On December 21st, I'm turning 30. That's 30 different journeys around the sun. It's a huge milestone, yet not one I specifically looked forward to. It almost feels as if my whole life got condensed into the last 10 years, so I became rather fond of saying, I'm a 20 something year old. Turning 30, in my mind, means becoming a real adult. But this is not really the case. Looking back at my life, I became an adult a long time ago. And despite the cliche saying, age is nothing but a number, the reality is, we are as old as we feel. Question is: how old do I really feel?
So turning 30 is inevitable. At first, I was a bit depressed about the idea. But looking back at the best things I've done so far, I realised that entering a new decade on this planet is actually a brilliant achievement and one which must be celebrated in style.
They say a girl's golden years are during her 20s. What a bunch of elephant dung! A girl's golden years are during her whole life. Every single year of every single decade on this planet can and should be celebrated. I decided to contemplate on the past. What are some of the best 30 things I did before turning 30?
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Turning 30... let's celebrate!
Nobody knows what they are doing! I don't know what I'm doing. Do you think you know what you are doing? We’re all just a bunch of people trying to figure out how to get through the day. In fact, the older you get, the more you realise how much this statement resonates with you. And to be fair, that takes a lot of pressure off. No more existential questions. No more quintessential things to do before your nth journey around the sun. You do you. Today, tomorrow, always.
And before you ask, no, I wasn't always like this. I used to have it all planned out. What I need to achieve in life, before what year. How my life is going to be and why. But, as with all good trips, it's the journey that matters and not the destinations.
30 best things I did before turning 30
So here I am, turning 30. Am I a little panicked? Yeah, of course, I am. Especially when I compare my 30s with other people's 30s. What if I'm less successful? What if I have fewer achievements? What if I look older than I should. And then, I take a big breath of air and I think to myself "the race is only with yourself!"
I'm looking back at my life and all I can think of is "boy, I'm still trying to find my own voice here".
I married my best friend
Marrying my husband was the best thing ever, for me. He's my best friend and the absolute best human on this planet. I trust him with my life and I cannot express how grateful I am for meeting him in this life. I went through good and bad relationships, but until I met G, I clearly didn't know what true love is. I'm the luckiest girl alive.
It may sound cheesy but I know there are some of you out there who really resonate with this. I can offer one advise to everyone looking for love: I promise, it's better to be single and happy than miserable, trapped in a fake relationship with someone who doesn't deserve the real you.
I moved to the UK
They say you can only connect the dots looking backwards. And the older you get, the more you realise this statement is so true. I moved to the UK when I was only 18 years old. I didn't have a trust fund, but half a grand to my name. No job aligned, no scholarship, no family in the UK, and no friends. I did a naive, crazy step and it paid off. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I would have probably never taken such an absurd risk to go to a country to study and have no job or no incoming money. But they say that in life you swim or sink. I chose to swim and that gave me the courage I needed in life, to rely on myself and trust my own gut.
This is not to say that I didn't make mistakes... I made plenty! But without mistakes, we don't learn, so I take them as (almost) free of charge life lessons.
I learnt how to cook
Being alone in a foreign country kinda forces you to learn a trick or two. For me, I wanted to learn how to cook. Now, I had no money to buy ingredients so imagine that for several years my main meal was either boring chicken breast and chips or gross pasta with some cheese on top (I'm vegan now FYI so this type of food wouldn't work to me anymore).
But at some point, I started becoming more interested in making my food taste better and look more interesting. I experimented with desserts and some starters and slowly made my way to soups and mains. Eventually, I really got the taste for it and learnt how to cook real food with whole ingredients. We now focus on a healthy diet and it's never been better.
I failed in business
And not just one time, but several times. It was that business when I wanted to be an overnight successful graphic designer. I made a website and everything. The time when I was selling paintings for little money. The time when I was charging to do the homework for other kids. Oh, or the time when I transformed our whole spare room into storage for kilos upon kilos of loose tea. I created an e-commerce shop and created a tea brand because that's been a long-time passion of mine. No, it didn't work out, but all these failures taught me to keep at it. By trying so many things, I could find my own passion and pursuit it.
