I Turn 30 Tomorrow… Now What?
I’m writing this article on the very last day of my twenties. Phrases like ‘You're still so young!’, and ‘You're a baby!’ have anesthetized me to the panic of squandered youth, such that the significance of this milestone hadn’t flexed its grip on my trachea until the eleventh hour. I’m not wallowing in self pity. I’m not even ashamed of the glazed-over, zombie-like apathy with which I watched my twenties flash by. Everyone said it would go too fast. I knew it would go by fast. I’m also relatively happy with the station I’ve made in life, given the cards I was dealt. I regret nothing. However, as one of the greatest thinkers of our time said: ‘Be happy, but never satisfied.’
My concern, at this juncture, is whether or not I'm correctly interpreting the implications of this new stage, this next chapter. I consider myself to be a member of a generation that has, in my honest opinion, confoundingly and dichotomously demonstrated both unprecedented innovation, as well as a seemingly willing acceptance of figurative morphine and devolution. Advancements in machine learning have enabled us to get to the one yard line of releasing a self driving car with object detection systems that will prevent text-addicts and drunk drivers from claiming more lives. That same technology determines which native advertising headline from The Huffington Post or Buzzfeed will compel me to click, and then divert my attention to content which will cause my brain to slip away into the ether. I feel like we're all at the apex of a wishbone on the brink of shattering, and I have no idea what comes next.
For what am I to be held accountable? What’s within my power to change? Is it narcissistic or arrogant to believe that I should shoulder some responsibility for the human disposition? If not, then how do I decide, out of the countless problems we face, which one I’m uniquely fitted to make the biggest dent in? I'd always assumed this past decade was my time to pretend I’m bulletproof, and make decisions without weighing the consequences. Well, that time is over. So how do I now ensure that I'm treating my life as a precious scarcity, and not a limitless trust fund?
I don’t have an answer, and I’ll probably contribute to Amazon’s next unexpectedly profitable quarter by ordering a bunch of self help books. What I can share with you are the quixotic hopes I do have for my next decade:
- Stop comparing. I belittle myself, fabricate misery, and devalue the good that I’m capable of by comparing what I’ve accumulated, or what I’ve accomplished, to those who seemingly have or have done more. I’d also like to remember that the life one projects to the world is never the whole story. We all have demons, and I understand there’s no benefit from broadcasting them. I’m not so naive that I believe I can end this practice completely, but I would like to lower the volume such that it intersects with a healthy level of peace of mind.
- Discover what I love. This sounds like generalized pop-psychology, but let me explain. It’s a given that I love my family and friends. I’ve grown to love and appreciate them more and more as I become older. I’ve also known many things that have allowed me to experience pleasure: travel, netflix, pretending I hate praise while graciously accepting it etc. That said, I can’t shake this grinding notion that each of us should have a passion or a cause. You’d think it’d be quite simple to find one. The world we live in wears its heart on its sleeve (or on the internet, rather). Anything and everything has a Wikipedia page or a dot org domain. Yet, because of that, I find myself paralyzed by The Paradox of Choice. I feel desensitized by a lack of proportion between informational exposure and visceral experience. In my thirties I want to discover the thing that determines what color I bleed. I want to discover the thing worth protecting; worth dying for. And I want to empty everything I am into it.
- Lose the fear of rejection and failure. I’ve spent my whole life telling myself I’m not good enough to do X, or to be deserving of Y, because I’ve been afraid someone might confirm that appraisal if I actually tried. I’ve been the sum total of my own findings as a moral forensic accountant. I think this stems from my ability to so harshly judge others. I fear that they might return in kind. The first step is to probably give everyone else a break, and then give myself one. A whole new world will probably open up if I can get here.
- Disconnect. For all that it has exponentially improved the quality of my life, technology has also been a rapacious creditor. If I’m alone in public, and don’t have my cell phone so I can pretend to read emails/texts, I might actually pass out from a social-anxiety-based panic attack. I have completely forgotten what it means to participate in the physical world. I ping coworkers who sit five feet away from me rather than actually speak with them. If she’s not on Hinge or Tinder, I have no idea how I’m going to find my future wife. I need — to turn it — off. Go backpacking for a few days. Intentionally leave the smartphone at home. Practice smiling and saying ‘hello’ to strangers. I need to disconnect from technology, and reconnect with the physical world, that I may remember how wondrous it can be.
- Forget myself. I’ve referred to myself in this article, in one way or another, eighty four times so far. To be preoccupied with one’s own affairs is arguably a decent survival tactic. However, when taken to the extreme, as I have done in the past, that behavior imprisons me in a small, cold, windowless room. This world is full of people. Some of them are easier to like than others. All of them are trying to do the best they can with what they have. All of them deserve empathy and love — especially the ones who are difficult to love. When I forget myself, I remember you, and I remember that we’re all part of the same whole; the same experience. More than anything in the coming years, I wish to forget myself, and to remember to participate in the lives of others.