On Turning 30

By Sonya Rehman

It’s weird being a 30-year-old. Gosh, 30. I’m 30. Three-zero. THIRTY. Thir-tee.

For some reason I always felt I’d remain in my 20s; that it would take a very long, long time to turn 30. And it did. But it didn’t. Sorry, but I’m not going to pen a romanticized little blog entry, glorifying what I’ve learnt “in all these years,” puffing my proverbial pipe, reclining back in my fake leather chair, telling you how blessed I am; given all of this “accumulated experience and wisdom” over the years, all the while thanking Allah Mian that not a single white hair has managed to pop out of my noggin (yet).

Um no. The last time I wrote one of these “turning of age” pieces, I had turned 26. Twenty-six. Imagine. I sound like such a pretentious little thing in that particular article. “That particular article” – yes, it was published. Side note: Thank you TFT (The Friday Times) for publishing it – you made a former pretentious little shi..thing very happy when you did.

Anyway.

But I can tell you what I am learning, or, trying to learn somewhat. I’d rather not declare “what I’ve learnt” in a fake sense of bravado and oh-look-how-wise-I-turned-out-Ma, only because what is “learnt” isn’t always going to be a “permanent” thought process or action. “Learning” however, seems a little more realistic, since one is always, constantly trying to remain “conscious” of what has been adopted, learnt, desperately making sure that one doesn’t make the same mistakes over and over again.

A 30th birthday card from Baroosh, a super talented friend who insists on calling me a "paindoo."

A 30th birthday card from Baroosh, a super talented friend who insists on calling me a “paindoo.”

So yeah. I’m “learning” that no matter how much you beautify your surroundings – your house and yourself, if you’re unhappy and conflicted inside, you’ll always be unhappy and conflicted unless and until you start believing in yourself. Nursing an old chip on your shoulder will warp your personality for the worse. It’ll turn you into your worst nightmare. Trust me. Being happy takes quite a bit of courage. And one needs to train oneself in being content with one’s lot in life.

Anyhow. I realized something towards the end of ’12, and that was the importance of purpose. I know I’ve written about this before in one of my older blog entries, but I think I’ve finally understood the meaning of “having purpose,” now, at this stage in my life.

The other day, my mother and I caught sight of our old gardener, Muhammadeen, hobbling down one of the streets near our house in Cantonment. He must be well over 70. A lovely, kind man. A terrific gardener. Even though his children have jobs and can support him, he chooses to work. And that’s what keeps him going. Purpose. Purpose keeps you alive. Gives your life meaning. Significance. That you’re adding value to your life, not taking things for granted.

I think for me, personally, having a mentor or a role model helps one in identifying his/her purpose.

I recently conducted a workshop at LUMS, part of their Annual Journalism Workshop (AJW) , initiated in 2012. I spoke about citizen journalism in Pakistan, in addition to the ethics of journalism (particularly citizen journalism). The class consisted of about 30 kids from LUMS and other institutions in Pakistan.

After my talk a few students came up to me and introduced themselves. They asked me some delightful questions; about kick-starting their careers in journalism, pitching stories, and whether or not they could “make it” by blogging. One of the participants was a young man, a soldier, who had recently returned to his family in Lahore after serving in Waziristan. He was quiet and slightly shy, but told me briefly about his experience – how he’d lost some of his friends and how he was trying to re-acclimatize to life and adjust to the “normalcy” of things again. He really moved me to be honest. And so I told him, rather, urged him to blog. He needed to share his story, I’d told him.

Whether or not he will eventually take up blogging, my conversation with him made one thing very apparent to me: how our Pakistani youth desperately seek/need direction, inspiration and guidance. In school and college I never had a mentor. It was only until much later, in grad school and in the field, did I come across people I could truly look up to. Teachers in Pakistan owe it to their students to be more than just teachers, to be mentors, guides and confidantes. It’s imperative.

Anyway. Coming back to 30. As a dear friend (who also turned 30) told me recently in an email, I “feel every bit of 30.” But you know what? I’ve never been so self-assured in my life; I’ve never felt so in control. And that, makes me really very happy.

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