Chapter 30… Lessons from my 20s on People + Place + Purpose

This isn’t a letter and I’m not sure it’s an open one either but this was written on a flight to a rainy and chilly DC in December, following 6 days of taking it easy and venturing across the corners of a tropical island, while on holiday celebrating my 30th annual rotation around the sun. A trip that was so necessary, and also so not within my budget. Because, hey what’s more peak millennial than vacationing on a budget, just to get those fire IG pics that screams paradiso and #mood4eva.

Something about approaching 30, just made me want to be alone. Away from “it” all. Whatever “it” is.

As a gift to myself, I chose to take a solo trip to Aruba. Mostly unplanned, I resolved I wanted to go somewhere tropical for the week — which also fell during the Thanksgiving holiday. Sure it might cause controversy at home, choosing to vacation in the Caribbean over going home to see the fam and fill my belly with some home cooking. Or the friends I’d be missing for not pulling together a birthday celebration for myself — which was also a daunting thought and major chore to consider. A quick google search gave me flights within my budget, and given work commitments following this trip, Aruba was the geographic winner. And just like that, booked and a few hundred dollars poorer — MK was Caribbean bound and set for adventure.

Indeed a crazy, classic, life one memorable enough to tell the grandchildren about. 

Something about approaching 30, just made me want to be alone. Away from “it” all. Whatever “it” is. To be honest, the week in Aruba provided me the place and space I needed to sit, reflect and journal in both comfort and some discomfort. Here far from “it”, I can get lost in my anonymity, I could imagine myself as an author traveling in search of his next story, his next profound life revealing experience. There was comfort in knowing that I pulled it off —this legally economically disadvantaged youth from Texas by way of Congo, is tanning his melanin on the white sands of Aruba and sporting speedos to dip in the deep blue Caribbean Sea. Indeed a crazy, classic, life one memorable enough to tell the grandchildren about.

…for most of the entirety of my 20s I’ve been on the run from something.

And then amidst all this, the discomfort came rushing in. Going from Beyonce world tour confidence levels to thoughts of why am on this random ass island alone on my golden birthday, like what is life? And being alone is cute I guess, may be necessary, but why was I adamant for going at it solo? It was within this discomfort and questioning where my time in Aruba truly made me face it. I’m on the run (I promise this is the end of the Beyonce references), and for most of the entirety of my 20s, I’ve been on the run from something. The revelations of truths of what I’m running from now as my 30th chapter opens, is requiring me to face the fact that I fear loneliness the most. Specifically, the fear of being alone not by choice, because to be alone is to not be lonely, but to be lonely…whew chillle that is to be miserable.

My 20s, came with leaving Texas and moving to Washington, DC. Where over the years calls with friends from back home grew less frequent. Busying myself over the last 6 years with what now seems like minuscule stresses. Racing on a rat wheel that was conditioning me to pursue ambition and ladder climbing, over maintaining formative relationships with people who have invested and remain invested in the man I’m becoming today. I would not say this at the time, but there are many folks I ran from to deny myself and them an explanation of a part of my identity I fought to bury deep. Being far and removed from Texas in a way meant I could live free from the expectation of who I was to be and hoped I would become in their eyes.

As I look ahead at an unwritten chapter 30, I’m filled with joy knowing and experiencing the manifestationof sacrifices and work I’ve done up till now to truly realize my own power — and I feel like I’m just getting started.

Lessons from my 20s also came with relationshiping (yep just made that word up) on the fast track to marriage for almost two years, with a truly lovely man, only to have things end as passionately as it began. With time and revelations of truth, I’ve come to see that hiding this shame was especially a hard lesson learned by the fact that when we don’t show up and speak out as our true authentic selves, then we will never fully be free or there for the people who love and need us most. Though I won’t get the years of distance and time I’ve lost with many folks, I do hope the time we presently have brings us all more life. 

Like everything in life, vacation comes to an end, and a return to reality must unfortunately also come with it. As I return to mine, and work through my issues with loneliness, I can’t help but think about this decade I’m leaving behind, and have turned the page on. It’s been both big fun, challenging, and a lot of making it up as I go. As I look ahead at an unwritten chapter 30, I’m filled with joy knowing and experiencing the manifestation of sacrifices and work I’ve done up till now to truly realize my own power — and I feel like I’m just getting started.

As I turn the page to a new decade in both age, and life, the following are some lessons from my 20s, I invite you to reflect on with me

The longer we live and older we get, means the more life we get to experience. There’s more laughter sure to be had, lessons to be learned, new achievements to reach, and challenges to overcome. Most certainly goodness will be part of life, with it also comes the moments when we’ll be moved to tears, feel hurt, disappointment and walk through our darkest valley in hopes of making it out alive to shower in the rays of the sun once more. 

As I turn the page to a new decade in both age, and life, the following are some lessons from my 20s, I invite you to reflect on with me and will be challenging myself to use as ingredients for overcoming my personal fears and truly living a life meant for me in this next chapter.  

  • Just do your best and let the rest flow as it may. That solo trip, go for it. Pet project, keep at it. Work assignment, get it done. And that kiss, stop overthinking it just let it melt.
  • Thinking out loud is fine, but moving in silence hits different. Actions trumps all the talking, hoping, and wishing. Get to doing and living.
  • Realize along the way the folks who you always thought had it together or were all-knowing, actually are all the bits shitshows themselves as well. Don’t let your grand shadow statue of others shade or dim your light.
  • Always face our failures like we take our wins. Own up to all your decisions, and be willing to pay for it accordingly.
  • My voice, life experiences, words, and perspective matters. Somewhere out there someone is reading these words and they feel seen, affirmed, and loved.
  • Life is a mix of pleasure and pain. It’s important to know when to distinguish and prioritize one over the other.
  • Debt and Credit scores are serious business. Take care and fix that shiiiid asap. Sure a sugar daddy (or mama) will be nice, but the real gag = a fire credit score puts you on track to being your own sugar baby.
  • Accept that not everyone who we might want to be in our lives are supposed to be. Find value in having a few close friends that are like family, over a vast network of acquaintances that might fill a room but still leave you feeling more lonely than before.
  • Respect and cultivate relationships in all forms. Set and know the boundaries. Always be clear with your intentions within it, even if the other isn’t. Truth and time will indeed reveal who’s in it for you too and who’s not.
  • It’s a tough world out there kids, but we all got this.

So here’s to more life my friends, and ushering in a new decade where we speak more truly, move less selfishly and build a life that doesn’t fear loneliness but lives beyond it. May we love and be love to everyone that’s deserving, and even at times to those that seem undeserving. Let’s refuse to succumb to the hurt and fears of this life, but let’s reclaim our power and stand in the strength of our convictions, and work every day to create a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. So when that day comes when we’re facing our final call we may say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.”

About the Author

Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on people, place and purpose. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo, groomed in Dallas, Texas, and cultivated in Washington, DC where he became a grown up. Mariel now resides in Los Angeles, CA. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. When Mariel is not in the office, he spends his free time in athletic pursuits from weightlifting to yoga, swimming, and martial arts.  He loves good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person. Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin .

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