Here we are, 22 for the fourth time.

(HB to my Opa who is 89; what a champ. Not quite so kicking, but most definitely alive. My Babcia – the Polish G-Ma – has been a touch unwell, and upon going to see the doctor he asked who she lives with to look after her. “My husband,” she said. The doctor was flabbergasted: “What!” He exclaimed. “Three years ago his heart was so weak, I gave him three to six months to live.” Well mate, your diagnosis was most definitely off there. It’ll be his 90th next year – Opa, not the doc – and he’s already got me locked in to be home and with him. He’s not going anywhere – once again, Opa not the GP).

So; heading into my 26th year (HOW am I closer to 30 than 20? When did this HAPPEN?!). I’m looking super fresh – body mottled with bruises and itchy bites (though they maaaaaaay possibly be from bed bugs), a reaction from eating papaya straight from the skin so a cold-sore-like blotch is brewing around my mouth and my wispy mince-and-cheese mop is so humidity-affected I look like the white Jackson sixth.

Oh hail the end of the first quart century.

(I had a moment this afternoon reminiscing upon my fifth birthday, when my grandparents picked me up from school and took me to get my ears pierced. I can’t believe that’s 11 years ago, I mused. Then I coughed annihilated banana up all over the floor when I realised it’s actually 21 years ago).

Although I am often reassured I am rather indeterminate in age (after clamouring for the assurance, I must admit; half of the Asian girls here think I’m turning 17 tomorrow, and I haven’t corrected them), the next 30 days sees the age gap between The Pedaller and myself extend to six years. He loves it, giving me lots of shit about the puma-ness of the situation (I.e., myself being a cougar) to which I have no response other than, “Respect your elder mate.”

(But seriously, the age thing is finally starting to not heevy me so much. I only say, “You’re too young for me” once a month now instead of the initial once a week. Let’s face it; he’s years beyond myself in maturity).

If you told me on the eve of my 26th year I’d be sitting atop a crumbling building in the dark in the middle of Northern India, I’d say you’d cracked. To be honest, I thought such a setting would be a glorious locale to bid away 25; in actuality, there are mozzys bucking at my lower legs and I just fell into a cactus-like bush that sent some splinters up my fa-noo. It seemed a fantastic idea in theory, but I feel I may have to soon relocate.

I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be (I’m now talking in a life-position sense, I’ll clarify). I remember when I was at Uni telling Mummy Deb that travelling didn’t appeal to me really; a ten week stint in Europe when I graduated would do the job, I insisted, maybe a flit to Egypt on the end if I felt the urge to explore my year five obsession with Tutankhamun.

Yet here I am four years after graduating, not settled in the slightest.

Well, that’s a bit of a lie. I do have roots in NZ and have started setting up a somewhat business for myself. There’s a relationship there, my family and the one and only Neph Hendrik III, plus tentative plans for an idea of a future.

It’s just not where I pictured myself to be at such an age.

Am I disappointed in myself? Nope. Not at all. Although I do look at my friends who’ve made inroads in careers and obtained grown-up assets and do adult things like have people round for dinner and think, I could be living that life, I’m happy with my trinket key ring collection and stash of boarding passes in my wardrobe. Casting myself out of the sometimes narrow Kiwi environs has given me experiences and memories I wouldn’t swap for the highest paid editor’s job.

The other day we were walking along and my new bestie Priyanka said, “You know how they say that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh? Well, on the seventh he actually decided he wanted an adventure, so he made Poppy.”

I was quite chuffed to be seen in such a regard.

(Plus Maria said later that I was the most disciplined person she had ever met, which made me feel that beneath the so-seen fun, I have some seriousness too).

So what do I want heading into this end-of-mid-20s-era?

A. Money? B. A house? C. A career? D. To get on the path of the whole white-picket-fence-family thing? While E – all the above – does appeal on different days at different times (though E is still far off as a desire to be fulfilled), I’m going to go all peace-love-yogi on you and tell you what is most important to me right now. (And whoever thought the idea of adulting might one day appeal?).

I read a really cool little bit in a book the other day (why am I acting as though it was anything other than Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love?) where the medicine man dude told the protagonist she should learn to smile with all her being; with her face, with her mind, even smiling with her liver. I just loved that idea – to smile and beam and be healthy with every ounce of what makes you up.

I want to be like that.

Although I’ve made massive inroads the past year in qualming the rises of anxiousness and the need to always be the best, I want to continue finding my own equilibrium and a nourishing and nurturing climate in which to continue with it. I want to truly inhabit a place of peace, whatever form that takes shape in.

(Sound Western-girl-goes-to-the-East-and-goes-all-hippie-happy enough yet?).

Rather than be restrained and rigid by the self scheduling of my diary, I want to be flexible in mind, body and brain, unconcerned by the passage of time. Being able to genuinely say, “I always have time for you”, without the but-I-have-to-get-going-at-3.42-because-I-have-17-other-things-to-attend-to mentality as of the last few years. That unsettled and unbalanced Poppy person of the past? I want to leave her well behind.

I love that saying, “Start from where you are”. Because, in reality, where the fuck else could you possibly start from? And my whole idea of impressing myself every single day really works; although it sounds selfish in essence, in actuality it makes me far from it.

I’m truly ready to hit 26, much as I jokingly (ok, sometimes genuinely) despair about the aging aspect. In some ways I feel about 40, while in others I feel about six (I mean, what “normal” 26-year-old sleep with a banana soft toy?).

I immensely enjoyed the yoga class tonight. I jumped through from Down Dog through to sitting on my palms twice, almost handstanded and held on my own, held a Pincha Mayurasana (elbow stand) for six full seconds and did a full flick-flack (guided with both the flick and the flack, but I’m claiming it). All senses of desperation to nail postures and impress other people were absolutely quelled, and in ridding of such wants I managed to smash both.

And there’s something cool I realised as I was lying in shavasana afterwards (I know I know, mind should be devoid of all thoughts and what not; but seriously, is there really anyone who achieves that intense focus each and everytime? Apart from the Dalai Lama or Martinet?). I was born at 12.50pm on September 6, 1995, (ok, 1991), meaning that is the moment I officially become 26 years old. With India being 6.5 hours behind NZ, the moment my alarm sings out to awaken me at 6.20am is that very moment the age ticks to the next one.

Here’s to welcoming in the sixth of September, 26, and all with a smiley spleen.

HB to my beautiful Opa, from the best birthday present you ever received.

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