Updated: Jan 6
Yours truly turns the big 40 this year. As one of my statistically inclined colleagues put it at his 40th, 'half way there!'
I've never been one to celebrate birthdays and in fact have no recollection of ever having a birthday party.
But I remember musing once in my 30s (when turning 40 seemed like an abstract construct) that I will mark my 40th with a huge party.
There would be no half measures either : I'd hire out the iconic Wylies Baths in Coogee with it's gorgeous rock pool, have a DJ or band or string quartet (or maybe all three), a shiny dance floor with lights, delicious canapes, free flowing champers and cocktail, and invite all the wonderful humans I have come across in my life.
Alas, then I was a strategist in a bank with ample cashflow to afford such dreams but now that I have decided to become a writer, cashflow has become the abstract construct!
Besides the above was fantastical musings. For a highly introverted person such as myself, the idea of hosting an event that is 'all about me' ... and where I need to engage and entertain all the guests ... for hours on end ... is about as nightmarish as things can get.
I nonetheless think that it is important to stop, take stock and celebrate our lives - and milestone birthdays provide a great opportunity to do so.
This is especially true now given how tumultuous the last few years have been....
Since 2020, things have never been the same
Yes, there was the global pandemic (and we'll get to that) but just prior, I went through another rather life affirming moment; At the end of 2019, I went through a redundancy at work.
For someone who identified so strongly with the job I did, it felt as if an aspect of my identity got taken away from me.
The redundancy itself wasn't surprising or indeed unwanted - I had very deliberately taken on a new job, knowing that it was one of those jobs that gets chopped every three years or so (good old corporate life).
I knew that by the time this new job would end up on the chopping block, I would have completed ten years in the company and not only have long service leave but also the prospect of a redundancy payout to leave with. And that was my exit plan (and yes, I do plan for the long term).
As it happened, I really loved my new job, had a ball doing it and even delivered some Australian first initiatives in the banking. Even so, by the time the redundancy came through, I was well and truly ready to leave corporate life.
I am also however someone who took the career trip seriously (maybe a little too seriously) and take enormous pride in performing at the highest level. So the notion of "being redundant", hit the ego hard.
The three month long process that followed the redundancy gave me plenty of time to reflect and work through this feeling. It made me realise how fraught it was to based one's identity on something that we fundamentally did not control - a job.
It's not the 'job' that gives one meaning I finally realised - rather it's the work that we do ...
Perhaps this realisation is what finally got me to turn my 'work' into a 'job' that I not only love but can also control.
And yes, getting the payout at the end did make up for the whole thing too ;-) Was a wonderful feeling to be able to take the money and run!
One way ticket out of Australia
I had long fantasied about buying a one way ticket out of Australia - and to travel slowly to every corner of our planet.
As soon as the redundancy payout was confirmed, I set about feverishly planning an around the world itinerary. Whilst I had an itch to get away as soon as I could manage, for some reason I decided to spend the summer in Australia and depart at the end of March 2020.
And then there was COVID
I remember a friend texting me in early March asking me if I was still going ahead with my travels given COVID.
'What's COVID?', I replied ...
The following days and weeks were spent scrambling to find a country to get away to.
As soon as I had settled on one, it would be followed by some travel restriction or border closure announcement. It felt like I was playing a game of whack-a-mole as countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas systematically shut down.
The final nail in my travelling coffin came with Australia's unprecedented move to stop their citizens from leaving (or indeed returning to) the country.
And that was it - I was stuck here.
The news was especially devastating as my first stop had been to a two month long meditation retreat in Tuscany. I had been learning and practicing meditation for years and having done smaller retreats before, was yearning to do a much longer one that would allow me to explore the practice more deeply. This particular retreat had been perfect for that.
But even the retreat in Tuscany had to be cancelled as international travel became impossible. However, the organisers were able to make arrangements so that the teaching would continue virtually.