I’m sitting on the beach, staring into the vast ocean, and fell almost overwhelmed by the vastness of my own thoughts. But this is why I came here in the first place, to find some peace. Stillness. Clear my thoughts.
I know I’m starting off a bit dramatic, but I just can’t help it. After all, I just turned 30 years old! And as a yogi, I’m obviously trying to be very zen and thoughtful about it. Not sure if it’s working.
Being here, on the white sand of Miami beach, brings back so many memories. I have been reflecting on my life quite a bit in honor of my milestone birthday as it is, and to be back in a place that holds so many memories only intensifies the feeling. I moved here for my boyfriend, who is now my husband. I began my yoga teacher journey here. I started ‘seriously’ running here. I decided I don’t want to live here anymore and then left, realizing I am free to go anywhere I wish.
I just turned 30, and if you had a chance to talk to my 18 year old self, she would tell you I am amazingly pulled together and successful by the age of 30. However, the reality is different - not that I’m not at a place where I hoped I would be. My whole life feels completely different than I ever thought it would, honestly. My 18 year old self had plans, ambitions and dreams, some a reality today, and some completely irrelevant. Life ended up being such a wild rollercoaster, I don’t think anyone, let along me, could have predicted this reality.
As I reflect on the last 30 years of my life, specially the last decade, which passed so quickly that it feels like a heartbeat, the things I seem to value most are my adventures, life lessons, experiences. I love reflecting on my travels, the fact I have lived on three different continents, learned foreign languages and immersed myself into exotic and unknown cultures, has built me into a person I am today. A person that, as the time seems to be passing, I am valuing more and more.
I celebrated my 20th still in my home country Croatia, struggling between choosing majors in college, getting rid of a bad boyfriend, and hoping for adventures. I moved to Belgium at 20, to study Eastern religions and philosophy in a medieval castle, which also served as an ashram. I stopped partying and began waking early (really early) to meditate and chant. I met my now husband there, and we travelled all over Europe, to India for pilgrimage, and to his home country of Colombia in the following three years.
After college, which was the most rewarding and purifying experiences of my life, we travelled Europe some more, than moved to Colombia. We had no idea what to do and where to go, the search was never-ending. After a few months, we made it back to his second hometown of Miami, where it took me a very long time to adjust to the flashy, loud and intense American lifestyle. I went from a peaceful ashram in the mountains to the blitz and glam of Miami in a years time. I travelled back and forth between Europe and Miami for a couple of years, than got married in Maui, Hawaii and settled in Florida for a longer period. I switched jobs, took yoga teacher trainings, started teaching yoga philosophy (which is what my degree is in), began teaching yoga and fell in love with it. I began writing this blog, eating raw vegan foods, sharing recipes. I ran on the beach, jumped in the ocean every day.
Then we said it’s enough, and moved to San Francisco Bay. It was a wild year over there, and I grew different again. The desire to settle down arose, and after fainting at California home prices a few times, we packed our bags, embarked on a cross-country road trip, and made it to Asheville, North Carolina. I live it a hippie town, have tons of vegan and yoga friends, and am still searching… This is where my life is right now. So much change, and none at all. It is always a search, hoping to grow, to progress, to be better and do better.
The real question is, what have I learned so far? What has changed?
As a (young) woman, I have always felt I don’t have enough. I am not enough. But I am growing more and more tired of feeling not intelligent, not beautiful, not complete. Not thin enough, not tall enough, not appreciated enough. I am growing tired of chasing dreams and ideas that don’t matter, living in a moment that doesn’t exist, and waiting for that one more thing that will make me happy. As I reflect, I see the subtle and harsh changes that have occurred in my life, my persona, and the years do carry certain lessons, whether we like it or not.
So without further ado, here are my 30 thoughts on turning 30. Thirty ideas, messages, realizations, to myself. Thirty things life has taught me, so far.
- The time is now. My husband, who’s nine years my senior, keeps repeating this and I think I finally get it. It’s so easy to waste your time, your life, actually, that’s what most people are doing. You’ve got dreams and goals? Do it now!
- Anything can change. Really, anything! Including (sometimes especially) things you took for granted, things you thought would always be the same. The change is the only constant.
- Do not be too attached to the good or the bad. Ok, I didn’t come up with this one. Krishna did, when he spoke the Bhagavad Gita (2.15): “..the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.”
- Life will move on, with or without you. So you better hop on the boat and have the ride of your life. Just don’t let it pass you by.
- Find love, wherever you can. Fear is so strong, so ever-present. The only thing more powerful is real love.
- What other people think of you doesn’t define you. It’s a hard one, and I’m still letting go of the attachment to other’s opinions of me, and I’m getting better and better at it.
- One person (you) can make a difference. Yes, there are too many people who don’t believe this, but I sure as hell am not one of them, and I am giving my best to prove them wrong.
- Speaking of difference, make a difference in the world. Save a life, by adopting a pet. Heck, adopt a child while you are at it. Drive an electric car or a hybrid. Care for mother earth. Go Vegan or Vegetarian, even for a week. So many options to make a change…
- Protest for what you believe in. It is good to stand up for your beliefs, go against the current every once in a while. Shake things up, starting with your own way of thinking.
- Your breath is your most powerful tool. I say this in every one of my yoga classes. It is so true, the breath is so powerful. As I write this, I am taking a deep breath and all of a sudden, I am su much more calm.. (All this reflecting stuff is making me a tad stressed out).
