Why 27 was the End of my Life as I know it
We’ve all felt it, the millennials. That gnawing feeling of having let your-five-year-old-self down as you push into the angry, coated mass of bodies in the tube at rush hour. We travel to work reading books set in far away places. At lunch, we scroll through Instagram feeds of travel bloggers, wondering how could Providence be so kind to them, and so neglectful of us. I’ve been there too. Every single day for 5 years. And eventually, I had enough.
Having grown up desperate to please my parents, I built my life to their spec. A law degree from a prestigious University, a career in Finance with the top names in the industry, an apartment in Chelsea (rented of course, because I’m not an oligarch). While my mother was proudly flaunting my achievements at dinner parties, I went to sleep thinking I’ve taken the wrong turn somewhere along the way, and it might be too late to backtrack. Then I turned 27.
Oh the tender age of 27, when the stars align and your life turns into a cluster of self-doubt, insecurities, anxiety, and for the really unlucky ones, depression and nervous breakdown. In the yogi tradition, this is the age when you start becoming your true self. By the time you’re 30, you would have gone through such a roller-coaster of self-examination and re-invention, that even your relatives may have a hard time recognizing you. Unfortunately, some people don’t make. You’ve heard of the 27 Club.
So there I was, on the eve of my 27th birthday, having just watched Harry Potter at the theater with my loving boyfriend. Miserable as hell. By the time he brought out my favorite cake with a candle in it, I was balling like a character in a Brazilian soap opera. Not my proudest moment.
What ensued over the following months was excruciating. An identity crisis, long-term sick-leave from work, hours and hours in therapy. In one of these sessions, I realized that there was actually nothing “wrong” with me, or my life. The only thing wrong, was that I was living someone else’s dream. My values were different. I had to make a choice — to try squeeze myself into a life that didn’t fit me anymore, or go look for a new one.
After a bit of soul searching, I remembered that I had always been passionate about the environment. And it seems Providence had not completely lost my case in the great cosmic administration. Shortly after, I secured a role with Marine Megafauna Foundation, a marine conservation NGO. In Mozambique.
You can imagine the reactions I received when I announced I will be giving up my life in London to go live on a beach in Africa. They varied from amazement, to quiet envy, to absolute disbelief. There was so much doubt and fear around my decision, that before handing in my resignation, I was second-guessing my choice. Gladly, I had people around me to remind me of how miserable staying would make me (thank you guys). So I said bye-bye to the big corporate world, to my private health insurance, to the company off-sites and the latest iPhone, and flew 16 hours to live in the 3rd poorest country in the world.
Six months later, I’m much happier and calmer. I have no precise plan, but I know where I want to go. Somehow, I got comfortable not knowing exactly what happens next. I am freelancing, working on my travel blog and building a new existence from the skills I have. Sometimes, I remember with fondness my experience in London, but I think that has more to do with selective memory than actual nostalgia. I dream big and go after what I want. While in Mozambique, I worked with the local Tourism Board and got to visit hotels so exclusive, I’d never be able to pay for them as an office plankton.
In conclusion, yes it’s tough to leave the cushy office job with its security and benefits. However, when your soul is aching for something else, indulging it may open up possibilities you never dared to dream of. It’s true what they say — magic happens outside your comfort zone. What we seem to forget is that we all have an open invitation there.