Some time last year the realization that I was turning thirty washed over me like a stomach ache after too much beer the night before, the hangover of my twenties. Perhaps the moment of reality, of sobriety, came when assisting a client with a new database he is building. There, on the Excel sheet in front of me, buried thousands of names deep were several of my former classmates – there were those with whom I had been close, those whom I had (and still do) admired others with whom I had barely ever spoken, and those with whom my only relationship now exists via “liking” photographs of their children on Facebook. They are now partners at big law firms across America (and have been for quite some time) and have long lists of court cases and victories dotting their biographies. Seemingly they all had children immediately after our graduation and are now comfortably on their third or fourth, their eldest already in primary school. They are homeowners and probably have paid off their student loans.
A decade ago, I thought I would be like them, but, for me at least, things did not turn out that way. So as I sat in front of my computer screen a few months ago the feeling of my wasted potential smashed over me. I was going to exit my twenties without having achieved the greatness that was projected of me. Some of this is due to poor decisions made in my early twenties, the in-between years of relative nothingness except for work and unmemorable weekends bookended by the awesomeness that was ages 19-21 and 27-30. But, if I really take a step back and look at the last years in particular, much of this is due to the fact that right now, at this point, I simply do not want that life of living in an office and of sending my children to daycare, though I still would take Sunday brunches and mimosas with my friends on a cool patio (brunches are a key life item that the Dutch are lacking.)
Sometimes though, it’s hard to remember this is the life that I chose and that I pushed us to when I was so drained of joy and smiles and laughter from having lived for five years with a daily routine revolving around a single corner in a city of five million people and five million corners. Lately every day it’s taken reminding myself that over the past decade I may not have made the big bucks, but I have been able to attend my close friends’ weddings all with very short notice and most of them on the other side of the world. I’ve danced at their henna nights and hugged their grandmothers. I traveled to twenty-five countries in my 20s and lived in four. I had my heart broken a few times, but I also met and married a pretty awesome and easy-going guy who lets me do whatever I want and be whomever I wish so long as that does not include receiving Botox for the fine lines that also seemed to have developed while growing my own practice these last three years.I graduated from law school, with honors, and went on to pass a few bar exams, and I had some amazing colleagues and learned to grow when working with some not so awesome people as well. I’ve started my own practice, something I never imagined I would do, and, even though it sometimes takes some reminding to myself that being the lead attorney in your own firm is probably even better than being a partner, it does not change the fact that I have developed a base of more than 150 truly great whose successes I directly contribute to and who encourage me as much as I assist them. I’ve skied, danced, jumped off cliffs and out of planes, gotten more than a few scars, and dived in the coldest dive site on earth. I learned how to sail and slept under the stars. I’ve gone hiking and climbed Mt. Olympus. I have gained 45 pounds (and look forward to losing them in my 30s) but have also run three half marathons. I got ride of most all of my clothes and material accumulations of my twenties and can (mostly) fit my life into just a few suitcases. I’ve lost some close friends, sometimes because we simply drifted away and other times because one or both of us was careless with the other person’s heart, but I have also learned how to be a good friend, too.
Of course there is so much more – a decade is both at once a lot of time and not so much at all.
Moving into my new decade I would like to spend the next ten years finding a better balance between all-night work and travel and to reconnect with those old friends whose names glimmered at me from my spreadsheet. I would like to work out a lot more and find a routine where health is consistent and not dependent on moods and circumstances. I’d like to run a marathon or at least train for one. I’d like to find a creative hobby and also begin to earn some passive income to build up a savings as I’d also like to retire in the next 30 years. I’d like to pay off my student loans and already started off the first few days of my 30s by paying off two of them! (One left!) I’d like to volunteer and look forward to offering my talents when our new refugee center opens. I’d like to see the Northern Lights in Finland and the penguins in Antartica. I’d like to do more diving and more adventuring. Perhaps more than anything my husband would like to invest in real estate as a rental property, whereas I have my heart set on buying a castle in France.
This leads us to the travel point (there’s always one with me, isn’t there?!) Knowing that “buy a castle” is on the long-term plan, for my birthday the Frenchman took me on a castle-filled weekend, including a stay at the castlehotel Burghof auf Schonburg along the Rhine River in Germany. He had reserved the Falconsuite high in one of the castle’s towers with views both on the river and the wintering vineyard-covered hills. Though it was the last weekend of the season the castle was bustling, with helpful staff, full tables, and a crackling fire in front of which we enjoyed sparkling wine and after-dinner sherry. (The hotel comes with a decanter of free sherry and a (free!) minibar!) Each stay at the castle includes a breakfast as well as a four-course dinner, and, though not normally included, we lucked into being seated in the room where wine pairings were freely served. When I turn 40 (or maybe 60) I look forward to celebrating my birthday in my own castle, but the Burghof auf Schonburg was a wonderful introduction to that life ahead and a lovely reminder that this life my twenties led me to is pretty awesome when I can hop in the car and be at a fairy-tale castle in a matter of hours and where I can choose to turn on a vacation responder on any day of the week I want, when I want and go on an adventure.