I recently had a birthday. On Sunday May 1, 2016, I turned 29 and in my birthday card a friend wrote, “The last year of your twenties – what will it bring?”
I had thought my 29th was a boring birthday. But this shifted my thinking – what do I want to do with the last year of my twenties? What has this decade been about? What have I learned in the last nine years?
I think, it’s been, been a decade of adventure, exploration, and experimenting. The year I turned 20, I took the year off school. I think I knew that there was something that I could learn that wasn’t included in readings and I embarked on a year of volunteering. I volunteered on a farm where every day I would wake up, have breakfast and then go to milk the cow and the goat. I’d feed everybody hay and then drive over to our other property to check on the cows and collect the chicken eggs.
My most vivid memory from that time was when the cows got out and we’d have to run around picking up branches from the ground and wielding them as we chased the cows back to the field. Re-hook the electric fence. I also remember how desperately lonely it felt to be completely alone with a farmer in the countryside.
I left the farm and moved onto a small community in rural Quebec whose purpose was to create a meaningful living situation for adults living with disabilities. I lived in one of the houses on the property and helped the two adult women I lived with get to their activities. They weaved, went swimming, went bowling, helped out with farm chores and the dishes in a schedule that was identical every week.
The community was mostly made up of francophones who also spoke English. My biggest struggle there was speaking French. I made a lot of mistakes and was embarrassed. Because I was so scared to speak French but adamant about not speaking English, I spent a lot of my time there in silence. I remember reading Eat, Pray, Love when I lived there and feeling like Elizabeth Gilbert was my only friend. I savoured it, reading only a little bit at a time so my only friend wouldn’t leave me.
In the spring, I travelled to the small mountain kingdom of Bhutan on the invitation of a family friend who lives there. There I volunteered at the local youth radio station, Kuzoo FM, and at a vocational school for young people with disabilities. I had almost cancelled my trip, after spending most of my fall feeling completely alone I asked myself why I was flying to the other side of the world even further away from the family and friends who loved me the most. I remember talking to my mom about cancelling the trip and her telling me she would kill for the opportunity to go to Bhutan. Reminding me that this type of experience might not come up again and so I should take it while I could. I could always change my flights and come home earlier if it was awful.
The flight into this mountain kingdom was one of the most frightening and beautiful things I’ve ever done. The pilot spoke over the intercom telling us to look right as we flew past Mount Everest. As we descended into Paro, we were flying so close to the mountains I felt like I could reach out and touch the tops of the houses as we flew by. The whole plane cheered when we landed.
As I stepped off the plane into the mountains, I knew it was the right decision to come. The air smelled sweet, and fresher than I had ever experienced. Nancy, the family friend, picked me up at the airport. We met a friend of hers that worked at the school in Paro and ate fresh intricate Bhutanese pastries covered in icing sugar. She sent us home with a tin of them.
My time in Bhutan was stunning and challenging. Working with a group of students who didn’t speak English and had a variety of learning needs was very challenging. In comparison, hosting a radio show was easy.
And I was on the other side of the world, far away from my family and friends, and I did have times of loneliness. But I wouldn’t give back the experience for anything.
This decade has been a time of exploring and experimenting. It has also been a time of getting to know the loneliness that comes with independence.
And as I turn into my final year of my twenties – I continue to move in this direction. Moving out of the apartment I share with a roommate into my own place. Embarking on the solo journey of memoir writing. Launching a tiny business on my own.
This year, I am not adventuring to the other side of the planet, but instead am diving into the adventure of exploring the landscapes of my past and building a future that I want to live in.
This is what I’m doing with the last year of my twenties.
Do you want to:
- Get unstuck?
- Stop feeling so drained?
- Have more time for what you love?
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