Thanks to the bottomless memory of the internet, I was able to search for pictures from when I turned 20, ten years ago. Thanks to my bottomless negligence toward taking photos, I don’t have any. I do, however, have the two pictures taken closest to the actual date when I transformed from teenager to twenty-something:
The first was taken roughly a month before my birthday at my university’s end-of-year luau. (To explain the facepaint and group shirtlessness, aside from being drunk I also performed a haka.) Though there is no explanation for the shirtlessness in the second picture, it was about 3 months into the experiment that was my third decade of existence, on the set of a short movie I was in. Somewhere in between I turned 20. Allegedly.
It’s strange seeing those earlier versions of myself, mostly because I still very much identify with them — stupid, goofy, shamelessly shirtless whenever the opportunity arises. Though I often feel guilty for not documenting my life in pictures as much as I maybe should, part of me is glad that these are the types of photos kicking around from my 20s. They’re microcosms of how most of my life was for me: wholly unserious, hopefully in a charming way, but at the very least an amusing one.
If 20 year old me could see me now at 30, I’m not sure what he’d think. He’d probably be let down in a lot of ways, expecting me to have accomplished more than I have. But that may be giving 20 year old me too much credit: he had more expectations than actual plans, and he had very few expectations. He was also, objectively, kind of an idiot.
And I did accomplish a fair bit in my 20s. I graduated from two universities. I traveled a lot, within America and around the world. I was in movies and on TV. I worked in politics, a hotel, an ice cream shop, a burger joint, and an Apple store. I taught every level from kindergarten to university. I performed on stages in New York and Honolulu. I wrote countless shitty paragraphs and eventually arrived at some decent ones. I read a lot.
I made relationships that challenge and inspire me and bring me joy. I became an uncle. I met an amazing woman and she Said Yes. We got a dog.
Somewhere in all of that, a subtle shift occurred. In a lot of ways I’m still fundamentally the same unserious goofy idiot I was 10 years ago, but more narrowly so. I have solid expectations now, and concrete plans to meet them. My ambitions aren’t distant echoes of empty barroom chest-pounding, nor are they frail whispers locked away in secrecy like flower petals encased in a diary. My future is simply a part of my daily routine, an existential teethbrushing and facewashing. I’m less begrudging of the weight of my dreams, more at ease with what I want out of life. I still want all the things I loved about my 20s — the traveling, the good times with people I love, the random experiences I luck into — but the immediate allocation of my time toward those things has changed. In a way, I guess, I’m more serious, which has proven to be its own kind of fun.
I’ll leave this here, with the last picture of me in my 20s. I didn’t want to take a new one just for the occasion — that seemed inorganic, and rarely do I ever think more of my face is needed in the world. Let the record show that this was taken twenty days prior to my 30s:
Here’s to all the things that will change in the next 10 years, and to all the things that will not.
(At least I’m wearing a shirt here.)