I was about 20 when I saw a film where the character at a birthday party (perhaps his?) was lamenting how before one knows it they find themselves 40. I’m pretty sure the film was Celebrity and the character was written and played by Woody Allen.
That dreaded age, 40.
It’s the midpoint of the average human lifespan. No surprise that there’s so much emotion attached to this special turning point in one’s life. You are no longer young at 40.
Welcome to maturity? Well, hardly if you haven’t resolved your past issues. They flare up within me still from time to time and hence my biggest fear – nothing will change for me.
I’m scared that even throwing a party to celebrate my life thus far won’t mean that I’ve accepted my journey thus far. What if 40 isn’t the beginning of anything special and I’m stuck with the same old me that will self-sabotage at every turn, hindering my progress as a writer?
Have I got the tools now to deal with procrastination, resistance, fear as I try to boldly tell a story that it’s OK not to have achieved anything significant? What if you started out with great promise, was a straight-A student, athletically talented and all those cards you held in your hand amounted to nothing in terms of a career or even a stable financial outlook?
Is it really all for naught?
One’s birthplace can be held responsible for determining one’s destiny. This is true even if you’re not into astrology or the configuration of the celestial bodies in the sky on the day and at the place you were born. You pick up attitudes from the society around you, from the subculture of your family, friends and your neighbourhood.
The place where I was born, Istinye, a north shore suburb of Istanbul, in a co-operative apartment built by bureaucrats, was a reflection of the white Turk, privileged bourgeoise way of life curated to this day as a museum to the glory of her day by my 90-year old grandmother. There’s a gigantic chandelier in the living room, doilies everywhere, including on top of the TV, Victorian sofa, chair set, whimsical porcelains and paintings on the walls of people and horses trudging through difficult paths in the forest.
A third-generation government bureaucrat, I came back to my birthplace in Istinye to work as clerk for the prestigious American Consulate when I was 23, back in 2003. This was me following in dad’s footsteps after I burnt out on the family culture he set for us which could be summed up as “Work hard. Get straight A’s. Don’t waste time on playing or friends”.
Initially, he was happy for me when I was a government worker like him, but then both of us grew dissatisfied by a job that did not grow in terms of responsibilities, benefits or salary. There were many colleagues around me voicing discontent but since no one ever left such a cushy job, there was no need by the management to improve job satisfaction.
I left the Garden of Eden-like surroundings shortly after I turned 30.
What snake led me to such a decision?
It was none other than a vision of having my own family one day. I believed this was impossible within the sterile confinements of the fortress that is the U.S. Consulate General building in Istanbul. Of course, it is possible to find love and grow a family and even go on to write books, paint and take photos even when one’s employed in a largely uninspiring workplace (and if you’re creative you find inspiration in everything as my friend Seda shows me).
Every once in awhile I ache for the Turkish coffee and tea breaks in the Consulate’s cafeteria, balcony or courtyard. Maybe, and a strong maybe, I will visit and be reunited with Seda on the premises and who knows what we’ll chat about, but no doubt it’ll inspire me.
A Rolling Stone
In Turkish there’s a saying that from movement borns abundance. What’s meant is that doing work from one’s heart creates wealth in one’s life. Dad and I must’ve misunderstood it because since my birth in Istinye, in my grandparents’ house, we moved to a new town, Izmir, then to another suburb within Izmir and to the DC-area in the US. All up nearly 9,000 kilometres.
I continued the pattern of constant movement by moving back to Istanbul to work for the Consulate, where I found relative stability and then on a whim traveled 14,000 kilometers to Sydney to visit my brother and his fiance and shortly after landing in Sydney, met my partner, with whom I have two young daughters.
Call it kismet.
All together I moved across three continents, four cities (Istanbul, Izmir, DC, Sydney) and am currently in the lucky thirteenth house and am exhausted from all the moving.
I made my partner promise that our current suburb, Lane Cove is where we will live for the rest of our days.
It’s time for this rolling stone to rest and collect some moss methinks.
A Few Lessons Thus Far
Work. Without work nothing comes into being, including children. This is why birthing is called labour and it doesn’t end there. There’s emotional labour that’s invisible.
Like the water that brings life to a garden, the emotional labour is the life force of the family and is the sole thing needed to ensure all members are healthy and blossoming.
This means the father doesn’t feel like a workhorse only valued for bringing in money, and the mother is allowed to get out of the house to indulge hobbies like writing and attain professional status in the field of her choice if the desire is strong within her, and the children aren’t forced and ferried to courses in a crazy attempt to fill up every waking hour of their day.
The children must be allowed playtime and the family must play together. I believe play is the thing that keeps a family together.
Rest. Don’t forget to take a breather. Get some grass between toes time. Have a Turkish coffee, some tea, a latte or some cocktails with friends and just chew the fat. Sit on the beach. Listen to the waves. Reflect on your day by writing about it in your journal and the solutions or the resolution you seek may appear in a very elegant fashion. Without taking the time to rest you can’t discover yourself or let others find you. Be. You can’t always be a busy bee.
Celebrate. Milestones are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed with your nearest and dearest. Find reasons to celebrate and invite those who give you strength to share life’s special moments with you.
Over to you…
What’s been a new beginning, a renaissance, in your life and how old were you?