- Allow the universe to solve a few problems. I am a controller, there I said it. Letting go of the need to control, to think everything through, to analyze everything, is so freakin’ hard, but so rewarding.
- You can become whatever you want to be. And more! After so many years, I am slowly starting to believe in myself, and not have the need to search for approval from others. Speaking of which:
- If someone believes in you, listen to them, thank them, hold on to them. Those people who honestly care, are really hard to find.
- Move around. Travel. Get to know the world. OMG! This is a realization of my life. Don’t like the weather? Move. Don’t like the people? Find a different community. Hate the traffic? Just leave. Change it.
- Respect yourself, respect others. Both equally hard. Truly believing my life matters, my opinion, my thoughts, doesn’t come naturally. Same for being truly respectful to all other souls.
- Association shapes you. You are who you surround yourself with, it is true. Our mind is a sponge, and we absorb others’ ideas, mood, attitudes. As much as I could hang out with anyone in my teens, now I am so much more selective about my company.
- Feed your mind. Speaking of that sponge, feed your mind good food. At 30, I have realized I want to be an eternal student. Learn, grow, progress. Read real books (which I don’t do enough!!), watch educational videos, speak about meaningful topics.
- Enjoy nature. So calming, so important.
- Find what you like, and do it a lot! No, not smoking pot and eating cake. I love running, yoga, healthy food, good music, the ocean, my dog, laughing… knowing what you like means you have a chance to actually make yourself happy every day.
- Lower your dependency. There is nothing more limiting than depending on others to make you happy, fulfill you, complete you. In any type of a relationship, for any reason, dependency will probably work against you.
- Re-asses your needs every once in a while. All those things you thought you could never live without, are long gone now. Being very needy, greedy, lusty works against my beliefs and spiritual practices. Hence, assessing those needs every so often is so crucial to moving lightly through life.
- Find a spiritual practice and keep a regular routine. I’ve been very lucky to find my spiritual path over 15 years ago. However, if there is anything deeper than the ocean, it’s our spiritual path and we can always grow, go deeper, and evolve in it. Best way to start, is by being regular at it (sadhana).
- Anger is poison. Man, am I an angry person. Despite all the ahimsa (non-violence) practice, not eating meat for 14 years, and working on my compassion.. I am still very angry. This emotion is destructive and has no place in my heart, so I release it as much as possible.
- Let it go. Yep, all that crap you don’t need. Any emotion, idea, memory, world view, desire, it will all end eventually. Consciously let it go, do not carry any weight you don’t need.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Each and every one. This is another heavy realization, but such a powerful one. Blaming others, shifting responsibilities on the world around me.. it is such a childish thing to do. Taking responsibility for my words and actions makes me more aware of them, live my life more consciously, and feel stronger for being able to bare the consequences.
- The world is very just. That feeling of injustice, it’s such a trap. Yes, a million things haven’t gone my way, and I have felt cheated, confused, taken advantage of. But there is no real injustice, everything happens for a reason. You can easily go crazy blaming the universe for your problems. But instead, let it go, take responsibility (it connects to the previous point, you see) and believe that everything is going to be just fine..
- Trust the universe. God. The Divine. You are not the controller, I know I’ve said it before but I have to say it again. All of my plans have been a real joke, and the only time that things work out, is when I’m letting the divine energies do their thing.
- Be fulfilled and content. It is an actual choice, as I am growing to understand, not a reaction to the world being the way I want it to be. As I am growing older, I’m beginning to see how important the practice of contentment really is.
- You are enough. Stop with all the mental criticism, comparing yourself to others, and many more destructive forms of behavior. You are beautiful/smart/responsible/successful/__(insert favorite adjective). The sooner you let the desire to be more go, you will be happy. It happens every once in a while, and it really works.
- Get to truly know yourself. You are the only person you have to live with all the time, every day, for the rest of your life. Get to truly know who you are, know your dharma, your life’s purpose, and fulfill it. Stop living a fantasy life with a fantasy idea of who you are, it doesn’t work. If you know yourself, then you can have good relationships, real partnership, knowledge and education. You can really give the world what you have to give.
When I first started writing, I thought I’d never come up with 30 thoughts, but now they just keep on coming. There are things I wish I’d known ten years ago, that would have made my life easier. But at the same time, it’s all about the process, and the fact we learn and progress every day is what gives this life meaning.
On to lighter topics.. I celebrated my 30th in a big way - by running my 3rd full marathon, The Miami Marathon. It fell on my actual birthday, January 24th, and it was so much fun to celebrate with 30.000 or so excited runners, being cheered on by Miamians, and finish something great and challenging on that day. It’s a form of tapas (sacrifice) that marked my big milestone perfectly.
In the evening I celebrated with local friends and yogis (I used to live here) in a brand new vegan spot Full Bloom in Miami beach. The next day my best friend made me a fabulous meal, so my birthday has been filled with delicious vegan foods (but of course). I escaped the snow storm in Asheville right on time, and it’s been such a great celebration so far. My mom is here, I haven’t seen her in over a year and a half, and she got to see me finish a marathon and cheer on, and give me awesome massages later (she’s an amazing therapist). All in all, in my 30 years I’ve also learned to appreciate the things that make me happy, no matter now big, small or unreasonable (everyone was shocked when they heard I’m celebrating by running a marathon).
I’ve learned happiness is in my hands, and my hands alone, and I am very satisfied with how I’ve brought happiness, peace, and contentment into my own life, and hopefully into the lives of those around me.
Here’s to another successful, fulfilling, joyful 30 years!