Happy birthday to me 

By Sarah Cannata

My 36th birthday looms as I write these words. I have always found birthdays to be a bit of a strange time. There’s lots of contemplation, questioning my life choices to date and the people you only hear from once a year surface because it’s your birthday (maybe on Christmas and New Year’s Day too). This year, changes are afoot, stirring equal parts of excitement and anxiety within. Growth cannot happen within our comfort zone.

Ageing is a gift

People often talk more about the drawbacks of ageing than the positives. The grey hairs (sadly, I have patches emerging). The wrinkles. The sub-optimal recovery when we don’t treat our bodies well. I’ve found my 30s to be a far smoother ride than my 20s from a whole-of-life lens. Life has a way of working itself out when we stop forcing things. The last 12 months have been intense, rewarding, challenging and everything in between. Here are my learnings.

Space is non-negotiable

I’m a workaholic, and I’ve engaged in a lot of personal development work to investigate this tendency from a place of curiosity. At points, I’ve honestly wondered what would be left if I completely removed work from my life. And then I went to Europe earlier this year. I didn’t do any work for about a month. I had no internet connection at times. Guess what I learned? There’s a bit of an extrovert hiding inside. Someone who enjoys having conversations with people about random things. Someone who wasn’t afraid to try new things and look a bit ridiculous at times to make people laugh. Someone who can see what’s beyond what’s obvious at a surface level. Someone I like (beyond my self-discipline and dedication to work).

Me (Sarah) standing on the Liberty or Freedom Bridge in Budapest
On the Liberty or Freedom Bridge in Budapest (I was not supposed to climb up there)

It’s ok if what I need is not what other people need from me

I feel far more certain of what I want and need in life. It’s not like I had this grand moment where everything started making sense. Lots of stuff remains puzzling to me. The world is a tiring place for someone scared to rock the boat. I feel like the personal development work I’ve been doing since I was about 30 has started to produce some tangible benefits. (I’m not saying this is the only reason to engage in personal development.) A typical day for me involves walking, meditation of some kind, writing and one learning activity after work. (I am human, some days, I can’t be bothered doing anything, so I don’t!) To sum up, I’m trying to articulate that I feel better equipped to make the best decisions for myself without being sidetracked by other people’s thoughts, opinions or judgements. 

I’ve stopped chasing ‘the next big thing’

Success looks different now. I’m not what I own. It’s not that money and owning stuff don’t matter. We live in a physical world, so it costs money to breathe, much less live a comfortable life. I’ve become better at savouring the big moments and appreciating what it took to get there. It’s great that I have a published picture book (fingers crossed, another couple of books will be released soon). What’s better is that I didn’t give up on the dream when things didn’t go to plan. If there has been one common thread throughout my career and business, it’s that things rarely go to plan. (My plan, anyway.) Somehow though, I am always ok, regardless of what happens. What people refer to as failure is part of the process. I think of failure as learnings now. The only real failure in my books is when we allow something to stop us dead in our tracks. When you are in flow, somehow, things magically work out. One of my best traits that has come in handy over the years is persistence. If I truly believe in something, I’ll see it through.

I’m not fussed what people think of my life choices

As a sweeping statement, people find it hard to believe you can be happy at my age without a partner and kids. You can be, trust me. I’ve always been open to those things happening, but I’ve never chased either, and I can’t see that changing. I have no idea why but this completely baffles people. I’m not a huge fan of small talk, but conversations with new people typically begin with these questions:

  • What do you do for a living? 
  • How old are you?
  • Do you have a partner? 
  • Do you have kids?

In response to the last two queries, the next question people typically ask, in some way, shape or form, is always why not? This is not something I am sensitive about (luckily, at this point), and it actually amuses me on many levels. In the grand scheme of life, I have better things to direct my energy to.

Connection is key

I am one of those people who sets themselves a word for the year. (Cheesy, right?) I hate to admit it, but this year, I’ve forgotten my own word! That is slightly embarrassing. I’m somewhat sure it was ‘connection,’ but if it wasn’t, it definitely is now. As I write this article, it’s possible my word may have been ‘consistency,’ which has also been key to my 2023. I’ve never been more consistent with my business content (it’s much easier to do when you feel connected to what you’re doing). As a result, this community has grown massively in 2023. So much so that a membership is in the works, as is a closed Facebook group (stay tuned for more) and loads more content. Exciting times! Back to connection…

When you find people who support you regardless and without any strings attached, you know they are your people. Friendship is so underrated. I’m not talking about acquaintances or people you knew once upon a time. I’m referring to the kind of people we can feel comfortable really being seen around. People who, even if they have no idea what it’s like to walk in your shoes, will take the time to listen and hold a safe space for you without judgement or the need to ‘fix’ anything. If we have just one of these people in our world, we are incredibly lucky. On that note, I’ll end with an Oprah quote: 

“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

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