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The One I turn 36 (Thoughts on Growing Older)

Thursday evening, the 12th of May, 2022.

The second Eurovision semifinal is playing in the background, whilst I lie on my hotel bed, trying to gather my thoughts and feelings. I still couldn’t believe how these series of coincidences brought me back to Southampton, after three years, since I left. It feels like a lifetime ago and at the same time, like yesterday.

I had finished my work meeting a bit early and after a bit of wander into the city I spent 10 years of my life, probably the most transformative years of my life, my 20s, exhausted from the travel the night before, came back to the hotel, had a shower and decided to just rest.

It’s been months since the last time I decided to ‘just rest’, it’s been so long I can’t even remember when the last time that happened was.

The following day I just wandered in town, at my favourite bookshop, walking across the park and for the first time in a while I felt I didn’t have to rush. I just enjoyed doing things I love. I felt I could breathe again.

I’ve realised that for a while now, I have been running around like a headless chicken for so long, I neglected my mental health, which of course has affected my physical health. Headaches, sleepiness, confusion, memory lapses, loss of appetite.

I really don’t understand how being busy became an achievement and something everyone loves to complain about. It’s not an achievement, it’s a sign of no life balance (Trust me, it’s OK to relax and rest for a day or too, rather than feel you have to do something, just because others do. FOMO is an artificial need created by humans, like many others).

And I feel I lost that balance ever since I left this city. I spent Saturday just catching up with friends, and enjoying living in the moment. Moments with old colleagues and loved ones. I instantly felt how much I missed them. How not to, with all the wonderful humans I know. I wish I had more time to see more of my friends.

Lately all I can think of is what the point of life is. Every now and then I get this horrific anxiety and fear about living and dying and the in-between.

What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why do I exist?

I read a few books and had countless discussions with friends trying to figure out the answers to these questions, just to calm my brain down and the irrational (or rational? I haven’t decided yet) fear of dying.

As Derren Brown, eloquently argues in his book about happiness , if we were to live for ever, we would have eventually be bored of everything, and life would have no meaning. So, what is the purpose of life?

Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not. There’s that lovely thing: “A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in”. Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end. Anne told Tony on Ricky Gervais’ brilliant series After Life, which is about a man triyng to deal with the death of his wife whom he absolutely adored.

Maybe that’s the meaning of life? Do good things for other people, make the world a better place. It’s all about finding purpose in life. That’s what i remember from a little witty book I read on philosophical theories about life meaning (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24612009-every-time-i-find-the-meaning-of-life-they-change-it).

But even when you find your purpose, and to do that you inevitably need to work on your emotional intelligence, your self-awareness, realising who you are, loving yourself, self management and above else empathy, growing up it’s scary as hell.

My parents are now in their late 50s and 60s and I’m terrified for them, watching them grow older. I want them to live forever. It tears me apart. I’m thinking that maybe is better to stick around now they are growing older and they may need me more, but on the other hand what if I finally find my purpose and that takes me elsewhere, away from them?

It makes me sad thinking that they may find themselves feeling lonely and helpless. And I certainly want to try and enjoy being around them as much as I can before they start forgetting and get that lost look in their eyes (I only recently watched the latest episode of This Is Us and the scene where Rebecca doesn’t recognise her children broke my heart).

So on my birthday, a week after I came back from Southampton, I spent the day with my family and loved ones and I cherished every moment.

When thinking about life, mortality and growing old stresses me out, I just focus in the moment, taking one day at a time, spending time with loved ones and I try to make the world a better place, little by little. When my time comes to go, at least I’ll go happy and not anxious and horrified.

The reason I’m sharing all these thoughts, it’s that I know they are not unique and actually expressing them out loud, or in this case in words, somehow makes them more bearable. And perhaps you can relate, and feel a bit of a relief that these terrifying thoughts haunt not just you but a lot of other people.

Namaste

Eleni

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