1. I have been living in the same city for 6 years.
In my early 20s, I defined myself as a nomad. Whenever I stayed for more than 6 months in the same place, I started getting restless, turning to the Internet to look for new opportunities in a different city, in a different country. Then I’d pack up and leave. I knew (I hoped!) I’d end up settling down somewhere, but I was sure that somewhere would never be in Spain. Then I got back home from my last adventure in Vienna, got a job in Vigo, my hometown, while freelancing on the side. I quit that job when I realized I could become a full-time freelance writer. I was free to move anywhere, but probably because of that feeling of freedom, I stayed. Novelist Jennifer Winterson compares herself with cats on her book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, saying she is also “the wild and the tame,” “domestic, but only if the door is open.” Turns out all I needed to calm down was an open door.
2. I’m slowly learning to be vulnerable.
I’m an introvert, so I have never been the one to easily share my feelings. I never told my friends if I liked a boy (especially if they knew him or there was a chance they would), I never said if something was making me miserable, I never told anyone about my real fears, doubts, and problems. To regular-people standards I still don’t, but I’m getting better. I have told new acquaintances who I felt could become my friends about my struggles to open up to people, about my not so good health, about my fear of commitment. And I have told my friends little things I had never told to anyone, and realized nothing bad happens after all. (To those friends: you’re now thinking “What?” but believe me, you’re getting much more from me than you would have 10 years ago!).
3. My teen idols still make me giggle (but it doesn’t bother me anymore).
I’ve always found it difficult to picture myself as an older person, but I’m sure I would have never expected to be a 30-year-old woman who becomes a teenager again if her teen idols play in a neighboring city, and she happens to meet them. And that’s exactly what happened: the band I was obsessed with as a teenager, Ocean Colour Scene, played in Santiago de Compostela, I had a chance to say hi to them, I mumbled “yousavedmylifewheniwas13canihaveapicturewithyou?thankyou!,” and giggled all the way back to my friends place. The effects on my brain were deeper than I thought -the next day I managed to lock myself in a garden, and then took the wrong train back home.
Something was different, though. As a teenager or in my early 20s I would have hated not being able to have a real conversation with them, I would have thought myself ridiculous for my whole performance when I had the chance to become their friend (because that’s the ultimate goal, right?). Now I just accepted it as it was, laughed at myself, and was glad to share with anyone who asked just how foolishly happy I had been of meeting these guys who will never think or care about me.
4. I like my nose.
It was the only thing I could see in the mirror or in photographs when I was younger, and I was sure it was also the only thing people could see when they looked at me. I don’t know how or when it happened, but my nose managed to cross the thin line between hate and love and place itself on the right side. This weird but positive transition has also affected other parts of my body which my brain has upgraded from geek to chic. Dear self-love, you took your time, but I’m happy you decided to eventually show up.
5. I’m a freelancer.
I distinctly recall myself saying I didn’t have the personality to become a freelancer. Freelance journalists were in my mind outgoing types, those who are never scared of initiating conversation, proactive extroverts who excel at networking, at gaining clients, at creating jobs for themselves. For someone like me, with a weird phobia to picking up the phone and calling strangers or acquaintances, a freelancing career didn’t look like a smart, nor specially appealing choice. But then I was offered a writing gig when I was still unemployed, and suddenly everything changed. I’m still scared of phones, but so in love with feeling I’m free to do what I want to when I want to -even though I’m fully conscious of the lie of ‘being your own boss’, most times meaning ‘having many bosses’ -I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be a normal employee again.
6. I have spoken in public. More than once.
Do you know what I find almost as terrifying as phones? Real people looking at me and expecting me to say something! I have lived the situation so many times I have learned to avoid it – “hey, Ana, can you speak a bit louder? I can’t hear anything you say!.” It happened at school when a teacher told me my collar was delighted with how well I read out loud, but “the rest of us would like to hear too,” and it’s happened all throughout my life. So when I was asked by my cousin and one of my best friends, whom I had introduced, if I could give a speech at their wedding, the first thing I said was “will I have a mic?.” They nodded, I said I’d do it, and then remembered the other part, all those people looking at me! The day came, I delivered my speech, moved everyone (including myself, who couldn’t stop crying afterwards), and some guests even mentioned how it was clear I was a journalist with experience talking in public. If they only knew!
7. I long for the summer.
At some point during my late 20s I realized I actually needed the sun. I needed it in the sky, and on my skin too. This is something that comes with the whole “being a human” thing, but it was never so clear to me. I have always loved the winter. At home, in Galicia, it gave me an excuse to stay in and read. Abroad, when I lived the freezing, dry winters of Prague and Vienna, it meant fast walks, long scarves, hot wine, and clarity of thoughts. I still love that, and I still die if the temperature is above 30ºC, but I’ve learned to love the summer, be outside, and just relax and feel the warmth. (That being said, I only long for the summer if it comes equipped with a beach or a river where to swim).
8. I turned 30 without a major life crisis.
This is mainly because I had my crisis at 29, and by the time I turned 30 I had already accepted my new decade, read everything there is to read about why “30 is the new 20”, and looked back and analysed my life deeply enough to feel I was in a much better place than ten years earlier. Of course, it also helped that I turned 30 while running through Buenos Aires to meet a friend, and that I gained 5 extra hours to my 20s thanks to the different time zone.
Entering my 20s was a bit more traumatizing -I felt old, I felt I hadn’t done anything worth with my life. I even made myself a mix-CD called “No longer a teenager” with songs like The Who’s “Teenage Wasteland”, Guided By Voices’ “Teenage FBI”, and some other equally obvious choices. There was no mix-CD when I turned 30 last year. I looked in the mirror, smiled, and went to see some live tango.