Shortly after my 32nd birthday, I found myself facing a moment of crisis. You could call it a kind of post covid hangover, if you will. Nizar and I were well into our thirties with a 3 year old child, another on the way, still renting, with no viable pathway to house ownership, the ultimate sign of having ‘made it’ in the Western World. I think it all began when I started sharing my pregnancy news and inevitably someone would ask, ‘Oh are you moving to a bigger place, then?’
I hadn’t even thought about it, confident that I didn’t quite need to. So why did I feel my heart sinking a little each time someone asked me that probing question? I want a garden where my kids can splash about in summer and separate bedrooms where they can grow into their teenhood (read: trash it to their hearts’ content so that I don’t have to spend half my day picking up toys and sweeping crumbs from the living room floor). But it isn’t happening anytime soon.
I spent a few nights stewing over these dispiriting thoughts. But eventually, I started reframing them differently, with the assuredness and tenacity of a believer. “What comes to us would never have missed us and what misses us would never have reached us.” Three things helped to calm my inner turmoil. 1. Being able to rent a nice apartment is a blessing and a privilege. 2. We still have time to buy, if and when the stars align. 3 (and most important). There is more to life than going by the career-house-kids route, in that order.
32 is a beautiful age. I have lived some of the best days of my life by now but there’s more to come, In Sha Allah. The grey hair and wrinkles are emerging with unwelcome frequency but there’s still traces of youth etched on my face. If anything, the maturity I have gained over the years makes me more appreciative of my appearance. Random fact: did you know that we will all be 33 in Paradise (as Muslims)? I take that as an incontestable confirmation of the superiority of the early thirties, that beautiful midpoint where vigour meets wisdom.
Mentally, I am stronger and more resilient than ever. Physically, I could be fitter, and my metabolism has certainly seen better days. But two pregnancies have left me with a deep respect for my body. I feel empowered and blessed. I am less apologetic of who I am, better at enforcing my boundaries, and surer than ever about what I want from life.
I have made some wonderful self-discoveries in my thirties. I CAN grow plants (the easier ones that is, just don’t get me a calathea) ! I am proud of how much I have honed my culinary skills, from a mean Greek moussaka to the humble yet dependable Bengali chicken curry. I have still not nailed that driving licence, I still cant swim, I still cant rise and shine early in the morning. I am still joyously immersed in the process of life long learning and growing.
Facebook memories of my early twenties fills me with wistful nostalgia. I miss those carefree days, that luscious hair, the glow glinting off my skin. Funnily enough, I have a feeling that I will look back at my thirties with this same degree of wistfulness, if not more, when I am 42. I already know how badly I will crave Ary’s childhood. I will miss the living room strewn with toys that frustrates me so much right now. The mismatched pair of socks that make their way into every conceivable corner. The innocent exuberance of my son and the loving way he hugs his baby sibling whom he hasn’t even met. I will even miss my thinning hair which will inevitably become more desirable ten years from now. I will think fondly about the blessings of good health, for which I have grown a renewed appreciation in 2021. Covid and gestational diabetes tested me with physical pain, robbing me off the joys of comfort food when I needed them the most (I am looking at you, cinnamon buns), a teaser of what’s to come in old age.
Time has taken on an odd quality since I became an adult. It flies with a frenzied urgency. Summers blend into winters and the next thing I know, a decade has passed by from milestones that seemed like yesterday. Its 17 years since I sat for my O Levels but I swear I can still smell my Khala‘s Chanel perfume on me, borrowed in copious amounts from her almari (I loved being enveloped in that expensive smell as I scratched my Physics paper with a Pilot V5 pen). Its been 10 years since I graduated from Glasgow Uni but I can still hear Adele singing ‘Rolling in the Deep’ in my ears, the rare Scottish sun caressing my brown face. Its been 3 years since I birthed a human but when I look at his darling face, it still feels surreal. How are you mine?
I am entering my third trimester with bittersweet feelings. We have decided that we wont actively try for any more children (Allah knows best). We would love a third one but all things considered, it probably wont happen. I love being pregnant and will miss these 9 months of growing a new life. The journey makes me feel so powerful and so alive. Its the prequel to someone’s life story and I get to bring him/her earth side. There’s no other human experience that can compare to this. I want to cherish these special days because in my heart I know they might just be the last ones.
This photoshoot was all about celebrating ’32’. This weathered face of my thirties, the bump of my second child, my #millennial #mumstyle (minimalist, clean(er), with a hint of maximalism in favourite patterns like gingham, preferably in a blazer), my need for comfort (them shoes), and the art of enjoying life in the little, carefree moments.
Time is warped in an adult world. I cannot hold it, nor can I make it wait, even though some days I really, really want to. Moments that are unfolding NOW will soon become an invisible speck in the history of time. And perhaps that is what makes our brief time on Earth so precious.
I am so lucky I met you, 32!