Today I turn 35 and I decided that I’ve completed a third of what I intend to be a very long life. I see myself, at around 105, a jolly old lady, very lucid still, looking back with a smile. I often think of that old lady I hope to become some day and she’s on my mind when I make my choices here and now. I wonder if my actions today will make her smile with gratitude over the years. I wonder if I’m living my life in a way that, years from now, will make her feel at peace, happy for what she once was and did and with very few regrets.

All my life I’ve had the feeling that I was a different age inside than my biological one. Now, finally, my body has caught up with my mind and, amazingly, for the first time ever I feel very young. I’m learning, with every passing year, that there is no magical age when you finally “grow up”. And that “growing up” is merely a convention. The children we once were, the adults we are now and the old people we’ll once become all coexist inside of us. Each of these personas is full of resources and can become a guide and an ally, if we choose to see, acknowledge and listen to them.

Alis, the little girl I’ve been running from forever, always taking refuge in an identity mature beyond my years, has finally learnt how to play. This year I ate black berries that grow on trees in early summer here, in Romania, for the first time in my life (believe it or not, all my childhood I’ve been too “good” to climb trees or, God forbid, to eat the fruits that had fallen on the ground, like all my friends did). I ate them together with my 2 year old daughter, got my hands and mouth all black and felt more of a kid than I ever did before. I play a lot lately, get down on my knees, laugh and fool around, build lego houses and read tons of children’s books. My inner child is more alive than ever, is feeling seen and accepted and I’m enjoying the energy of childhood even more than I did when I myself was one.

Alis the old lady has always been there, inside of me. She’s still there. I’ve always talked to her but in the past this dialogue was filled with more fear, more sadness. I was afraid of death, of an unfulfilled life, I felt sad that I felt too old on the inside to feel completely at home among people my age. Now, that inner old lady has found her place and has learnt to make room for the inner child and also for adult and woman that I am. She’s calmer, less critical, much wiser. Or I am much wiser in dealing with her. She’s speaking to me from somewhere in my solar plexus through momentary intuitions, peaceful thoughts that come in difficult times, invitations to step back when things don’t go according to plan and to approach decisions with more perspective, more acceptance, less attachment to outcomes. She calms me down when my emotions go haywire and soothes me when life gets hard. From her angle, my hardships now will only become treasured memories over the decades to come. And this helps me remember that, every single time, this too shall pass.

Alis the woman, the adult, is also a relatively new discovery. For a very long time I have lived in my head, convinced that the body was no more than a vehicle to carry my brain around in the world. Now I have much deeper respect for my body. I discovered its profound intelligence, I realised that, if I listen, it speaks to me, that we are partners, that the body itself is conscious, just as I am. I make time for it every day. I no longer feel the need to eat junk, I’m no longer afraid to set it into motion, I no longer hurt it consciously or unconsciously. Taking care of myself has become normal and oftentimes I look at myself in the mirror and find I’m enjoying the image I see and no longer feel so critical of it.

At 35 it’s become easier to say “no” without worrying about offending someone. I have much less to prove, I allow myself to choose my friends, I do what I feel without apologising, I’m much more honest and direct and no longer use little white lies just to be “nice”, to save face and to get out of circumstances I didn’t want to be in in the first place. I say “I love you” often and loud to the people I care about – I no longer wait for the right moment to come so I can tell somebody I care.

Now I’m living my joys more intensely, but I’m also experiencing my sorrows and anger more consciously. I allow myself to say “I can’t do this anymore” and just feel overwhelmed sometimes. It’s become ok not to be on top of things all the time. Some things can be postponed and some boxes can stay un-ticked. It’s ok to do just nothing once in a while and simply be (although that’s still something I’m working on).

This is the first time in my life when I think of death with a sort of peacefulness and I no longer feel that paralysing fear of nothingness that I was used to. Now is a time when I look at all that is good and beautiful in my life, at all I have built, at all the love I have given and received and I think that if my time was up right now, I’d go out of this life with no regrets and the belief my life had meaning. I feel it was worth it so far and there’s much more to build still – I am curious for what is to come, but I’m no longer clinging to it, nor am I afraid that I could lose it. I have no idea if anything of this life-energy we all have survives our physical demise, but I am sure that the life I have right now has value and I can choose to use it to do good, to give my existence meaning and to consciously live every day I have left on this earth. If I do this now, then there’s a good chance that the old lady I’ll be at 105 will finally leave in peace, gratitude and serenity.

At 35 I have many more intentions than I have plans. I know what my personal mission is, my “why” and I also know my values. They are the inner compass that guides my actions and decisions every day. They have the last say even when my rational mind tells me otherwise. I now believe emotion and reason can be partners and I use them as such. I am much more relaxed in not knowing and not controlling. Uncertainty is no longer scary because I have learnt that, in midst of confusion there is a sort of magic – once you’re clear on your direction and you’re living in congruence with your deeper self, then things tend to fall into place, like pieces of a puzzle and the best road is shown to you when you least expect it.

At 35 I learnt that I am intrinsically worthy, just like everybody else in the world. It’s a paradox that, as I become more and more aware of my own worth, I become less and less convinced of my specialness. I deeply believe we are worthy through our sheer humanity (and, going even further, beyond us humans, that all beings on this planet are worthy of respect, be they animals, plants or any other part of nature). I no longer think some of us are “more special” than others. I think people live at different levels of consciousness, have different levels of understanding/education/civilisation and I believe it is up to the more conscious ones to reach out, build bridges, educate others, listen non-judgementally instead of looking down on others from the pedestal of their own self-sufficiency.

I now accept I am imperfect and so I will stay, forever. I have many flaws, many behaviours I don’t like. I am both good and bad and think we each have the potential for both. The difference is in our choices. I, at this moment of my life, choose to be, to the best of my abilities, a person that does good onto others without forgetting that, like everybody else, there is a shadow in me that must not be ignored, hidden or denied.

Very importantly for me, after years of working on my own, years in which “standing on my own two feet” was almost a mantra, in which I prided in not needing anybody and being completely independent, the time has come when I stopped believing I can do anything by myself. I am convinced that the key to positive change in the world lies in collaboration, that competing is the most toxic of traps. I believe in the power of communities, in interdependency, in complementarity. I no longer believe we have to find people who are just like us or who always agree with us so we can start building meaningful things – disagreeing or being very different is an asset, not a liability, if the willingness to connect is there. I think there is no way we can have a positive impact in the world unless we reach out to others and bring our powers and our gifts together in the service of a common goal.

We live in a world that often seems absurd, chaotic, paradoxical. We feel appalled by the injustice that seems to unfold beyond our control, we judge, we polarise into “us” versus “them”. It is my belief that the only relationship we can truly transform is the one we have with ourselves and only then can we take the next step of healing our relationship with others. I think everything starts with us. This world cannot go on if each of us stays in our own bubble, fighting ourselves and, at the same time, hating others who are different.

I’m writing all of this as my lessons from a very personal journey, which still goes on, with many more discoveries to come. I know we all have our path and we never learn from other people’s experiences, yet I think that stories create moments of reflection and inspiration which can become the seeds of change. I think this road towards personal wisdom is a first step towards another kind of wisdom that we all and this planet too so desperately need – collective wisdom. We need to befriend ourselves so we can then open up to finally see others. We need to learn self- compassion so we can feel it for others. And if these thoughts that I gathered along the way somehow inspire you too to take a moment and reflect on your own life and your journey towards wisdom, then I have already received the best birthday gift I could have hoped for.