I turn thirty today. I don’t know what to think about it. Clearly I am not twenty anymore, not twenty-five, not glorious twenty-eight. I’m wiser but not as cynical as I thought I would be. In fact, I’m a little more hopeful than I was at twenty-two. I’m hopeful because I have tools now. At twenty-two years old, it was very difficult, almost impossible, to manage time and tangibly understand how life chaotically worked between mundane routine and intense transitions. At twenty-two my body was seemingly indestructible, could handle a nine Jameson shot hangover without throwing up, and maintained a high level of confidence despite all the drugs and salt and sugar I had thrown into it. I was overconfident at twenty-two but underperformed quite often. When I accomplished things in my twenties, I took most of my awards for granted, did not appreciate the fruit for what it was and, instead, wanted more. I thought I wanted to be a writer, when indeed I was a writer, and until I reached that “writer” identity I wasn’t convinced that I was truly happy. But, in hindsight, I was happy and, more importantly, compelled to live. God, I wish I recognized that then. God, I wish I took a step aside and fully realized “I’m doing it! I’m doing what I want to do!”
It is, now, in my thirties where I am asking myself if the things that I’m doing are things that I want to do. Some things, yes. Other things, no. For the things that I don’t want to do, I don’t know why I do them. Responsibility is a good excuse. Money, a great excuse. I work to make money. What I do for a job almost doesn’t even matter if money is the only goal. But, I know, that’s never true. Money isn’t the only goal. 40 hours a week, 365 days a year, is a huge chunk of my life, and I’ve spent chunks of my life doing things just for money. I look back at those hours spent working as an uninspired, muddy haze with glimmers of contentment. I don’t want to move forward knowing that will be my future too. I spend too much time thinking about things that I don’t want to do, and not enough time doing things I want to do. It’s an unsteady ride, a constant teeter-totter between dissatisfaction and satisfaction, fear and freedom.
At this age of thirty, I cultivated more tools. What kind of tools? Well, there’s a mental process before making the right or wrong decision. I’m making more of the right decisions based on a deep conversation with my feelings, with my body. If something I’m eating is making me feel subtlety sick, I stop eating it. If someone is giving me a hard time about something irrelevant, I stop hanging out with them. I try hard to maintain a good diet, a decent sleep schedule, a clean home, a physically strong body. There are sacrifices and hard work and unpleasant feelings that accompany this daily maintenance. But I find the diminishing returns are minimum, and the joys are longer lasting. On my cynical days, I think that “building a meaningful future” is an illusion because meaningful is a subjective term and there can be too many unexpected, unintended variables that could change the course of my life. But, on my faithful days, I do believe in building a meaningful future. The only way to do that is to make good decisions and proper actions in the present moment. The hardest part about that whole thing is deciphering what is a good decision, what is a proper action?
I think the most important tool, a tool that anyone of any age needs, is the art of presence. Presence is fleeting, literally. If the past and the future had walls, the walls would be constantly touching. It would impossible to extract the present moment because there seems to be no space for it. That’s why it’s so hard to appreciate good things, to stay present. I am thinking about the future or the past, my anxieties reflecting those two flashy territories. But somewhere where the walls touch is the present. And that’s where all the actual work happens.
What does this all mean as I turn thirty today? I can’t make an easy answer out of it. I know that the journey is far from over. I know that I’m still amazingly young and healthy and loaded with potential. I’m curious how I will reflect on this when, God-willing, I turn forty. Maybe I’ll be saying similar things. Maybe I’ll believe everything to be the opposite. But there I go again, thinking too far into the future. I should stay along the line of the two walls. Stay present. Enjoy writing this little post. Realize I’m doing it right now: I’m doing what I want to do.