Saturday, July 11, 2015

30th birthday reflection

I feel pretty good about turning 30. It marks some important milestones in my life, as well as excites me for the next series of life stages. My twenties were not easy for me personally. Despite that, I accomplished a whole lot. By my 30th birthday, I travelled to over 30 countries on my own babysitting-earned dime and nearly every U.S. state. I earned a CDL Class A driver’s license. I lived in Rome, San Francisco, near Yosemite National Park, Tuscany, in Chicago, Eastern and Western Washington. I got engaged in a cloud forest in Costa Rica and I got married! Patrick and I bought and own outright nine acres of gorgeous, productive land in an entirely different hemisphere. I had a baby and raised her into a beautiful, charming 2-year old. I earned my master’s degree in a field I had never before studied, and am about a year away from my PhD.

I herded goats in the Chianti Valley of Italy. I made wine in Montalcino. I swam in the blue grotto in Capri. I snorkeled the second greatest barrier reef in the world in Belize. I learned how to scuba dive in the Indian Ocean west of Thailand. I then dove deep into the Red Sea. All over the world I swam with so many unbelievably beautiful fish, living coral reefs, sting rays, sea turtles, an octopus, and eels. I escaped a sinking sailboat in the Caribbean Sea. I witnessed Bengal tigers and a cheetah in the wild in India, an Asian elephant in Thailand, so many species of monkey in Costa Rica. I swear I heard a jaguar in the cloud forest there.  I fed a rescued baby gibbon with a bottle in Thailand. I saw melting glaciers in Montana.  I saw sights that may not exist for my children to see; only in my stories and photos and books.

 I travelled overland from China to India, from Turkey to Morocco to Sweden, from Mexico to Guatemala, and from Egypt to Jordan. I saw the ruins of ancient civilizations in Ankor, Tikal, Greece, Italy, Thailand, India, Israel, Jordan. I studied the buildings that were slowly returning to the Earth, and asked, “What went wrong here?” and “How can I, as an individual, avoid societal collapse?” I learned how most people in the world live: simply and without much. But they’re happy. I learned why: deep community, exposure to nature, enjoying limited pleasures. I learned how little I need to survive: a warm bath, dry sheets, clean clothes and food. I learned how to bake bread from scratch, how to make beer and wine at home, how to cook food from around the world. I learned how to give birth to a gigantic baby with no drugs, how to feed her with my body, and what kind of parent I want to be.

I learned what kind of life I don’t want for myself and my family, and am pursuing the one I do want. My twenties were spent asking questions. My thirties will be pursuing the life that comes with the answers I found.  I feel much more secure now in myself and my own goals. Gone are the days when I am hurt by disapproving comments. I care less and less what others think about my life. Despite that, I am more open than ever to people and what I can learn from them. The chip on my shoulder is being worn away with time. I am overcoming barriers in order to share a laugh, an insight, a beer.  

In my thirties I plan to accomplish even more than my twenties - especially considering the restricted freedom that comes with settling in one place and having children. I hope to complete my PhD, to write and publish a book, to have a few more children, to build a house in Uruguay entirely without a mortgage.  I want to learn how to use a compost blackwater system and a greywater system. I want to be off the grid, to learn how to raise bees, pigs, goats and cows and truly husband them. To teach my children (and myself) how to notice the cycles of plants, water, energy and animals and how to care for it all as it cares for us. I need to take my big city upbringing and live off the land with very few incoming resources.  Jesus, I will learn to live my life in Spanish in an entirely different culture! 

More than all of that, I want to begin to leave a legacy in my thirties. I want to create a field school in order to expose a network of people (as well as my own children and family) to this particular life choice. I want our home to be a place where those travelers, life hackers, or searchers can come and be and learn. Like a monastery, or a refuge. I want to have a library and extra food and a warm place to bathe and sleep for these adventurers, so they can feel loved and cared for during their time passing through our home. And I want them to stay or go as their lives move them. But if they go, I want them to take a piece of us with them, so that they may see that they can live simply and promote healthy biological and social diversity wherever they choose to settle, as this is the mission we plan to promote. This world is too vulnerable without all kinds of diversity, and we hope to strengthen it by the work we do to make our corner of the world more diverse in terms of: plant and animal life, language, culture, agriculture, ideas, food production and so much more. 

It’s not so bad to turn 30. I feel so proud of my accomplishments and very driven to accomplish so much more in the decades to come. Plus, Patrick says women are the most attractive in their 30s. ;) It’s nice to think that some of my life’s most beautiful days – ones filled with the laughter of children, community, nature, and abundance – are the ones to come.

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