Tomorrow I’ll be 36, but before the hello to the new number, I have to say goodbye to a highly challenging 35. I used to travel or do something special for my birthday for years. But then 2020 came, and being alive seemed like enough celebration. On top of that, I spent my last year’s birthday sick in bed. It was not covid, that came later.
Spring of Lies
One day before my birthday, a volcano erupted in Iceland, and I saw it in April. The same month came with an important milestone: buying my first car. Soon after, I went on my first solo road trip. I had big plans for other trips, but the reality was I couldn’t afford them. So my car got briefly used when my partner visited me before the summer started. And that was it.
Why couldn’t I afford it? Because I depended on unemployment benefits for almost the whole year. I had a few gigs working in film production, but nothing significant, essential, or constant. And it wasn’t for lack of trying.
For 6 months straight, I would send emails, call or even go in person weekly to literally every single production company here. Almost none of them would reject me, but all of them offered me no job. And that did some real damage to my self-worth. It didn’t help when not once but twice, I got my hopes high being promised two jobs I would have thrived in. Yet once again, ending up with no offer.
Aspiring to find something else to do, I joined a class about branding. And that kept me afloat for a little while. Finding what truly matters to me was a step into re-finding who I am.
Yet, as summer went by, my mental health declined so much that I decided to go to Romania the following days. I packed my bags and travelled to my homeland. It was my first time back before the pandemic started. And boy, was that a cultural shock?!
I felt overwhelmed by the most minor inconveniences. Me?! The woman who used to move mountains to get her way? The unreal switched to incredible when my partner met my family and friends from back home. Seeing the places where I grew up and showing him bits of my culture still feels like a dream.
Eventually, I returned to Iceland, and my breakdown hit a new low. I was stuck in my mini studio, not leaving my place more than just to do my shopping. Crying for hours, days became weeks, and I knew I needed help. It wasn’t enough to get me out of it all by me for the first time. Nothing worked.
Yet none of my doctors believed me I needed help. As long as I was not suicidal, I’m okay. Their words.
Learning to Fall
Feeling like a failure the whole year, I was failing at asking for help this time around. And yet a miracle happened. I’m still wondering how, but I was offered to join a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group class for free a week later. Probably the unemployment offices understood the underlying issues after all.
It was terrifying, but I understood this was my chance to get unstuck. I mentioned last year the inner work I did back in 2019. This time around had to go deeper. And believe me when I tell you it was excruciating. Feeling emotionally exhausted after each session, the darkness inside me guided me towards the inner child’s work. It was something utterly new to me. I was lucky the group was female-only, and I felt a little more comfortable pouring all my fears and traumas out of myself. It can be pretty demanding to un-learn all the behaviour that got you stuck in the first place. Especially trusting your gut and the tools you once used, no matter the circumstances.
But the year continued with another worthless project and a last glimpse of the world I decided I did not belong in. And a new job offer came along. Unreal.
My plans got better when I made it to Mexico after a rough start to being with my partner once more. Exploring new regions and a new US state was a perfect way to end 2021. It was his time to introduce me to his friends and family while showing me places where he grew up. But starting the new year with getting covid is something I do not recommend. It was the time to show myself I learned how to go through the worst and come back better on the other side. Tears and fears should literally be my motto for being 35 years old.
Coming back to Iceland, I jumped into a new job, a new role, and the chaos of a work-in-progress team. But hey, at least I am being paid this time. February came with horrible storms, an infection that lasted for weeks, and it ended with a war I still can’t process. Going from physical pain to emotional pain – while being on painkillers for over a month and trying to recover from my wisdom tooth extraction – I’d say another level achieved.
I appreciate the help of my tiny support group: 4 friends in Iceland, my partner in NYC, and the rest of my family and friends back in Romania. I couldn’t have made it out of 35 safely if it wasn’t for them.
So… 36 welcome into my life, hopefully with calmer waves! Or at least fewer storms.
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