I crossed the 3- a few months back. I didn’t blog then. And I hadn’t been blogging regularly despite my new year resolution.
If anything has changed, a sense of urgency had crept upon me that I never noticed before. Some days, I lie on my bed, open my eyes and start to think, it’s just another decade before I’m 40, and another before 50 etc. It’s a path of no return. So, what do I want to do with my life?
I am not sure I will find the right answer. But I want this decade to be a process of finding that answer and making it work. I should certainly regret if I never try. For my thirties, I pray for the wisdom to be self-aware, for the clarity of vision in knowing what is important and for the discipline to be focused in trying to achieve my goals.
There is an interesting Chinese article on Wechat that I read a couple of months back, <二十几岁，没有十年> by 孙晴悦 . It translates loosely as, “Your Twenties Don’t Hold Ten Years“. There’s a book published by her under the same title, which I hadn’t read. But the article struck a chord:
The twenties are not like any other decade. At the beginning of the journey, we see it as a long long stretch of time. Endless. After all, at the age of twenty, a decade is half your living experience. It appears misleadingly as though an eternity awaits you. But as the author said, for many of us, the twenties are just made of “three” years – the first of which is spent aimlessly in the university, the second of which in we suddenly wake up to submit our CVs, rent apartments, rush after the train, and the third is spent doing work which we don’t like and living in a city which we do not want to. Then, suddenly, we wake up from the daze to discover that we are thirty.
And there is some truth to that. Enough truth that I start feeling a sense of loss for all the additional things that I wish I had done if I were given back that extravagance of the youthful decade.
I’m not saying that I hate being thirty. I love being in the thirties – you are at a stage of your life with enough financial capabilities, limited responsibilities, but enough energy, and gradually growing into your own maturity/style and having a better knowledge of yourself. What is there not to like?
And my twenties were certainly not wasted. I enjoyed university, and unlike many, I love learning and school changed me for the better. My first job both taught me and pushed my capabilities. I met the best colleagues who remain great friends even after I left. I wanted to try teaching – and I did. I got a scholarship and went to do the Masters that I always wanted, at a university that had been the place of my dreams from the time I was eight. After which I decided I needed to structure my own career development and not leave it in the hands of a firm that clearly had a different agenda from yours, and I went on to take up a job in an emerging economy. I also chose a place where I could retrace my own roots. I have lived in three entirely different cities in my twenties, each of which as I’m fully aware, shaped a part of the personality that I have grown into today. I explored three different career options, and took back something from each experience. I met a boy (actually, may be more than one) who made me contemplate a future together. It would be a denial of the privilege and good fortune that had been blessed upon me to downplay the wonderful experiences that I’ve had in this past decade. And yet, with the wisdom of hindsight and the maturity that time brings, I just wished… I spent my twenties even better.
I wish I had been even more open minded. More disciplined. I wish I had designed my career/work and love plans better. I wish I had more focus and had been more self-aware of my development path. I wish I wasted less time on unworthy people. I wish I spent each weekend a little better. I wish I spent each free hour more productively. I wish I picked up more skills. I wish I had the perseverance and determination to finish up with the lessons and the skills that I was trying to pick up. I wish I took care of myself better. I wish I took care of my family better.
I still do not know where I want to go, but I wish the thirty years old me will take this to heart and bring the message along as a reminder.
Our thirties will still hold mistakes and regrets and remind us of our inadequacies. But may my thirty years old self spend the next ten years in the company of the wisdom gained. Thou shall not make the same mistakes.
– Letters from my twenties.