit nervous about turning 30, not because I feel old or anything like that, but because everyone else makes such a big deal about turning 30. You kind of get it into your head that it’s all downhill after 30 and you start to get fat and lose your youthful glow and all that crap. Maybe part of me thought I’d wake up on my birthday and all of a sudden be a wrinkly little old lady… (am I???)
In any case, it’s not at all what I thought it would be. I was such a hot mess in my late teens and early 20’s that I thought my messy run through life would just continue and by this point, while I hoped I’d have my act together, I don’t think I truly believed I would. I very clearly remember sitting at my desk at work one day talking to a friend and colleague, telling them, at 21, that I felt like I’d ruined my whole life. I remember feeling very defeated at that point, as though all the decisions I’d made had just stacked up on top of each other and created a box around me that I just couldn’t get out of. I felt totally and completely helpless.
Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, having no real direction or self-belief I just stopped worrying about school. Not knowing what to study at University I just chose something that people said I’d be good at, went for a few months then dropped out. Not having any real skills or experience I floated from shitty job to shitty job, quitting each one and burning bridges along the way. I was terrible with money, made bad decisions, was very irresponsible, flaky, unreliable and totally uncaring about myself. Looking back at it, I know I didn’t believe in or love myself very much at all.
That’s not meant to be depressing, it’s just how it was at the time and I’m grateful for all of it because it’s all part of what got me to the point I’m at now where I’m actually happy. It all forms part of your story, your struggle. It all happens for a very specific reason, meant to push and shape us. Sometimes it takes years and years of being hammered with hardships until we finally learn the lesson we’re supposed to while other times we get it right away. Either way, it’s your journey and if you can just trust that everything happens for a reason and keep looking for those lessons, it all ends up leading you to where you’re supposed to be.
There are a lot of things I’ve learned the past 10-15 years. I’ve learned that I’m a lot more intelligent than I ever thought I was (seriously, I used to think I was really stupid). Now I run my own business I realise I’m smarter than I ever gave myself credit for and a lot of things I struggled with at school were just because I’m a hands-on learner and have this weird thing where numbers rearrange in my head (is that number dyslexia?) I’ve also learned it’s okay to say and think nice things about yourself. There was a time I would never have said that I think I’m intelligent because it would’ve felt like I was bragging or talking myself up, now I know it’s okay to recognise the good in yourself and believe in those things whole-heartedly.
Another big lesson was about living a truthful life, from the inside out. My life was dotted with lies of all shapes and sizes and once they start to form a web around you, you start to feel trapped by them. If you stop and take notice of all the fibs you tell, even just skewing or withholding the truth about why you’re tired or upset or telling a friend a lie about why you can’t catch up, all of them start to take a toll on you and your life. They build up, like gunk on your soul. In order to maintain the lie, you have to live it and make it part of your life so you don’t get found out and that’s taxing too.
Truth is, most of them are totally unnecessary. I went cold turkey and stopped telling fibs and it was so cleansing. I realised people can always accept what you tell them if it’s the truth and even if you think the lie you’re telling is okay because it’s protecting someone else, you’re always better off being honest. It also made me a better communicator and stripped off all these protective layers I’d built around myself, allowing people to get to know me properly and, most importantly, allowing me to live a truthful and authentic life.
At the start of my 20’s, I was money-hungry and success driven. I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and earn as much money as possible so I could spend it on beautiful and expensive clothes and shoes, have a luxury car and a very gorgeous house decked out with plush furnishings. I wanted to host fancy dinners there and have everybody come over and be so impressed by my success. I was also very sad. I would cry a lot and I felt empty inside like something was missing from my life. At one point I thought that was a baby (I’m glad I didn’t listen to that because that wasn’t it). I was sad because I didn’t feel fulfilled – I was doing what I thought was right, not what I truly wanted to do.
If I could pinpoint one of the biggest turning points of my 20’s it would be the life coaching session I had with Helen Jacobs, an intuitive life coach who incorporates a psychic element to her sessions. I had expected my session with her to be a really nurturing hour where she told me all the great things coming my way. Instead, I got my ass cosmically kicked and it was the wake-up call I needed. In the space of an hour, she called me on ALL my bullshit and held up one hell of a mirror, allowing me to truly see myself for the first time. She inspired a spiritual awakening in me that pushed me to start listening to my heart and living my truth.
The week before that session I had been really depressed and moments away from deleting Little Grey Box altogether, just getting rid of it because it felt so stupid. It felt like it was taunting me, this wonderful thing that I wanted to do but just couldn’t because…. because…. because of all the reasons in my head that told me I couldn’t. Helen told me, point blank, that I shouldn’t delete Little Grey Box, that there was more there if I could just put in the soul work, trust the process and see the bigger picture. Boy, was she right.
I learned how to trust my intuition and value myself properly. I learned how to set boundaries and protect myself. I definitely learned how to listen to my heart, follow my instincts and connect with my higher self. I learned how to be a better friend and wife. I gained a new perspective on who I am as a person, how my energy impacts others and how to be patient, loving and kind. I also learned how to kick some ass when I need to and not take crap from anybody.
Driving along in the car the other day I turned to Matt and told him I felt different, like all of a sudden this sense of calm has come over me. It took me a few days to process what that really means but I think I know now. It means I’m ready. I feel at peace with all the hardships of the last 10-15 years, I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes and am thankful for the lessons. I’ve accepted who I am and I’m proud of myself – a far cry from how I used to feel.
So, here I am, day one of being 30 and I feel ready. Bring it on.
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Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.