Today I turned 31.
Updated: Jun 11
I am single, unaccomplished, and unhappy, on most days. But I am grateful.
"Today I turned 31. And the idea of falling in love still terrifies me. I try to push away that thought by convincing myself with all sorts of narratives. I tell myself, I am not worthy of love. I am not commitment material. I do not want children. I can’t stand being with the same person in a room for too long. I prefer my solitude. I need my independence and space and freedom."
I never wrote a post about hitting my 30th mark. I felt as though I didn’t have anything significant to say. But as the years pass by, and I continue to blow out candles while scanning my list of secret wishes, I wanted to document my growing older, and to have something substantial to read and appreciate at my older years.
Today I am 31. Single, without a boyfriend, or a plan of when I might meet Mister Perfect. Let alone to settle down. I am not in the career I want to be in. I discovered over the years that I hated doing what I do: marketing meaningless stuff to people to fill their void with consumerism. I’m about to relocate geographically in a couple of months from the Middle East to the other end of the globe. North America.
I do not hold a Master’s Degree in some exotic major that I could plaster in my resume, or a doctorate title that I could carve onto a fancy wood to proudly display next to my name and hang on my office door. I don’t even have my own office to begin with.
I am not an accomplished athlete who’s endorsed by the sports industry or a famous artist who’s adored by millions. I don’t have huge Instagram followers to feed my hunger for instant gratification on days when I feel unloved, or to tell me how pretty I look in my perfectly put together life. I don’t think many people envy me either.
Today I turned 31. And the idea of falling in love still terrifies me. I try to push away that thought by convincing myself with all sorts of narratives. I tell myself, I am not worthy of love. I am not commitment material. I do not want children. I can’t stand being with the same person in a room for too long. I prefer my solitude. I need my independence and space and freedom. I want to continue traveling the world without bearing the heavy weights of being in a partnership. I want to fill my diary with all sorts of stories and adventures. But it does not, however, include how many children I’d like to have.
But when I sit with myself, during the long endless hours of the night, it always narrows down to one simple thought that is deeply rooted in witnessing a dysfunctional family system. I do not want to be in love to end up losing myself in the turmoil of somebody else’s empowering shadow. I am not ready to bear the pain that simultaneously comes with disappointment and expectation and jealousy and heartbreak.
Sadly, this single-angled notion of love was how every relationship ended for me.
Today I turned 31. I recently started my long journey in therapy. I have decided to untangle my history with love addiction, and depression, and anxiety, and trust issues, and selecting emotionally unavailable partners.
I now see how much of the pain and the bruises I carried inside might not have been my own, but a result of growing up in a family dynamic that lacked love. I always questioned, “did they at least love me?”
I did not have a proper celebration this year because of COVID19. This time around last year, I was dreaming about journeying my way through the mystical terrains, cracked roads, and reverent temples of South East Asia while doing what I love to do the most: getting enthralled and lost in being a wanderlust.
It was going to be my way of celebrating my triumphs, my tiny accomplishments, and holding space for myself on days when life felt unbearable, as it often did, and the air struggled to find its way into the narrow pathways of my chest.
Today I turned 31. Am I happy? I am not. On most days, I find myself questioning the value of life when I watch, hear and witness millions of innocent souls being swept away by political tension and corrupt leaders and individuals who favor racism and sectarianism over love and communication, while justifying it wholeheartedly. And when the majority of the world stands still, or indifferently witnesses the brutality of the human race.
On most days, I find myself often thinking of ex-lovers who broke my heart. I ask myself, “did they not want my love?” “was I that insignificant?”
On most days, I find myself being lost in my incomprehensible thoughts and whirlwind of emotions until I feel shrunk by my own isolation.
As I grow older, I continue to be a person who feels a lot. I continue to carry the love and the pain of the world in equal amounts. But the older I get, the more I start to accept my over sensitive nature and empathy as qualities to work with, not against. And to show up in spite of the heavy barriers that often come with being those things.
I continue to be dowsed by the overwhelming pull and push of life. Except now, I’ve learnt, the hard way, to swim, to duck, and to dive whenever the current feels too strong for me to resist.
Today I am 31. I am single, unaccomplished, and unhappy, on most days.
But I am still grateful.
I am grateful to be alive, and to have lived for 31 years. I am grateful to be a survivor of prejudice and racism and hatred and ignorance and bigotry and neglect. To have been able to find my compass on days, months and even years when the lurking shadow of depression was compelling me to crawl back to bed, and to give up.
I am grateful for every opportunity I was given to rebel against the social norms, the environment and the system that broke me. To re-write new chapters where there were only periods, and to use my story to rage against injustice.
Today I am 31. And despite the remnants of trauma I still carry, I am grateful to feel the graceful flow of love and compassion swirl within my heart. I am grateful to have the freedom of choice and of new beginnings when all I saw were dead ends.
I may not be the innocent, hopeless romantic and wild dreamer I once was. I cannot change the world in the ways my foolish younger self had hoped I would. But I am grateful to still be a believer in the healing power of love, as I continue to be moved by the words of my favorite mystic poets on love and life and heartbreaks and transcendental experiences.
It is, as Viktor Frankl, had eloquently put it through his own reflections as a Holocaust survivor:
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.”
Today I am 31. And despite all the pain that broke me, and the shadows that kept creeping behind my back, I continue to hold great love within my heart.
I am still grateful for the gift of life.