On May 14th I will be turning 27. Not the most interesting opening sentence, to say the least, but it's weight holds pretty strong for me. Since entering my twenties, each birthday has been accompanied with a sense of dread, the dread that many of us face as we get older and begin to take stock of what we have managed to achieve with each passing year.
I am innately pessimistic, cynical, and self-deprecating (I have strategically omitted this from all dating bios). Being the way I am means that I am left wanting every year when this date comes around. Long gone are the days when I would spend hours sifting through the Argos catalogue marking out prospective presents. Now there is a general malaise as I resign myself to accepting the mistakes, missed opportunities, and the fact that I still lack in what some would call "basic" life skills.
This year I'm saying "to hell with that." As the saying goes, "life is too short" and it's definitely too short for me to go through my twenties never having had a birthday which I actually wanted to celebrate. So, yes I am not the 27 year old that my nine year old self thought I would be. To be fair, my nine year old self had the highest of expectations, and would also physically cry from boredom so SHE clearly was not stable and should in no way have a say in present day me. Poorly constructed justifications aside, I have vowed this year will be different.
In the lead up to the "big day," I will venture to complete 27 goals so that the 14th will not only be a celebration of my birth but also a victory of sorts. It goes without saying that I won't be listing aims that involve a lot of prep, but they will be things that I've wanted to do for a long time and I just haven't. Some will be practical whilst others will be for the joy of it. Disclaimer: you may be thinking this sounds a lot like that episode of Friends where Phoebe completes a list of things she's wanted to do before turning 30, and you would be right. This is EXACTLY like that ;).
Number 1: Have a morning yoga routine.
One word, yoga. I have always wanted to practise yoga on a daily basis but never force myself to wake up early enough to get a solid 30 minutes in. Friends recently told me about a great yoga Youtuber called Adrienne who has very accessible instructional videos that are a sure bet for easing yourself into the practise. Here's to becoming more zen!
Number 2: Learn to cook a signature dish.
I come from a family of cooks, and perhaps that is why I have neglected to learn how to cook even one single dish well. I just never HAD to. My best mate would persistently tease me about one particular mishap where I used baking soda to cook Pomodoro pasta, thinking it was salt. Believe me the packaging was very misleading...
The signature dish I've chosen is mango chicken curry. I've never actually tasted it, but mangos are awesome, so is chicken, and don't even get me started on curry! I'm literally salivating right now. Needless to say my best mate will be receiving a multitude of food porn images once I get this down. #I'llshowhim.
Number 3: Take my mum out for the day.
My mum and I have never been close. Being one of nine it's understandable that my mum wasn't able to forge a close maternal relationship with all of us. That, and the fact that we disagree on practically everything has meant that in all my years I've never spent one single day out with her alone.
One part of getting older is coming to understand your parents more, and forgiving them for past digressions. You realise they're people too and therefore imperfect just like you. As i'm getting to an age where having my own children some day has come to frequently play on my mind, having a good relationship with my mum has become increasingly important. I don't make the effort, and I want to change that.
I could plan an entire day of cultural activities including Time Out's best things to do that week, but knowing my mum she would most probably opt to head down to Green Street (think of it as the little India of London) and buy a couple of sarees.
Number 4: Start learning Hindi.
When I was 12 my mum stopped me from watching anything Bollywood related. I think she thought it was her motherly duty to stop me from getting any ideas involving eloping with a boy, or dare I say it marrying for love! As you can probably gather my mum is a very traditional south asian woman, so preserving my 'honour' as she would perhaps put it was of the utmost importance.
Anywho, this essentially meant that unlike my friends or sisters who all managed to learn Hindi by default through watching countless Bollywood movies, I still cannot manage stringing a sentence together. I have been to India many times now, and though the country is a huge melting point of varying languages, Hindi unites a number of the regions, especially in the North which happens to be the place I love the most. There is something to be said of being able to relate to people through their mother tongue, something that I was unable to do on my visits.
Along with continuously getting high-balled fares from local taxi drivers, this also meant that there were parts of the cultural experience which were closed off to me due to the language barrier. I hope to someday return and rectify this. I've already bought a beginners guide!
Number 5: Go veggie.
I eat way too much meat. Growing up in a Bangladeshi household meant having both red and white meat curries daily. I crave meat most days and and I've realised it's made me quite sluggish. I want to see how different I would feel from ensuring that my diet mainly consists of fruits and vegetables. It will most likely end with me having a lot of dhal, but for now that is fine by me. Who knows the habit might actually stick.
Number 6: Stop watching so much television.
I'm that friend that has watched EVERYTHING. Whether it be an episode or a whole season, I gorge on good television (sometimes absolute rubbish too. 90 day fiance anyone?) It has gotten to the point that I recall the life events of fictional characters more than my own.
My diary entries have become summaries of whatever I watched that day. Yes, I realise it's meant to be the 'golden age' of television right now, but it doesn't seem worthwhile anymore. Not to be too dramatic, but it is stopping me from going out there, creating memories and living my life.
