When I was in first year university, I thought I had my path before 20 planned out. I would apply for medical school in my 3rd year, get accepted, and be one of those few special cases that finish 4th year of undergrad and 1st year of med school at the same time. For my twentieth birthday, I would have just started this 4th/1st year overlap. I would have accomplished much by this important birthday, or so I thought.
Yeah, none of that happened.
I changed my academic and career directions after 2nd year, but a heck of a lot of different kinds of wonderful have happened since.
As my 30th approached, I wondered how I would react. Would I be sad? Would I feel old? Would I feel disappointed? Would I feel excited? Would I feel anxious?
If anything at all worries me or makes me scared, it’s how fast time passes, and how my body isn’t what it used to be. What? Hurricane Katrina was 5 years ago? What? I walk for 10km and I’m sore the next day?
But otherwise, I’m at peace. And I believe it’s because I don’t have regret.
I travelled when I wanted to, changed jobs when I wanted to. I’ve loved, been loved, and lost. I saved money, I spent money. I relaxed, I worked hard. I learned, I grew, I expanded my horizons. I’m proud of me.
One thing that I’m happiest about, is that I had a chance to really understand who I am. I’ve lived alone for most of my 20s. I’ve travelled almost exclusively alone. And it has given me time to enjoy my own company and learn what I’m passionate about, what my boundaries are, what I deserve, what my weaknesses and strengths are, and what makes me unique. I know what the life I want feels like, and I’m not settling for less.
I won’t say that my 20s were perfect. I definitely have wishes to live more healthily, or stay in better contact with friends and family. I know I’m a bit of a hermit, a mystery to many. I’m happy that way, but I know it sometimes impacts those close to me.
This post is not meant to be one where I list my accomplishments, and try to impress you with what I have done in the past decade. The important people in my life know all this.
Neither is this post meant to list all the things I plan to accomplish in the next decade. Making plans that far in advance means I might miss out on opportunities outside that narrow field of view. This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals and hope, but I’d like to keep them a bit of a mystery.
So what is my message?
As I turn 30, I’m happy. I’m at the Hyatt in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstsan*. I’ve just had my hair cut and my nails did**, and am enjoying a fairly quiet day. I’m spending it alone, but I’m not lonely.
I’m content, with no regrets. Happy Birthday to me.
*Actually, I’m not. I’m sitting outside in the shade at a guesthouse in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan a few days earlier. I’ve got some time on my hands and I’ve been reflecting.
**Actually, I didn’t. I ended up getting my hair cut two days earlier in Bokonbaevo, and I didn’t feel like a salon today.