I bet you didn't know but I even started a bridal blog once. I gave it up pretty quickly and focused on organising my own wedding instead. So it's best to try and fail and learn valuable lessons about how businesses work. And no, I don't believe you can become an overnight success unless you know Taylor Swift, or you go viral by mistake.
I created this blog
All in all, my business failures taught me to persevere. And trust me, that's the hardest part of them all. But just like in love, when you find that passion of yours, you'll know it. Because all you'll want to do is skip sleep and focus on your newly discovered potential.
This was the case with this blog. It was born in 2016 and it's been growing since. It's like my baby and I love it dearly.
I found my courage
I used to have such courage as a little girl. Nothing frightened me. I was prepared for the worst and was fearless. And then, somewhere along the lines, that courage started fading away. I'd become afraid of trying new things and experimenting. This applies to businesses, new foods and even relationships and friendships.
It took me a long time of self-healing to get to the point where I try to be more courageous. I'm still not there yet, but as the above demonstrates, I try and try and try. I'm totally out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. But yeah, I'm anxious as hell!
I learnt the importance of mental health
I didn't even know what mental health really is until not long ago. I grew up so sheltered from all these things, assuming that if you have an issue with your mind, you probably need some serious help...from a doctor. Turns out, mental health is not so straight forward and I'm grateful for all my friends who had the patience to listen to me and teach me some of their wisdom.
I never thought I suffer from anxiety, for example. And once I started discovering these little things about myself, it got better. That's because I understood what to focus on and what needs healing. I also realised that you can't just heal your mind. It takes love and attention and constant care. It may not heal 100% but it sure gets better.
I travelled so much
This is such an important thing I did before turning 30. Travelling enabled me to learn a lot about the world we live in. It opened my horizons and opened my mind. It influenced the way we live, cook, and want to raise our children. Taking the best parts from every country you visit makes you flourish as an individual.
I visited 30 countries before turning 30. In December, I'll be thinking 2 more counties off. On my actual birthday, we will be celebrating in Singapore which will be country number 32.
I learnt three new languages
I was born in Romania. I studied French for 11 years in school and English for 6. Moving to England forced me to practise English all the time, eventually becoming pretty much the only language I speak on a regular basis. I speak English at home, English with my friends and I work in an English environment. But travelling also enabled me to learn French properly and Spanish. I'm no expert, but I can have a decent conversation.
I have a very basic command of Italian, Hungarian and Japanese. Since we moved to Germany, we decided it's time to take a class and learn German properly. Wish us luck!
I challenged myself
Learning how to challenge myself hasn't been an easy one for me. Not because I don't want to do better, but because I'm not the best at taking criticism. But, as you start university and then you start a real job, criticism will just come pouring. So you kinda have to take it and learn how to deal with it.
I found it extremely difficult to take criticism and pack it into something useful. So I started by creating small tasks to challenge myself to do better. It's an important life process and very much needed for those who need more self-confidence, for sure.
I learnt how to communicate
This one here comes with a major warning: you need to find the right person to do this with. This is probably the biggest thing I'm grateful to my husband for. His infinite patience to listen to me. Listening, talking and outlining concerns in a grown-up manner is the number-one success to any marriage. I mean it, without communication we are doomed.
I am an extrovert and I love expressing myself. But sometimes (just like any other human) I can come across passive-aggressive, sarcastic or even mean. So getting the chance to explain myself, communicate my thoughts freely and debate something I don't agree with, led to many hours of learning how to communicate. This is my second biggest success before turning 30.
No, not the local paper, but meaningful books. I devoured them, had white nights over them, got angry because of them, happy, made imaginary friends and got distracted in darker times. Books are the best entertainment for your mind. It's your imaginary escape from your own dystopia. And yeah, I do believe everyone lives in a bit of a dystopia created by themselves.