This goal will be particularly testing because I am genuinely a legit addict. I turn to TV when I feel down, when I feel happy, when i'm bored. It caters to my every emotion, and has become downright unhealthy. If I can achieve this one I will be giving myself metaphorical high-fives for a while.
Number 7: Find and buy an outfit that makes me feel like a million bucks.
My sisters and friends constantly moan at me for not taking better care of my appearance. It's not a rare event to see me in an array of clashing colours and ill fitting shirts in the name of comfort. For the most part I don't really mind that i'm not Vogue-cover ready, but it would be naive to think that the way you present yourself is unimportant.
Having recently come into a bit of cash I can now go on a responsible ASOS shopping spree in the hopes that I find THE outfit. I'm thinking something with Hepburn-esque elegance with a touch of FKA Twigs enigmatic style mixed in. Something like that should exist right?
Number 8: Build an in-depth understanding of a political issue which interests me.
I feel like I've become one of those people who has a lot of opinions and a strong will to keep to them, without any valid statistics or trusted journalism to back my convictions. I don't want to continue being that 'girl.' Kind of like the girl in the SNL skit titled 'girl you wish you never met at a party.' Okay I'm not that bad (I hope), but I would say that I'm most definitely lacking in the debating department.
An issue that I would like to focus on for this experiment is gender issues in India. It's no secret that the country struggles with female empowerment, and though I can relay tid bits of information around why that may be, I am a long way off from truly understanding the varying factors at play.
I've chosen this subject primarily because gender issues was something I was routinely confronted with when travelling through India. What's more, it's also a rather broad topic which impacts practically every nation though obviously the extent differs.
Number 9: Change careers.
Just over two weeks may not seem like enough time to change careers, but fortunately I have a head start on this one. After a considerable amount of time mulling over which steps I should take next career wise I have decided to become a teacher. I've even bagged a job and am starting this coming week!
It's been a long time coming and finally after more than my fair share of career related meltdowns i've realised that my true passions lie in education. I never thought I would be this excited about a career often labelled with the unjust saying "if you can't do, teach." However, at this point in my life I'm confident that this is the career that not only suits my skill set, but is also where I can make the most impact.
Like a lot of people frustrated with their career choices i've spent a long time searching for my vocation. I think i've finally found it.
Number 10: Apply for the DREAM job.
This relates to the previous goal. There's a job abroad which I applied for last year and got rejected. Since, I have felt dejected and afraid to try again. I don't want to maintain this mentality, not just for this opportunity, but for any opportunity. I want to try, so I should. I've accrued more experience from the time of my last application, and instead of focusing on that positive I keep concentrating on the fact that I may still not be good enough.
I will apply for this role. Again. Why? Because I AM GOOD ENOUGH, and I won't be rejected by default through not applying in the first place. If I get rejected once more then it will be because I wasn't the right fit in their eyes, and not because I didn't think I could succeed. At the end of the day the more I answer the door when opportunity knocks, the less knocks I'll get to my confidence.
Number 11: Cut down on smoking.
I hate being a smoker. It's not cool. It's expensive. It's also guaranteed to cause cancer if you do it for long enough. There are literally no pro's. Despite that, it's still bloody hard to give up. Cutting down is something I can feasibly do in this short space of time. Wish me luck!
Number 12: Drink only water/NO soft drinks.
Amongst my many vices is drinking Coke. There is something so uniquely satisfying about gulping down a cold, carbonated, tall glass of coke. I relish it, and I should stop. It's undeniably a nightmare for my teeth, my stomach lining, and filled with empty calories.
Number 13: Enjoy the sun .
Summer has arrived in London! Whilst flocks of people are enjoying the sun and going for long walks or whatever else you do in the sun, I've been inside. When I was younger, I used to love going for walks alone, cloud watching, reading, taking in my surroundings, and I've stopped. I'm not sure why or how it happened, but gradually I've become less and less motivated to do things simply for the joy of it.
I want that to change. I need it to.
Number 14: Open a proper savings account.
I am nearly 27 years old and have yet to open a savings account. My current account has served as one since I opened it at 16. I have to accept now that I am a proper adult who should be actively saving and understanding money a lot better than I do.
I have friends who have homes now. HOMES! Homes that they can actually call their own. I am nowhere near this stage, and though the fixation with buying property is a relatively recent thing in the UK I still can't help but feel I am lagging behind.
I have no intention of buying a property any time soon or making any other sort of large purchases, but I would like to start getting into a position where doing those things wouldn't be so absurd. Saving money will go from being a by-product of my general frugalness to being an actual daily priority.
Number 15: Start creating a concrete business/initiative plan.
A friend of mine was studying medicine and running her own business when at university. I envied her ability to juggle so many responsibilities and do it with so much energy and enthusiasm. She was able to feed her creative and academic side, not settling for one type of outlet. I inwardly applauded her courage, resilience and ingenuity. Not only was her business a success, but she learnt a tonne and had fun while doing it.
