"Thirty, flirty and thriving."
10 years ago, I was forced against my will to watch 13 Going on 30, the romantic comedy starring Jennifer Garner. For those of you not lucky enough to have seen the film, it's about an unpopular girl who believes that life is much better when you're 30 and don't have to deal with being an awkward teenager. I was 20 at the time, and although the girl's imagination about what being 30 was like was silly, I probably had just about as much of a misguided view of what 30 would look like.
In many a sense, there is no magical thing that happens to you when you're 30; you don't all of a sudden transform or transition into a different life stage. As with any age, it's a simple demarcation of how many times you've happened to circle around the sun on this spaceship we call Earth. Ideas about the big "three oh" are cultural constructs that conclude for us that one stage of life is over and another has begun. Being 30 is pretty similar to being 29, or 31, or even 28ish. There is no hard step function that throws you off some proverbial cliff at this age.
However, I do believe that at 30, it's one of those first times you truly reflect and wonder what you've done with your time around here. If you're incredibly neurotic like myself, you start by wishing you were like Garner's character at the end of the movie, wishing you could turn back to a younger age so you don't make terrible choices that get you to where you are today. Unfortunately, I have this rare impairment in which I continually bathe myself with regrets of "what could have been", battle a nagging idealistic belief that I can still turn it around, and paralyze myself with the thought of what it will take to have these visions fully redeemed.
It's because of this impairment I've been living my life at a sub-optimal setting. I won't mince words, past half decade or so has been the most depressing and disappointing time of my life. I feel like I did my twenties wrong, that awesome momentous things that were supposed to happen never happened because I was a spectator of my own life, just watching it, not experiencing it. It's probably because in the first 22 years of my life, I was bred and trained for a secure life, and have been conditioned to expect the psychological comforts of such a life. In trying to rewrite the narrative, I neglected to realize that I'd have to scrap the chapters of the old life and outline new ones for the path I chose.
It doesn't help to have signs along the road nagging you to turn around. My sister recently watched the last two episodes of Breaking Bad at my parents' home. My parents just watched it with her, with absolutely no context of what was going on in the show. What my mom came away with was the fear that I would eventually become like Walter White. I was offended. While it's true that I did have a proclivity to chemistry in high school, I can hardly see myself making so many mistakes on my way to becoming a meth lord. But seriously, her thought was that I was living my life in a way where upon learning I had a terminal illness, I would embark on some epic end-life crisis of carnage and destruction.
My mom never fails to mention her friend's son who works for some big hedge fund in Chicago (probably Citadel, meh) who apparently recently sent her friend to a vacation in Tahiti (pronounced, "Tai-tea" by my mom, to which my sister had to translate after I had asked 5 times what she said) The unfortunate cocktail of being Asian, having a sister who also essentially rendered her high powered elite college education useless, and having friends with kids that are actually doctors and lawyers and Taitea-vacation buying hedge fund analysts creates some friction within the family.
And it's not like I don't do the same invisible measuring stick comparisons myself. Of course I've speculated that staying the course would have led to yearly 7 figure paydays. It doesn't help that my childhood friend that I used to joke about creating empires with is a multibillionaire founder of a social networking behemoth, or that I surround myself with people who have achieved some sort of stratospherical success around my age.
On a recent flight back to LA, I saw an Asian guy like me dressed in full business casual wear. I'd guess he was my age, or maybe a bit younger, with a stack of papers on his tray table reading a book from his iPad. I started thinking, in another life, that could've been me, at some well-to-do job. And maybe it wouldn't have been so bad, I could be at some fascinating start-up. My roommate runs a fashion start-up and his job is pretty damn cool, even without the whole working with hot models in your office aspect of it.
Or perhaps I should have turned to a stable life to make myself seem more marriageable and thus more romantically successful (being single for over a decade tends to make one wonder about such things). I used to feel contempt for those who it seemed their sole purpose of being was to get married and have kids and make it obvious by posting infinite pictures of their kids online. But now I start to think, maybe they were on to something, maybe being an artist with something to say and trying to influence the world isn't really worth giving up a stable, happy family life. Did I get it all wrong?
But at some point in the reflection process, you start to take stock of what you actually did accomplish. So, I asked myself, "Hey Doug, what did you do all those years since you graduated college?" So I said, "Well, Doug, that's a good question." Here's a short resume of what I came up with:
- a nice story from Las Vegas and some dollars here and there left over to tell about it
- 1.5 years worth of work experience at a consulting firm
- 2 years of training at an acting conservatory
- a Platinum 1v1 Starcraft ranking
- a collection of failed romance and heartbreak
- trained for and ran a half marathon after a decade of not running at all
- that one time i cooked porkchops with squash and that other time i cooked duck breast with zucchini
- moved to Los Angeles and tricked some people into representing me
- creation of my first project of actual artistic vision
That's not a very impressive list. While I did manage to get a few balls rolling, sometimes it just doesn't feel like enough, which makes me feel anxious every passing day. I can feel it building, as if I now have to make up for lost time. I feel kind of like stoppage time in soccer when neither team has scored a goal the entire game and now you have this unknown amount of time to make something happen before time really does run out.* I look at myself and think, I shouldn't be 30 yet. There's stuff I haven't done! It can't end like this!
* WTF DID I JUST MAKE A SOCCER ANALOGY?!
It's tempting to view life by looking at the past and trying to predict future performance. At 30, it seems that one's trajectory should be set, and one's progress can be predicted by calculating 1st and 2nd derivatives, and plugging in t to solve for y.
But the truth is, despite my apocalyptic view on turning 30, there is time to make things happen. There is time to change it around dagnabit. Which is why I'm starting this new blog, ushering a new year and a new decade of life. Of course, you might think, bullshit Doug, you turned 30 two months ago and you didn't write about until now, and then you didn't post anything until two weeks into the new year!
But I hope to be consistent with this blog and to really document this journey I have taken to keep myself accountable and to finally get going. I pledge to write at least one blog a week. And who knows, maybe you'll get a video or a song or a poem down the line.