Books have helped me, healed me, encouraged me and made me cry. Tears of joy and sorrow, I'm all too grateful for your pages of never-ending stories which made me a better version of myself.
I quit smoking
Yeah, I used to smoke. One of the biggest mistakes of my life, but one which was very much needed during stupid teenage years. No point regretting it now, as I can't go back in time and change it. But I am very proud for waking up one morning and saying NO. I deserve to live a long and happy life, free from cancer and other diseases.
I became vegan
This is one big achievement for me. Like most of you reading this, I grew up in a meat-heavy country where real men eat meat and vegans are these pathetic people who live like rabbits and complain all the damn time.
Well life is a funny thing, isn't it? I don't live like a rabbit and I eat more than just salad. I do complain that people lack education but I don't go around shaming them. I'm grateful for Netflix and other channels who decided it's time to educate the public a little more on diet and nutrition.
I feel better. Being vegan is about being healthy first and foremost. And then, I like to think of the added benefits of being cruelty-free and contributing to a better environment for us all.
I learnt how to drive and drove...a lot
My grandfather used to take us on weekend road trips to the Romanian mountains. I used to love the idea of eventually driving a car of my own and going on road trips with my own family. He was such an influence, I loved cars because of him.
Well, eventually I learnt how to drive a car and drove...a lot. Just this year alone, I drove 20,000 kilometres around Europe. I just love driving, it helps me focus, it helps me think. It's also a fun thing for me and G as we get to talk and bond a lot during driving (which is, almost monthly). They are like long fun road trip dates for us.
I lived in so many countries
One thing I can tell you for sure: cultural shock is real. We experienced it on multiple occasions but we also learnt that it's part of the so-called expat life. What nobody tells you is that once you are an expat, things become twisted and complicated. Not for everyone, of course, but for most people. It's confusing, speaking a different language. To such extent that you don't fully master your new language but you also forget bits of your native language. You are suddenly not perfect in either.
Then it comes the food, the people, the houses, the hurdles of adapting. We are adaptable as humans, but it's not always easy. We adapt out of necessity but that doesn't mean we don't crave the old ways. There are times when I get really homesick, but once I'm home I can't wait to get out of the country. That feeling makes me feel like I don't belong anywhere in the world.
So living in Romania, the UK, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Hungary and now Germany taught me that with time, it gets a little better. It's also a learning curve where you adopt good things from all these countries and you learn what you are really after. What's that special place which you can call home. And eventually, you do feel like a citizen of the world, where everyone is equal and borders are nothing but imaginary lines on an outdated piece of a paper.
I did silly things
We take life far too seriously. So sometimes doing silly things it's the best thing ever. Bake a cake at 2 in the morning just because you can. Wear silly socks or go to the shop wearing odd shoes. Take things lightly and enjoy life through the lens of a child's eyes: full of colour, silliness and fun.
I learnt to let go
I think I've got this obsessive personality where I find it hard to let things go. When something doesn't go my own way, I tend to go around in circles until I find a solution. I guess I would have made a great detective. But in real life, this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.
And so, I needed to learn the art of letting go. Start from small things to really big important things. I still struggle with this, but it's a process.
I danced with my husband
We created our own dance for our wedding. We didn't hire a teacher for this. We wanted to do something we come up with it ourselves. We also dance in the kitchen, dance in the living room sometimes and just have a laugh. Dancing together just makes everything so much better.
I made a life which enables us to be together all-day
I love my husband more than life itself. And I can't believe I was lucky enough to find another nut job who wanted to be with me 24/7. This was a goal for us from the moment we met. Now seriously, I know this is not for everyone. And some may think we are bat shit crazy. But for us, this was the goal: to be partners in love, life and business. Once we got together...we just never really spent time apart.
So we worked really hard to make it so that we actually spend all the time together. Here we are 6 years later still spending just as much time together.
I got over abuse
The MeToo movement was powerful and not easy to talk about. It hit right at home but it also enabled me to open up about it and discuss it with my husband and others in need of reassurance they are not alone. I'm still not ready to talk about it all but being in an abusive relationship can be really hard. It can happen to anyone and in some cases, you won't really know about it until it's too late.
