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Reflections on turning 34

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Thirty-four twirls around the sun. Wow, how time flies. It feels like yesterday I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old starting this blog to document my travels. Thirteen years later, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, just a little more confident.

Recently I was chatting with friends, and someone asked if we could go back to any age what would it be. For some reason, this has stuck in my head, and my answer hasn’t changed. I wouldn’t go back. I’ve enjoyed many moments in my life, some years far better than others, but none remarkable enough worth repeating.

There’s no amount of money I could be paid to go back to high school. Remembering my twenties makes me so tired – where did all that energy and tolerance for booze come from? I feel like every age is unique and has meaning, and I’m looking forward to turning 34. I feel like I’ve become more comfortable with who I am and what I want.

My need to please others has taken a backseat as I try to put myself entirely and utterly first. So far, it feels pretty awesome.

turning 34

It’s also been six months since my breakup, and my life upended — six months of a broken heart Or perhaps six months of growth, resilience, and optimism.

I suppose life is all about perspective, and I’ve really enjoyed challenging myself to acknowledge my sorrows (fuck you, heartbreak) and reframe my anguish (hmm, maybe this was a good thing for me?). While I’m not in the place that I pictured I would be at this moment in my life, I suppose whatever path I’m on is right.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel positive when you feel like a mess. My life sprawls across two continents, among storage units, friends’ garages, and my car. I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with myself. In many ways, I’ve struggled with “moving on” because I have trouble letting go of “what might have been.” I expected to be working towards buying a house with my partner, running NODE in person, raising chickens and children, and planning for this new chapter of my life.

Now that that isn’t happening, it feels like anything else is going backward, a direction I really don’t want to be traveling in. 

turning 34

At the end of March, I left New Zealand for the first time in two and a half years to travel back to see my family on the East Coast of the USA. I can’t even begin to explain what that meant to me, especially after the grief and loss of my stepdad. 

I accomplished about three things while in the States for five weeks: family time, eating, and finishing my book. Yes, I wrote a book, something that has absolutely consumed me for the past four months. But more on that coming soon. 

I spent endless days slouched across my mom’s sofa, wearing the same pajamas and a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch balanced on my stomach while As Time Goes By played on the tv quietly. I feel 17 again, and not in a good way. At this point in my life, I thought I’d be coming back here with a partner and a plan.

turning 34

Damn. This didn’t feel like a success. In fact, it makes me feel like a total failure.

But perhaps this is precisely where I’m meant to be. I’ve pushed myself for over a decade. And I’ve had a rough couple of years, losing my stepdad, some insane life-changing family circumstances, being stuck behind a closed border, and then having my relationship and life implode just when I thought I was nailing it. Oh, and COVID.

I guess I’m surviving. I can sit in these murky waters as I figure out what to do next. Uncertainty doesn’t have to be bad, does it? We’ve been conditioned to believe that we have to follow the formula to thrive, be happy, and have a plan. I’m learning it’s ok to be untethered. We’re all just out here surviving.

Even now, I have to remind myself not to compare myself to other people on the internet. If I think deeply, I’m happy here on the sofa, with my mom, in my old pajamas. These tender moments are everything. They are what really heals the heart. Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves. We need it.

turning 34

I’ve been back in New Zealand for nearly a month.

I’ve spent nearly half my life as an American expat overseas. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t want my trip to the US to be over. It’s been years since I was with my family because of the closed borders of New Zealand. I get why they did it, but I don’t believe how they did it with MIQ was ethical. In fact, I think it was cruel. I  believe the collective trauma from it is incalculable.

Recently I’ve found myself dwelling a lot on the idea of home.

When I say home, do I mean back home in Virginia, where I grew up, or do I mean back home here in New Zealand, where I’ve been living for a decade? I don’t actually know. Perhaps that’s the prerogative of expats, always having our feet in two worlds. When I’m in New Zealand, I sound American. When I’m in America, I sound like a kiwi. It’s a beautiful thing to have the privilege of two countries, but it is also challenging.

Do I belong to both, or do I belong to neither? It depends on my mood, I guess.

turning 34

Here the days are getting crisper, and the sun disappears by 5 pm.

Winter is coming to Wanaka, and for the first time in a long time, I’m considering skipping it. I don’t have a concrete place to live; I’ve got my current Wanaka flat til July 1st. Do I find a long-term rental in Wanaka while I save for a house? What about returning to Lyttelton and throw myself back into my plant shop, NODE? Or should I fuck off overseas for a few months and seek sunnier shores and bigger influencer paychecks? Do I go back to my family in the US for a while?

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter, and I am excited to be back by the mountains; I’ve always been a four-seasons kind of girl. But my life is still very much in limbo. I usually have a pretty clear path I follow.

With my anxiety, I’ve learned to make decisions quickly so I don’t end up in limbo, which stresses me out. But I’ve been in limbo since my breakup in November, and I still don’t know what direction to go! Usually, this is not something I would have shared in the past, but I’ve decided to be open about it so that others might relate to my struggles.

You are not alone.

turning 34

It’s been six months of feeling lost.

I’m trying to figure out what to do. I think I’m still coming to terms with having the rug pulled out from under me. I’m a homebody and introvert, and it’s always been so important to me to have a safe, comfortable space at home I can retreat to. I thought I had that, but it disappeared, and I find I don’t have the energy or will to rebuild it on my own right now, even though I crave a routine. 

Do I keep my stuff in storage and try to see this freedom as an opportunity? Do I buck up and admit to myself that my old life is gone and it’s time to build a new one? Being untethered both sucks and is wonderful at the same time. I guess I’m just hoping the right opportunity will present itself soon. And trust in the process. If this isn’t a test of growing up, I don’t know what is. 

And if you have any advice for lost wanderers like me or have advice on turning 34? I’d love to hear it.

turning 34

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