Today I turn 30. So what?
Assigning importance to your 20s or 30s is like a new-years resolution. You are putting too much faith in an arbitrary date range.
But still, I can’t help it. My 20s are over. Forever. F o r e v e r.
I feel like my entire life took place in my 20s. Everything before 18 was autopilot. Everything after it was mine. So it feels like a big deal that it’s now over.
Naturally, I don’t really feel any different today. I still feel young and invincible. The only evidence of my aging is a dozen gray hairs on my temples, and those have been there since 27.
But arbitrary rituals and meaning are pretty much all human culture is, so I’ll make a little fuss today on my 30th birthday.
Is it gonna get boring now?
My 20s felt like an abundant decade. I did so many things! I can’t relate when people say their youth passed by in the blink of an eye. My 20s felt long, in a good way, because so many interesting things happened.
Now I’m starting a whole new decade, this time as a way better version of me. It should be even better!
But wait. I’m getting older. Will my 30s really be better than my 20s? Will I be able to take bold risks and life live to the fullest? Or will I run up against limits, due to my age.
In my 20s I would go anywhere, sleep anywhere, eat anything. Am I going to be a 34 year old sleeping in a shitty bunk bed in a 16 person hostel in Korea? Or a suffocatingly hot overnight train in Thailand? Somehow I doubt it.
But my favorite memories from my 20s come from those weird, uncomfortable experiences that I was willing to have at 25.
The truth is. I’ve changed with age. My standards of comfort and privacy have risen, and with that, I limit my options.
Maybe even more than physical changes, these mental changes remind me of my mortality. They feel like the real signs of aging. You can stay in shape well into old age. But this is a bit more complicated.
Luckily, during my adventures, I met numerous men in their 40s, 50s, even 60s, whose lifestyle I can genuinely admire. They’re not still living like a scrappy 24 year old backpacker obviously. They are most stable, more established, as one would expect for their age. But their life is full of zest.
Meeting them lets me go secure in the knowledge that it can be done.
Novelty is getting old
I spent my 20s chasing novel experiences. New travel destinations. New cultures. New foods. New adventures. New women. New skills. New creative pursuits.
What could be better than tasting everything the world has to offer?
I thought I’d be excited by that kind of life forever. But apparently not. I’ve felt my interests shift the last few years.
Novelty is still exciting. But I find myself less and less inclined to throw everything to the wind and chase novelty.
Instead, I find myself more interested in deepening my relationship with what I already “have”.
Stop being a student
“You’re always a student of life.”
I’ve embraced this philosophy in the past. It’s comforting. Being a student is fun. There’s not much responsibility. If you fail, it’s ok - you’re just a student.
Being a student is so nice, why not just take on the identify of a student in all things, forever?
Because that limits your potential.
There’s a progression from student to master. As you gain experience in everything you do in life, you can start becoming a master in some of those things.
But that requires letting go of this “forever a student” identity. It requires accepting and trusting in your own competence. Most people, me included, underestimate themselves. They feel like they aren’t good enough to be a master of something.
But I realize now, as I turn 30, that I have learned so much that my 20 year old self had no idea about. And there are millions of people, of all ages, who have not learned the things I’ve learned.
If I hold on to the identity of a student, I’ll never feel like I’m in a position to help them. I still need to learn more.
But if I embrace the role of a master, I can continue the chain of masters teaching students who then become masters to new students. I make a positive impact on the world.