And no, just leaving it's not always an option. In fact, for most people, it's not an option at all...for a long time. It takes courage, will power and a lot of moral strength.
I became a feminist
I'm no Emma Watson, but I do identify myself as a feminist. And no, I don't hate men or anything silly like that. In fact, I'm married to a real man who I love 100%. Being a feminist means being more aware of the clear inequality we experience as women. If you want to really understand what being a feminist means read "Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men" by Caroline Criado-Perez.
I read it with my husband and yeah, it will make your blood boil. And husbands and brothers, do read this because the women you love are sometimes in more danger than you can imagine. Feminism is about us having the same opportunities as all the men around us. And until you read that book, I promise, you won't even realise how many issues we face.
I started yoga and meditation
It's still early days, but it's been a helpful treatment for stress. I love yoga. I love yoga before bed especially to help me unwind before the night. As previously mentioned I do have my own anxiety issues so meditation can sometimes help alleviate that. But not always. I'm still learning what it really means to meditate and how it can become helpful to my body and mind.
I learnt patience (still am!)
A big, big challenge but something which really helped me in life. Patience is gold and it's one of those traits I never really benefited from. Even as I'm turning 30, I'm still having issues with patience. I want things done fast but I recognise that's not always how it works. And fast doesn't always mean good. Also fast can mean wishing your days away which is a terrible idea as you can see your life passing you by as you search for the next best thing to happen.
So staying present, grounded and patient means living a longer, happier life where you can relish every single moment.
I finished university
I have a degree and I'm proud of that achievement. Back in my school days, I was an A student. I used to love learning and studying. University, however, was a bit of a challenge for me. Not only it was conducted in English, but also in a foreign country when I had no money. So I needed to find a job and pronto.
Well, my job was being a door to door charity fundraiser. It was very hard and demanding as I needed to work 20 hours a week on top of a full-time university schedule. My job needed me to be at the office at 3 pm, take a train somewhere around the city, start at 4 pm and finish at 9 pm when I'll go back to my accommodation. It was the only job that would have a foreigner with little command of English and a work permit in the making. As much as that job sucked the life out of me, I still consider myself so lucky for finding it. It was life-saving really.
So...I failed exams. I hated law school at the time anyway. Finishing university was a huge accomplishment for me. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't want to go through it again.
I got over being bullied
When I was young I used to be bullied. It's so embarrassing to admit this out loud sometimes. But people used to make fun of my name. My full name is Coralia but my family used to call me Cora. Well, kids can be horrible things and used to tell me I have the name of a dog. And because I was always the youngest they would push me around, abuse me verbally and simply not allow me to play with them.
I used to hate having such a different name. Why couldn't I be called something normal like Jane? Things have changed and I now love my name to bits. But still, being bullied is a terrible thing.
I learnt to appreciate the small things in life
My husband sometimes leaves notes on my laptop or on my notebook. He would write nice messages on the mirror. Or he would make me coffee and tea. Sometimes he would wrap me up in a blanket or kiss me on my cheek and tell me he loves me.
Sometimes we would talk and make food in the kitchen together. Sometimes we would go for a long walk hand in hand. Every little thing in life is fantastic.
In fact, I learnt that all the small things are the best in life and those are the ones which need to be cherished the most.
I learnt to say no
Woaaah one of the hardest things ever. Learning to say no is such a big thing. In personal life and in business too. In fact, it can be truly liberating. Say no when you don't want to drink. Say no to a piece a pie. Say no to a bad contract. You don't have to be rude to say no. And some people will insist. Don't allow them to bully you into saying yes.
If you feel it's no, it should be no. Stick to your guns. Honestly, so damn liberating. No, thank you!
I made amazing friends all over the world
Blogging, travelling, living all over the world...sure it can take a toll, but it also comes with benefits. Meeting wonderful people and making friends all over the world is a fantastic thing and feeling. People come and go, but the precious few will stay.
