|Posted on February 13, 2012 at 4:50 AM|
Ljubisa's temporary studio flat, Kragujevac, Serbia, February 13, 2012 11.11 a.m.
In a few hours I will be 40. This is the first time I have actually panicked before a birthday, but now that I see there is not much I can do to stop time, I have resigned myself, and instead tried to introspect a little and learn valuable lessons from my 30s, which could be useful in the future. I find myself in the flat of a dear Serbian friend, who is now at work, and who will tomorrow also celebrate his birthday, though he only gets to 39 so is in less need to panic. I didn't know this guy 10 years ago. Neither did I know Zivka, who said goodbye to me yesterday with a heartfelt hug and kiss in Vienna airport. Nor did I know Mihalis, whom I took to the airport in Athens a few days ago, nor Manos, whom I went bowling with on Thursday, nor Lamprini, whom I played boardgames with last Sunday. So there. In a decade, things can just drastically. Or do they?
I took to thinking how much has really changed since February 13, 2002, when I was saying goodbye to my 20s. Greece was then a respected member of the world, kind of, though it was not exactly a secret that it was a corrupt, disfunctional country, but somehow that was swept under the floor. Now the shit has hit the fan, if you can pardon my French. I shudder to think what is coming for the place. So yes, things have changed, for the worse. 10 years ago I was not single, though I was stuck in a relation I wasn't quite happy with. So the fact that I see this Valentine's Day once again alone - only just, and quite unexpectedly actually - is probably a step forward. Though most people would be scared of being alone and single at 40, as was I. Until I had the pleasure of a worse situation, being in a relation where you are unhappy.
As a person my goals and dreams are much the same. I still just want to conquer the world, and have spent much of my 30s doing just that, quite successfully. I entered my 30s not having even been to India, let alone China or most of Africa. I finish the decade one of the best travelled people around, and can now claim to be the best travelled non-American under 40 in the world. Until tomorrow, of course. But in a couple of months, I hope to re-establish that record, just for the under 50s group. Professionally I was never very focused, and have probably progressed considerably in the decade, even if at the end of it I am unemployed and hesitant to start again, and not quite knowing where I will settle. That was a concern 10 years ago too.
The one thing that has stayed constant entirely is my love for Serbia. Though nowadays I visit the country less, every time I land here, there is this overjoyed feeling of relief and belonging that I have always found impossible to rationally explain. This is probably the only love I will ever have that, no matter how it is tested, will not fade. It has been going strong for almost 14 years now.
Otherwise, my reference groups have largely changed. Many of my current acquaintances are former students rather than university friends, who through the years and the settling down process we ultimately have less in common with. True, some of my friends from school, whom I had lost for years, have recently made a comeback, also helped by the fact that I spend more time in Greece than elsewhere (though that may obviously change). I think, much like 10 years ago, I am a bit of an outsider, not having a clear focus group, making guest appearances here and there but without a few definable best friends. Probably through the years I have become more of a loner.
And also more of a writer, which is a good thing. But this is something that will really develop in the next decade, starting tomorrow in the midst of central Europe's worst weather in the past 30-odd years, with snow and ice dominating the surroundings. I guess winter babies like myself will always celebrate a birthday with the possibility of dramatic landscapes, unless of course they shift latitudes, which for me is always a possibilities.
So, all in all, the 30s, not bad. A voyage, just like life is, and certainly a better one than in the very bumpy 20s. The last years of my 30s have probably been the most exciting of my life, which is the way I like it, with madcap trips to places normal people wouldn't venture to easily. I look forward to the challenges of the 40s, whatever they may be and no matter what difficulties will arise, and they will be bigger and cut deeper than before, I think my open, positive nature will see me through these.
If you have reached this far, let me also say that unless I get 10 commentaries to this blog, even to just acknowledge it has been read, this will also be my last blog in my site. No point in writing for nobody or for unknown readers who never say a word and never even introduce themselves. So there - this may be one of the major changes of my 40s.