birthday party, cake
Image Credit: Pixabay

I will complete 35 years on the earth in about two days, and by the time this is in print, I would probably be done and dusted with the message receiving and gift opening that typically happens on the 7th of September every year. Now, I do realise that I am violating a lot of protocols here. Women don’t usually tell their age, much less project it in the national newspaper, and many don’t think reaching the riper side of 35 is a cause of celebration, reflection and achievement. But when have I ever been the sedate follower — I think a lot of what defines me is to not really care about what others might think and do it anyway if I believe in it strongly enough.

For starters, I’m genuinely happy I’ve made it thus far. As a child and even as young adult, I always imagined I wouldn’t make it past the age of 33 — somehow I always thought a tragic accident would kill me. Thanks and gratitude is due, I am safe and well and still around to share some important reflections on my story thus far.

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Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Arnett was influential in identifying something called ‘emerging adulthood’ the age between 18-29 when you are still vulnerable and impressionable but because of the way life is, your experiences start to become greatly varied. Many of us are thrown headlong into life at this stage (without the protective comfort of our parents and early mentors) and inevitably experience significant failures and successes in this stage of life.

These years have a great impact on who we become as adults. Most people consider early childhood and teenage as the most important building blocks of a person’s personality (and that holds true) however, this age too, has its very sharp learning curves and helps us build critical values and beliefs that last a lifetime.

Why it is important to identify this information is because a decade earlier my mindset was that of a victim. I was reactive to what people and circumstances were doling out, I had taken away my own control upon myself. I felt hurt, frustrated, disenchanted by life, and was expected to learn my lessons and act on them before I could even process what was happening. You must have heard of the term ‘Hurt people, hurt people’. Because I was unaware of my own emotions, and life was happening as it is meant to happen, I did not develop that quintessential quality of empathy, something I feel all meaningful relationships require.

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They say that time is the best healer, I would argue that time is the best teacher too. Today, I am clearer about my purpose in life than I have ever been, I truly value and enjoy the different roles that I have been assigned, both personally and professionally, and most importantly, I have forgiven, both my rash younger self and the people who needed to be forgiven, whether or not they asked for forgiveness. The contentment that I feel is probably because I’ve been able to actively practise gratitude. I have also accepted and understood the unique person that I am, and with all my imperfections, I like and respect the person that I have become.

Yes, the heavy dinner on the weekend, and the occasional indulgence with dessert tends to stick around my waistline much longer than it did when I was younger, and yes the bags under my eyes look ever puffier in the mornings, and the hair is losing vitality and colour, but I feel comfortable in my own skin, muffin tops, and all.

I feel just as curious as I did when I was a child and I’m grateful for having developed a genuine empathy which has enhanced just about every relationship I have and invited friendships that mean so much to me. I’m a little bit wiser than I was and I’m able to process negative events and emotions in a much healthier way. It’s not like negative events don’t take place anymore, I’m much less of an emotional wreck and far more positive. The quote that age is just a number rings very true — and the sexiest thing ever — is confidence.

— Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer