It’s hard to predict life. Even with goals, schedules, and events, we rarely know what a year will bring.
If you’d asked me a year ago, “what will you be doing for your 30th birthday?”, I doubt I’d have said I’ll be climbing an active volcano in Nicaragua. Truthfully, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have expected it’d be the plan either.
I’d booked a spa-hotel in Granada with a beautiful pool for my big celebration. Time ticked closer and it didn’t feel right. I became stressed. Would it be memorable enough? Would it be exciting? Soul enriching? I knew it’d be relaxing. But it wasn’t going to bring the joy I was looking for.
Looking back, the plans weren’t the problem. The problem was me.
We spent September in a house in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Surrounded by jungle, howler monkeys and the occasional bat. We had a yoga and workout studio to ourselves. In fact, we had most of the country to ourselves. There was a pool with a bridge over it. For the most part, it was peaceful. Apart from the labourers tending to a neighbouring house. Loud music and hammering cut the morning air. It didn’t matter. The loudest space in that jungle paradise was my mind.
A loud mind can make even the most tranquil spaces deafening.
We made that house our home through September. It will forever hold a place in my heart. Not because of its beauty or the party sounds of toad mating calls as dusk was breaking, but because of it’s provocative nature. Being away from the world meant I had to spend time with myself, to address myself. I had to relearn to trust myself, unconditionally love myself and let go.
The past five years were filled with rapid changes. Many permanent ones. 2018 has been a year of commitment. Leasing our property. Quitting my career. Selling the business. Selling the cars. Leaving home [again]. Getting married. Endless honeymooning.
Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting. But changes bring conflict to the mind. It tries to protect you. It wants safety. It wants routine and assurance and repetitive similarities. It thrives and grows and learns with change. But it will trick you into thinking change is fatal. And for many, it succeeds.
I was afraid to turn twenty. That year got to me. I was losing my childhood and gaining nothing. At twenty-one, I would be able to go to Las Vegas and drink and gamble. Twenty was no twenty-one. Twenty was just a number.
A week after my 20th birthday, I vowed never to feel that way about a birthday again. Each birthday would be a chance to celebrate a privilege denied to many. They would be a representation of how much I’d grown, a chance to reflect on what I’d learned from the past, what I’d learned for the present and what I’d be experiencing from the future.
Turning thirty was no exception. I was excited. My 29th birthday was spent cleaning our house before tenants moved in, eating Chinese takeaways on the floor, sleeping in our empty room that last night. My 29th year saw a promotion at work. I became a landlord, ran four half marathons, successfully planned and hosted a wedding. I left the country I’d called home for five years and embarked upon the greatest adventure of my life with my new husband.
Twenty-nine was amazing. Thirty was going to be even better,
Since my 20th birthday, each year of my life has gotten better. I don’t know whether there is truth in that statement, or if it’s simply a reflection of the work and practice I have put into my perspective on life.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I’ve had my share of negative situations. I’ve lost Grandmothers, friends and pets, I’ve been turned down from job opportunities, I’ve had injuries. I’ve had breakdowns. There’s been negative inner chatter. I’ve created narratives and anxieties. I’ve felt like throwing the towel in. I’ve felt too weak to carry on.
In these trying times, I’ve learned to shift my focus. To take the pain, struggle, negative voices and self-hatred and turn it into drive. Don’t let the fear win. Watch it. Know it. Welcome it. Learn from it, then defeat it. It’s not always easy. It doesn’t happen quickly. It’s about learning, growing, changing each day and knowing the best version of yourself. We can always be better than who we were yesterday.
Ten days before my birthday, the spa-hotel plan felt inadequate. I started pitying myself for feeling this way over birthday plans. I was in an inner turmoil that made no sense to me in the moment. I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t know what I wanted. There was no clear picture in my mind and the thought of failing a plan I didn’t have was terrifying. Planning my 30th birthday was just a metaphor for my life.
We had been [and still are] working on a few different goals and projects while in San Juan del Sur. Career-changing, passion driven projects to help us live our best lives, find the life/work balance, and live outside the 9-5 drain. We got ourselves this far, with our goals from the past 5 years, we could do it again. My problem was, I’d been working so hard to get to where I was, I’d forgotten to formulate my next destination. I had dreams and ideas. But dreaming is different to knowing what you want and working towards it. Good things do not come to those who wait. They come to those who work for it. And those who work for it need to work smarter, not harder.
In my head, I had my desired results. I didn’t have my purpose or plan. I was shooting for the stars, hoping I’d end up on the moon. Things don’t work like that.
Purpose is a loaded word. My whole life I’d struggled to find mine, or so I thought. I was looking for one thing. A purpose and passion that drove my entire being and defined me. That’s why I could never find it.
My amazing husband found me this article (Unexpected Ways to Find Your Purpose) and after reading it, a light went on in my brain. One that had always been there. One I’d used before, but had been waiting to illuminate all of me.
Next, he gave me a list of things to work on for the day:
Writing down 5 things I am passionate about brought tears to my eyes. Making the vision board was fun and exciting. The Tony Robbins seminar was nothing short of INCREDIBLE.
I already had this knowledge within me. Over the years I had learned these things and practiced many of these methods. I needed to remember them, all at once, to ignite my fire again.
This quote embedded itself deep within me. For the days that I can’t go on. The days that I’m disappointed in myself for feeling that way. The days that throw me curveballs and I’m not sure if I can swerve out of the way fast enough. If I strive each day to be a little better than who I was yesterday, how can I go wrong?
After my day of lows and highs, I remained on the high, but in a more manageable, lasting way. I was clear headed. I now had my passions written down. I knew my purposes. I now know exactly what I want, and there’s 1001 ways to get there.
You need to know where the destination is first, if you ever want to get there.
When it came to planning my 30th birthday, I now knew what I wanted. I wanted to challenge myself. Set the tone for my 30th year, push myself to my limits and prove that there is no goal I cannot achieve. I wanted to be in nature. On an island. On a lake in Nicaragua. I wanted to climb an active volcano. And I did.
About an hour into our 9.5 hour journey, it started to pour with rain. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a wider smile. It was exhilarating to be in a jungle, on a volcano and climbing through pouring rain. I felt connected to myself, my husband, nature and the people who had climbed before us. I was connected to all of humanity, and the universe in it’s entirety. It was a meditation like no other. I experienced the oneness of it all.
The earth was hot at the top of the crater. The smell of sulphur surrounded us. Our view of the lake and sister volcano was obstructed by the cloud – but the view wasn’t the purpose of the climb.
Descending the volcano was as exhilarating as making it to the top. It took far more focus and determination. It demonstrated the practice of “where focus goes, energy flows” (Tony Robbins).
The homestay’s puppy came for a visit when we returned. We fed him, tucked him in and pat him to sleep. I felt beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to experience the lows before the highs. Without lows, we really aren’t able to appreciate all of the good in our lives. Sleeping in a spa-hotel was paradise after squishy, bug-filled beds on Ometepe Island!
Turning 30 was amazing. I’m more excited about the next 30 than I have ever been before. There will be hills to climb and descents to be wary of. There will be hard days, easy days, challenging days and exciting days. There will be laughter and tears, but there will be learning and growth too. There is a deeper drive to become a better version of myself. There is passion, purpose and gratitude.
If you’re still here, thank you. Thank you for being a part of our journey. Thank you for letting me share my challenges and successes with you.
There are an infinite amount of resources in this universe. It is not a competition. We can all be a part of this journey together. Love yourself first, and the rest will fall into place when you work for what you want.
Be specific. There are many incredible resources available online. Find what speaks to you. And know you’ve got the power within you to live your best life.
“We either learn to fail, or we fail to learn.” -Tal Ben Shahar
And a special thank you to my amazing husband John, who is wise beyond his 30 years, and helped me enter my 30th year in the best way I could ever have imagined.
I am so lucky to have had him next to me climbing that crazy volcano, and through all of our crazy adventures in life, never telling me my ideas are crazy,
but supporting me and joining me in them.
His patience, his compassion and his love for life inspires me each day.
Please check out his website http://www.johncosgrove.net