Playing at adulthood: the grown up confessional

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When I was little, I always thought that growing happened like magic. You wake up one morning, all the secrets of adulthood would be downloaded into your brain. Everything would change, you would know how to make the right decision – you would be certified a grown up.

According to some “grown ups” I know, I have wasted my 20s. Apparently I wasn’t meant to spend it building a career and charging my way through a formidable industry. No, it seems I was suppose to spend it looking for a husband. My grown up advisors seem to think my want or lack of want is irrelevant here. The way they see it, the past decade of my life has been spent on the wrong things and as I enter this new one, which is meant to be spent on procreation, I must settle the debts incurred in my 20s. That is what adults do, they tell me.

I have been trying to explore what it means to grow up and truly understand myself for some time. I began with checklists, things adults should have done, do and have. That didn’t quite work out because I just felt like a big kid given access to things I wasn’t quite ready for.

I suppose this time around, I need to figure out the purpose of this decade before I run through it, chasing the impossible and wrong dreams. Entering your 30s in Africa isn’t terribly helpful, with all the big life stuff aching at you while the African cultures and traditions niggle at you like an unwanted lover. You are in most cases bound by propriety and in others torn by love for the people who you know in some warped way actually care about you. In Africa, when women turn 30, they enter a period I call the ticking time bomb leading to the crisis of old age – because it is all over now. The grown ups will have you believe this and schedule your battle plans accordingly — yes this is war and we are all praying about it in Africa fervently.

When you are in your mid 20s and begin to notice the world for what it really is, you suspect that there are no grown ups. You face the dubious reality that this is it, you will continue to fumble through life hoping for the best and learning. You learn that most things are like for like. The way you treat people matters, simple respect and courtesy goes a long way in earning you respect and kindness. These things matter to people. Taking responsibility for who you are and showing up is the biggest lesson you will learn.

So here is what I know to be true as someone playing at adulthood:

Spend your decade doing what makes you happy, but take responsibilities for your actions and choices because they are yours and yours alone.

Stop worrying about who is watching you, governments and companies included. If you keep looking over your shoulder life will pass you by.

Eat the damn cake, you only live once.

If you are trying to find a way to say something in a delicate manner, don’t. Just say it.

It is perfectly okay if you like Taylor Swift and not a tween, some experiences cross age divides.

If your boss tells you that you are too young to get a deserved raise or promotion, quit because that company does not deserve you.

Show righteous indignation when someone belittles Africa, because damnit we are a great continent.

Finally, save up and buy that incredibly expensive thing you really want but don’t need.

I am sure that my well meaning grown ups will tell me that I have life all wrong, my approach just isn’t done. But I have been disappointing them for so long, why stop now.

Fall for broken things: 15 things I know to be true this year

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This has been such an amazing year with so many wonderful adventure in some many wonderful places with incredible people. I have learnt a lot and had some old lessons reaffirmed. So, here are somethings I know to be true this year, and hope 2016 brings even bigger stories tell and glorious adventures to have.

Fly direct when possible — it makes your life, trip and everything you do that much more enjoyable.

Gold status means very little — regardless of what the brochure says, what they actually give you with this status but the lounges are nice.

You will get food poising from airplane food at least once — this will likely happen just before an important event or during.

Walk every city you go to — this is the only way to really see a city and be part of its great story. Yes almost every city in the world has a great story to tell.

Visit strange places and talk to locals — this not only expands your world view but you learn a great deal about a place by talking to the people who create indelible marks there.

Dance in the rain — you have not experienced true freedom until you abandon all sense of decorum and dance in the rain while the world watches.

Be brave enough to fall for broken things — only when you see the beauty in the broken can you appreciate the gift of the whole.

Airlines will lie, that is a fact of life — once you deal with that flying gets a little less annoying.

Apologize when you are wrong but stand firm in the truth — there is no shame in saying sorry and no reward will ever come from hiding from the truth.

No mistake is impossible to come back from— barring trying to murder someone, people usually forgive those they care about.

Second chances are a dime a dozen — take them when you they come, but also give them when you can.

Love is a two-way street not a punishment — if someone, friend or otherwise, cannot love you back you should move on.

Laugh at yourself — because other people will always take the opportunity to laugh at you, so take that power away.

Walk away from the past — but take its lessons with you

Tomorrow is a new day — you can also try again.

Dear single girl: it is okay to be alone and be happy

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Last year, on the occasion of my birthday I began to reflect on my life and the lessons I was learning in my twenties. As part of the transition from my early to mid to late twenties, my life was only as complicated as I made it.

As I settle uncomfortably into the last year of my twenties, the lessons from last year become even more important and my transition into adulthood is that much more critical. The questions that family and friends pose now are different. For the girl in her late twenties it is clear that it is time to forego the criticism that every act in her life is a publicity stunt because it is not the norm. It is time to just get on with it.

Single girls in their late twenties have a clock ticking, and everyone reminds them. Women in their late anything are problematic to the world. To some, it is an embarrassment to womankind, a terrible choice that likely stems from unchecked feminism that the examined hierarchy of life has not approved. Don’t achieve too much because the men might be too intimidated to share their lives with you. The thought is an insult to the men of the world. A society that prides itself on the assumption that men do not have the emotional maturity to handle success in women, an assumption that success is intimidating and not attractive?

We are the problem with the dating world, I have been told. We, these women who value success above all, these caustic women who refuse to be vulnerable and are able to separate their lives, emotionally and professionally. We are problematic because we are steely creatures with unapologetic sexual appetites. We, these women, in our late somethings entertain the thought of coupling forever without marriage — perish the thought.

There is a dynastic threat that single women in their late twenties and beyond pose. It is a generational question that is coming more and more into societal consciousness. How do you keep the ideals of old in a world where things of old are easily discarded or no longer on hand? The more comfortably you settle into your place in this new world of generational angst and raspy well-meaning voices asking questions you rather not answer, the finely honed your skill of civil politeness gets. For the most part all you want to say is ‘mind your own fucking business’ but civility demands you say something nice. No one bothers to ask if these women are single by choice, the assumption is that they are unable to attract a partner because of something they are doing wrong and by default happiness will elude them.

The real threat and problem is far more insidious than generational or hierarchical misunderstandings. It is the doubt that begins to creep into women’s minds that it is not okay to be alone and that being single is an unnatural thing. It is the dangerous problem that links happiness to coupledom and alone to loneliness. You could argue that this is not the case, that women are happy to be single and are not bothered by the comments from friends and family. Your argument will be debunked by the number of Facebook updates and Instagram posts that begin to take on a rose-tinted and happier tone once a significant other is present. Almost every book, movie and tv show always finds a way to couple up before the end. The happy ending seems to only work once heroes and heroines have been coupled up.

This argument is not that coupling up is a bad thing, but how we sell it and its unrealistic correlation to happiness. There shouldn’t be a culture of humiliation around being single, people should be encouraged to get to know themselves, succeed and fail before they find someone to share all of that with. We should teach young girls that their lives will not be judged by the match they make but rather the person they chose to become.

Dear single girl, it is okay to be alone for as long as you see fit.