I turned 36 the other day. And if I am to be completely honest, the sound of 36 makes me feel absolutely nothing. Yes – I’m more tired than usual. I’m not effortlessly skinny anymore. And the thought of my face dropping scares me. Despite all that, I’m okay with 36. I like 36. 36 feels safe. It feels secure. It feels more in control. Alhumdullilah.

I never had anyone advise me of what to expect in my 30s. I haven’t had my mom for the last 10 years so any guidance from a maternal figure on how to navigate adulthood has been devoid from my life. Regardless, my 30s have surprised me. Pleasantly surprised me. I would rather be where I am now vs. where I was in my 20s and here’s why:

In my 20s, I spent so much energy worrying about the opinions of others. NOW? I really don’t give a FUH. I never thought I’d get here. I grew up worrying about “log kya kahaingai” (what will people say?). So naturally, I was very cautious with what people thought about me. My aim is to never hurt anyone but now, I can only unapologetically be me. It’s all I know how to be. I’m not at the age where I can’t suppress my opinions and thoughts because I care what Mehreen from highschool is going to think about how I raise my child. I don’t care about how others perceive how I lead my life or what is assumed about me. I don’t even flinch when I read negative comments or hear rumours. Do you know how freeing that is? To evolve into a position where you’re not impacted by outside noise is so damn liberating. 

My 30s have brought forth a new confidence in my life. A sense of comfort in my own skin. This isn’t the case for everyone. It’s really something you have to work on. I know online it probably looks like I always need to wear makeup or be dressed to the nines. In actuality, it’s the opposite. I wear makeup once a week and dress in accordance to what my work schedule is like. I’m not saying I love every imperfection on my face or body. But that’s also not how I would define confidence. My confidence stems from navigating enough trials in life and surviving and flourishing through them to know that I will be able to manage whatever life throws at me (with God’s mercy and help) in the future. If you want to figure out how to achieve this, make sure you check out Muslim Girlfriend’s Guide to tap into my formula. Living with conviction has shaped my whole persona. It’s brought me new business opportunities, connected me with people I could never imagine being in the company of and allowed me to be authentic and real in a world where everyone is trying to be someone they’re not. Alhumdullilah always.

With age, my purpose has changed. When I reflect, I realize I never really lived intentionally. I was just kind of getting by. Now that I have a little more security in my life, I have established a purpose and spend my days with set intentions. God has become the center of my life. Everything I do, I have Him in the back of my mind. Me spending the time and effort to write these posts is intentional. One day, God will ask me how I spent time on social media and I’ll want to give Him a good enough answer. I don’t want to post for numbers and engagement. I want to post for the few women who are seeking an example of hope. I know it sounds cheesy but I really have this incessant need to not waste my life and attempt to leave a lasting positive impact on others. A core memory for me was my dad’s funeral. Everyone talked about what an amazing man he was. I want to be remembered the same way. He led his life in service of others. I would love to be strong enough to do the same, inshAllah. 

Age ain’t just a number like Aaliyah said (80s babies, where you at?). Wisdom really does come from age and experience. I’m so much more self aware. I never was in my 20s. I made sporadic choices that appeased my ego and surface level emotions. I never thought about how my decisions would mould my future self. Now, I’m more conscious of my habits and patterns so I proactively adapt measures to reverse anything that may be negatively affecting me or others. For example, I’m informed of what parts of my childhood caused me to be either spoiled or entitled, and that allows me to put in the inner work needed to improve. I’m aware that the actions of others aren’t a reflection of me and the choices they make are results of their own upbringings and path. It allows me to exercise empathy and be understanding of why people make the decisions they do. And essentially, that is a huge part of being a Muslim. Being patient and understanding with others. 

The last thing I’m loving about my 30s is the mental clarity.  Although I’m consumed by responsibilities and everything I have to get done every single day, my mind feels clear. Alhumdullilah for that x1000, because I know what the opposite feels like. I’ve suffered from brain fog far too long to not appreciate how light my head feels. I’m not bogged down. This doesn’t mean I’m not stressed or don’t have problems. This simply means I’m focused on my priorities and I have no room for anything that doesn’t fill my cup. I’m driven by my goals and no external factor can come between that. I have compartmentalized certain aspects of my life and figured out self soothing remedies to tackle problems as they come then quickly disassociate and forget about them as soon as they’re gone. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s a learned trait. You’re not just born with it. Some may call it unhealthy, but it serves me positively and allows me to be productive. Alhumdullilah.

It’s been a long road to get here. A shit ton of tears and sleepless nights, to say the least. I would have never forecasted that this is what my life would look like in my mid to late 30s. But as I said previously, I am very pleasantly surprised. 

I just want to close with the recognition that I would never have achieved this level of autonomy without God’s mercy. It is Him alone that has put me in a position of strength and creed. I amount everything to Him. It is through His plans that I have attained everything I listed above. Without Him, I would lose it all. Alhumdullilah, always.

Photography: Preston Neville

IG: @preston.neville
FB: Preston Neville Photograph