Twice a year, I take the time to silently sit and reflect on my life so far and the year ahead. Once on New Years’ Eve, and once on a birthday that more or less falls in the middle of the year. It’s a humbling stock-take of my accomplishments and goals.
Sure, mathematically my birthday doesn’t actually fall in the exact middle of the year, but the 15th day of a 30-day month, which falls on the 6th month out of 12, feels ‘close enough’ to me.
This year is one of those ‘big milestones’. It happened when I turned 21, and 18, 13, and – for some reason – 6. In reverse order, these milestones were moments of clarity as I realized that I was crossing ‘a threshold of being’.
At 6, I had just started school and my childhood changed forever as my youngest sibling was announced. At 13 I ‘became’ a teenager and wondered what that would mean. At 18 I ‘became an adult’ and made a choice that changed my life forever (to commit to dating my now-husband exclusively), and at 21 I had recently moved out of home and was re-evaluating my identity after months of job rejections and domestic failures. Each threshold was…daunting…but I’m glad for the realizations I had at the time. Each moment of reflection enabled me to make important decisions, such as how independent I wanted to become and what kind of goals I wanted to set for myself. At 18 I decided that my future was no longer in the hands of my family (a decision which, admittedly, had been made a little late), and at 21 I came to terms with the fact that becoming a domestic goddess was not an immediate accomplishment nor a significant part of my identity.
So, what have I accomplished by 25? In reflection, quite a lot! I like lists, so here we are;
- Travelled to Europe twice! (I’m very, very lucky)
- Travelled to Japan, top to bottom
- Played in an orchestra, and ran a book club
- Wrote multiple, bad novels for free under a pseudonym. No, you may not know what they are but yes, they are terrible and I need the practice.
- Learned to live solo
- Learned to live with a partner
- Earned a grant and an academic scholarship
- Achieved entry and confirmation into a doctorate
- Worked on my doctorate in both the school of Business and the school of Public Health in the same university (I changed Colleges completely!)
- Met CEOs, doctors, nursing staff, health administrators, management, HR, and politicians in my goal to create a research project with impact and meaning for my stakeholders
- Presented to executive management, using empirical data collection as the basis for my authority during these presentations
- Started a Twitter and learned heaps of valuable skills, such as Science Communication and engaging with a public audience
- Set up an ‘Intellectual Climate’ mentorship program with a few peers
- Learned how to work entirely remotely using modern technology and some Wifi
- Identified individuals in the local area that provide high-quality goods and services that I can rely on in the future
- Trimmed the excesses of my life down into something more minimalist (developed a capsule wardrobe and learned to live with less groceries stocked up)
- Attended various networking events and learned to develop the confidence and criticism required to decide which professional networks were worth my time, and which were just a waste of resources
- Learned to establish, co-ordinate and write research projects for eventual publication
- Learned to communicate to different audiences (management, and clinicians, need the use of different semantics)
- Learned to teach and mentor junior researchers
- Re-adopted my enjoyment of rollerblading as an exercise activity
- Started taking care of my health with more frequent dental and doctors’ appointments
- Learning to cook well-made, healthy meals (still in progress)
- Perfecting my ability to do laundry, domestic cleaning and prioritizing tasks so that I don’t become overwhelmed with the to-do list.
- Becoming well and truly comfortable in my own skin
- Had my academic writing solicited for a number of projects and outlets
- Celebrating on my own is sometimes far more preferable than a gathering of insincere friends
- Learning to unashamedly get excited over things that I used to feel shame about. Now, I indulge in Pinterest and pausing at the baby section of Target, just because I can
- Got my driver’s licence and drove both on the left (Australia), and the right (Iceland), side of the road
- Completed most of my PhD’s data collection, and begun analysis
- Learned the basics of D&D, 5th edition, confidently enough to play characters I’ve designed myself
- Stood up for people in public, not just behind a keyboard, when they were being harassed
- Asserted my authority in a professional setting when it was appropriate
- Invested in a home with my husband
What realizations and decisions have been made this year?
- Time to finish my PhD by the end of the year (sans corrections, which could take me into 2020)
- Time to start preparing for children (start changing my diet, paying attention to my fertility)
- Your family is who you choose, not who you’re biologically linked to. Choose people who are good to you, and look out for your well being
- Save up my finances and resources as much as possible
- Get into a routine of doing ‘adult’ things as getting older will usher in more complex responsibilities (see: elderly in-laws and childcare)
- Find a hobby that’s not computer-based so I can give my spine a break once in a while
- A small group of people I feel close to is worth fostering; but some people are not meant to be in your life forever. Some friends are fleeting, and that’s okay
- I should probably start looking for a job
- That I’ve settled into the archetype of the grumpy wet blanket, but that a lot of people love me for that personality trait. They need a grumpy wet blanket in their lives, to end parties that are getting out of hand and to advocate for shy people, and so I’m wheeled out to keep the peace and remind people of their responsibilities. It’s not a fun role to have, but it seems to be the role I’ve taken in the community. Those who are older than me say I’m ‘down to earth’, while those who are younger treat me like their mother. So, understanding that dynamic, I can utilize the assumptions that come with it for effective communication where possible.
So, here’s to my first quarter-century, and to at least a handful more!
The life I’ve lived has been very full so far, and I look forward to what the future will hold.