In a few weeks, I’ll be turning thirty. It’s not a big deal – at least I know it shouldn’t be, but I can’t help but fixate on the fact that I will be thirty. I will have lived thirty whole years on this earth!
It is surreal. And it does feel like a big deal, especially since I’m also going to get married this year and embark on a new journey blah blah blah. Inside, I feel not much different from the 21-year-old who graduated from college nine years ago. I run my own business but I still feel quite lost sometimes, wondering if I am walking the right path or just bumbling my way through it.
Some time ago, I was walking towards what I thought was my mountain. It’s a metaphor Neil Gaiman used in a commencement speech. There was no career path for him, just a long and twisting road with a mountain visible just beyond the horizon. For him, it was to be a writer of good fiction, in whatever form that may take. You keep to that road and you stay on it, he said. Anything that took you away from that mountain, he warned, you say no to.
I’ve lost sight of any mountain, honestly. I used to believe that becoming a writer was also what I was meant for. And for some time, I did very well staying on the path no matter how confusing the journey was. But other things came calling and I could not turn away from what was asked of me. Besides, I told myself, J.K. Rowling became a writer at forty. I still have time!
I am hoping that to be thirty means acquiring a sense of certainty, a deepening of my understanding of the world – a sudden jolt of genius that strikes at midnight, when everything finally comes together and forms a complete picture. Maybe my purpose will be laid clear and I will step out of my cocoon to fly to whatever mountain I’m destined for.
Of course, reality tells me that no, there is no aha! moment, no grand awakening to look forward to. There will only be me as I am now, a few weeks older and quite bewildered at how I got to be thirty all of a sudden.
Maybe the mountain is not outside, but inside of us. Maybe the only thing we have to surmount in this world is ourselves; the distance we walk doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t even matter what we do or what we’re walking towards. The mountains of our identity – who we are, what we care about, why we hate, why we love – can be already too much of a climb that we pant and wheeze and get nauseated from vertigo. How can we even look to a distant, fictionalized mountain when we can’t even conquer our own?
But what do I know? I’m just a 29-year-old about to turn thirty.