I'm tired of admiring others for doing the things I want to do. I've always wanted to lead on something, an initiative I can call my own. I'm tired of being the best right hand woman, I want to BE the person who could use a hand to make their dreams come true. I might not have a million dollar idea, but I want to try, I want to be able to say I wanted something and I went for it.
Number 16: Stay out till the sun comes up.
I remember being out late having walked through the streets of London with a friend till five AM. There's something to be said about London once the sun goes down. Besides the drunkards (of which there are many on a Friday night), there's a certain ambience which can be pretty magical, especially when in the right company.
Before my birthday, or maybe even on the day I want to experience that again and more often. There will come a time when I'll be expected to be at home at a given hour, for now I should make sure I see as many sunrises throughout London town as I can.
Number 17: Take more photographs.
Ever heard of the street photographer Vivien Maier? If not, you MUST check out her work. It's brilliant, inspired, and nostalgic all at the same time. Her work has never failed to fill me with a sense of another time. Her images seep with emotion and feeling that is absent from real life itself sometimes.
I want to start practising photography, taking images of the mundane, and capturing everyday moments, just like Maier. Unlike her though I could maybe see if I can make some money from it!
Number 18: Exercise.
Need I say more?
Number 19: Start effectively planning my days/week and sticking to it.
Asana, Trello...other planning tools. There's a whole bunch. I can never stick to any of them long enough to see if they actually help me better keep to my goals. Though I need to try again, planning is key to success. I may be self-admittedly flighty and scatter-brained but that doesn't mean I can't be an organised A-type when I need to be.
Number 20: Kondo my life.
"Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle." You've likely heard Kondo's words since she blew up as a self-help guru with her cleaning philosophy, which incidentally relates to general life.
For me, embarking on a new year means ridding myself of things, people, and situations which are nothing but unhelpful or toxic. I'm done. Done sticking with people or things that bring me no joy, and are by and large unnecessary.
Number 21: Create a personal mental health kit/process.
Have you ever spiraled down into a whirlwind of anxiety? I have. It's happened on so many occasions now that I realised I had to prepare myself for the next bout. A sort of mental health first aid kit, as it were.
If you're like me worries, doubt, and fear are all too familiar foes. I can now see myself getting overwhelmed and have begun to create a set of processes to hoist me out of the "emotional quicksand." My kit contains the simplest actions, such as a specific workout routine which I know helps me release tension, a playlist of uplifting music, a particular friend on speed dial.
In the next couple of weeks I want to continue building on the list and make the kit as solid as possible. Perhaps i'll even share it here, it would be great to see what others would put in theirs!
Number 22: Attend a meet-up.
Meet-up is an online platform where strangers with a shared interest meet to explore said interests. I've signed up to countless gatherings and have never gone despite really wanting to. At the last minute I'd tell myself I wouldn't have a good time because I don't know anyone, which is so silly. It's silly because who cares if I don't know anyone? All friends were strangers once!
Number 23: Read more Alain Du Botton.
Du Botton writes accessible articles and books on philosophy. Everything I've read of his has so far been fantastic. He somehow enriches your perspectives on the everyday, which in turn adds another dimension to your inner life.
I have already downloaded his celebrated work on travel. So far so great!
Number 24: Join a Toastmasters FINALLY.
Toastmasters is a worldwide umbrella organisation of groups which practice public speaking. I have wanted to join for years and have never had the courage. Standing up in front a crowd is not a comfortable space for me, but I don't want to enter my 30's and still have this phobia.
Number 25: Submit writing for publication.
My fear of rejection has acted as a roadblock way too many times, especially in the instance of writing. I haven't written for years for fear of writing badly. Now I don't care as much. I know now that I have to try, and that I won't please everyone but in the least I should write things that i'm proud of.
With this newfound confidence, though limited, I want to submit a story/article to a publication I admire. I may get rejected, but even having that rejection email would be proof that I tried and that'll be an achievement in and of itself.
Number 26: Maintain a skin routine.
Have you seen the South Korean ten step beauty routine? I have. It's kind of mesmerising in an odd sort of way. Though I won't be committing to this particularly strict and lengthy routine, it has inspired me to think more about how I take care of my largest organ.
In the past, I have been averse to being so overly conscious of my outward appearance, but as i'm getting older I know that I should start taking care of myself a lot more. Along with exercise and better eating, skin care is important. The fact that it's a billion dollar industry should have drilled that into me a while ago, but never mind.
Number 27: Write letters to friend's abroad.
With current technology it's simple and easy to connect with loved ones despite being hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart. However, Skype calls, whatsapp texts, and email may be convenient but there is something about handwritten letters that allow them to hold more weight. Whereas an email may be quick to send, a letter requires much more thought, care, and concentration.
In my opinion, there is something so specifically beautiful about a letter from a loved one compared to an email. Perhaps it's the excitement you may get when opening the envelope, or how seeing the handwriting of someone you love pulls that extra bit harder on your heart strings compared to text on a screen.
There it is. My 27 goals. It's not going to be an easy feat, but getting through these in the next two weeks should in the least help me enter my late twenties on a high!