And you know, sometimes getting an email from a friend, or talking to them a few times a week, seeing them regularly and even flying across the world for a special occasion, really makes life more wonderful. Friends can be beautiful.
I learnt to love myself
You'd think this is an easy one, right? Wrong. We live in a world so focused on body image and perfection, that as a fashion and beauty magazine reader, I turned out quite obsessed with looks. And I don't mean perfect hair and makeup, but that magazine cover perfect body. And guess what, as I delved into my mid-twenties, my tighs became less firm, my abs loosened up a bit (damn you, desk job!) and I went thought crazy stages of long hair short hair coloured hair.
But nothing, I tell you, nothing can prepare you for the first wrinkle or first time you don't fit into your usual size. FUCK! That's terrifying. And I did what every self-respected almost 30 year old would do: cried in my loose pyjama and ate bread and vegan ice cream. Obviously, I didn't start exercising. Who do you think I am?
Ok, fine, at first I cried, obsessed about my looks and went on a downward spiral of an unhealthy diet of fries and crisps. But I learnt really quickly that just because it's vegan, it doesn't mean it's healthy.
So I took a step back. I started exercising. I started yoga. I started stretching. I started walking and eating healthy food. And in the process, I discovered that I became a woman. I have a woman body I'm very proud of. It's a healthy body.
I discovered that loving myself means wanting to look after myself and eating properly and exercising the right way. It doesn't mean dieting for the sake of being a size smaller. It means glowing. It means taking the time for myself. So it hasn't been an easy journey.
In conclusion, I want to be honest: my journey has not been easy but not hard either. I guess I'm grateful for the bumpy ride because it gave me new phobias but also new perspectives and formidable life lessons. So here I am, about to enter a new decade. Am I ready? Hell yeah! I want to live forever and learn an exceptional number of new things.
What's not quite there?
So many things. Life is a process, a continuous learning curve. I wish I wouldn't be as anxious. I think this is perhaps my number one thing I'm working on right now. I never realised how anxious I really am until one day I experienced something similar to a panic attack because of something truly trivial.
I know yoga and meditation are meant to help but it is a really long process.
I want to learn a little more to forgive rather than just forget. I believe I am a fair person but for some reason, there are things in my past I could never get over. I simply cannot forgive. I'm realising it's entirely pointless as it won't change the past, nor the culprits will feel bad for what they did. All I'm doing is being trapped in my own pit (to make a reference to How I met your mother).
I want to buy a house and make it a home. We've been going around the world in search of a place to settle. Turns out it's not that easy. And while we are grateful for all the experiences, we are now ready to settle down and buy our first home. We want to decorate it with our own things and make it ours.
I want to create more time to focus on exercising rather than working. I believe things can wait until tomorrow and I need to adopt this a lot more in my life.
I would love to learn how to not take things personally. When someone ignores my messages, or people don't respect promises they made, I take everything to heart. I need to learn how to detach more.
I need to be less grumpy with things I cannot change. I can't change when people drive like crazy on the motorway, so why get annoyed about it? The best I can do is keep myself and my family safe rather than raise my blood pressure for no reason. If I can't do anything about it, what's the point shortening my life.
More positive thoughts and learn how to celebrate small successes. Sometimes I feel I'm my own worst critic. Rather than be happy and satisfied with my achievements, I can bring myself down when things are short of perfect. While I learnt to celebrate the small things, I need to learn to encourage myself more often and be happy with my own achievements. Nothing is too small.
So that's where I'm at. Same as everyone else, I have my own fears, my own personal successes and my own ideas. I think it's important to reiterate that you should celebrate your own achievements. It's hard not to compare yourself to the next best person, but that's not going to propel you forward, but hinder your own happiness. Live in the moment, in your own world, your own race. Turning 30 is just like any other birthday. Only that this time, you get to celebrate three decades on this planet. Three decades during which you got to LIVE! Without further ado, Happy 30th birthday, if you are reading this before turning 30.