Note: Today’s guest post is written by Moz, a long-time reader turned online friend whom I had the pleasure of finally meeting face-to-face while vacationing in her beautiful home country of Australia. (Australia: Where healthcare is free, the surf is perfect, and the Hugh Jackmans are Hugh Jackman-y.) Even if you’re well beyond your twenties, Moz shows us, through the lens of someone who suffers with mental illness, that the way we choose to end any decade of our life is critical to our development. The end is what you’ll live with. The end is what can redeem you after a string of let-downs and screw-ups. The end is the first page of your next chapter.
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My (nick)name is Moz. You might know me from the comments as the girl who says ‘I mostly agree, but….’. I live in Sydney, Australia, I suffer from Bipolar II and two weeks ago I turned 30. Today I handed in my Honours thesis, which is a fancy way of saying that I wrote a dissertation of about 18,000 words and which will enable me to graduate with a first class Honours degree. Handing it in felt kind of anti-climactic, and kind of like how I imagine Frodo and Sam felt when they finally threw the damn ring into the mountain. Frodo wanted to get rid of it, but he didn’t, you know? That’s what it feels like.
I’m sorry, I’m all out of eloquence. I saved my good writing for the thesis.
So why am I choosing to write this blog post the day I handed in my 18,000 word dissertation? A few months ago Kim posted this video by Meg Jay, one which I couldn’t stop thinking about after I saw it.
You see, I was coming up fast on 30, my illness was killing me (quite literally) and I knew that I needed to make some big changes in my life. I wanted to hold myself accountable, and so I promised Kim this post all of about five months ago.
I spent most of my twenties lost and alone, my illness robbing me of my sense of self, my mind, my friendships and my health. These last few years, after returning to university to finish my degree, and meeting an amazing mentor, have been much better but I still struggle greatly with day to day life. I often don’t know where to start.
So I started with Meg’s advice, which if you can’t be stuffed watching the video, was in three main parts. ‘Whatever it is you want to change about yourself, now is the time to do it,’ she urges us. ‘It’s all about claiming your twenties.’
‘Get yourself some identity capital, something that adds value to who you are.’
For me this meant working every day on my Honours thesis, which was essentially written in the last four months. It meant writing even through psychosis, hallucinations, mood swings and night terrors. And you know what? I did it. I got it in, and I didn’t even have to pull many all nighters to do it.
I got myself a work ethic. I worked every day, and I am damn proud of that, because it was really freaking hard. It also means taking a few extra years before starting my doctorate to do a Masters first, and that’s really hard too, because I’m already older than most graduate students. But doing the Masters is so much better for my career in the long term, and it allows me to get my Italian up to speed for my PhD. So working every day, and growing some patient balls, is my identity capital.
‘The urban tribe is overrated – move beyond your circle.’
Meg mostly talks about this relating to jobs, and making sure that you don’t get stuck in a rut with the same people. I’m back on the job market as of today, and thanks to some work I’ve done as a singer, I have a contract waiting for me in February that’s worth a lot and will help me out a lot next year. It never hurts to ask!
‘Create your own family…. be intentional with love.’
This I do well. I choose my friends with great care, and when I hosted a small dinner for my birthday two weeks ago just about everyone there were people I have known and loved for many years now. This isn’t to say that I am not open to new friendships – I am, I never want to be that person who stops making friends – but I’m careful to spend the time with people who are worth it. But I’m also trying to be braver about romantic attachments. I called it off with a guy who wasn’t worth the time and energy, and I’m really glad I did. I was honest with a close friend about something that was really bothering me that she said, and you know what? We’re closer than ever. As for the big stuff, I don’t know if I want to get married or have children, and I worry that at 30 that’s something I should know, but I DO know that figuring this stuff out is important. I don’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s.
What did I learn in the last few months of my twenties? I discovered that I’m tougher than I give myself credit for, and that I am more loved and appreciated than I knew. I tackled my illness and my thesis with strength and resilience, and when I asked people to come and celebrate with me every single one of them came and told me how important I was to them. I wasn‘t expecting to face this blog with any real sense of achievement, but it’s amazing what a few months of actively trying to change your life will do. You can get a little healthier, a little stronger, a little braver, because it doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can start today, and continue tomorrow.
Ultimately 30 is just a number. But it’s a significant milestone, especially for women, who are usually told that their thirties are when it all happens. You gotta be ready! My illness has taught me patience, a hard thing for someone who wants everything to happen all at once and magically fix things. I am slowly, oh so slowly accepting that the rules are a bit different when you suffer from a serious chronic illness. Sometimes, avoiding hospital and being chained to a bed constitute a win. Sometimes, just finishing something is a win. And how you end things is as important as how you start them.