I am turning 30 years old on Jun 11 and do not yet own a house or a car, have any title attached to my name, make six figures, have clear skin and a six-pack, and am nowhere close to getting married or having a child.
There has always been this unwritten rule that people who turned 30 years old must have already been in a stable place – whatever that means. Unstable people who are turning 30, as a result, become all panicky.
While my family and friends have been nothing but supportive (which they show by avoiding the questions they know I do not want to hear), there remains a part in me that constantly feels panicked and pressured – which I blame on countless pieces of literature that made turning 30 such a big deal. As a bookworm and a film buff, I can no longer count the books and movies that showed me the impossible standards of being 30 years old.
But my life is nowhere near the pictures painted by literature and cinema, by the arts and culture. I am turning 30 tomorrow and I am still renting an apartment, juggling multiple jobs, and living alone with my cat Helga. This may look sad to society's standards but this looks just about right and nice to me because, seriously, how can I afford to buy my own house or car in this economy, when there have been rising living costs and stagnating wages in the global market in the past years?
This panic and pressure brought about by turning 30 did not only come to me recently; I knew I have been carrying it for quite some time now. I may not know it then just yet, but maybe the reason why I permanently left Facebook and Twitter last year and the reason why I relocated to a province I did not have family and friends in early this year was because I became, unknowingly, anxious as to where my life was headed. I wanted to avoid the people and their questions. I found solace in being away and independent.
In the beauty of quietness that I have been slowly discovering since last year, I heard my thoughts more. And of these thoughts bloomed the questions: How did this 30-as-a-deadline myth start? Should I let myself fear this deadline? Who thought it was a good idea to impose on people that there were some age standards to abide by?
Why didn’t we just leave other people alone?
‘There are many paths to happiness and success’
When I finished college in 2014, I immediately worked in the field of journalism because that is what I always thought I wanted to do – to search and craft the most compelling stories for the masses. My 10 fingers will not be enough to count the TV documentaries and print and online articles that I have produced already. I thought I would stay in the industry forever because, truthfully, I loved it so much. And weren't we taught to never leave our One Great Love?
But as I grew, I learned that it would be unwise to limit myself to just one path when, in reality, there were many paths leading to happiness and success. As a society, we just refused to think that way because of our obsession with identity.
When I was asked "Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?" back when I was yet a fresh college graduate, I can still remember perfectly well that I said I would still be doing great as a writer. It was, after all, my first love.
Eight years later, my answer has become completely different.
As we speak, I am working to complete my requirements for my enrollment in law school – something that I have long wanted to do and something that has long been a big What if? to me. So, my answer to the question now is already “To finally become a lawyer.”
I have learned that there is no single path to happiness and that there is no single formula for success. Just like many other perfectly normal human beings living in the 21st century, my heart can have many desires, too, and isn’t that beautiful?
Did I lie in 2014? No. It is just that I have learned that there is no single path to happiness and that there is no single formula for success. Just like many other perfectly normal human beings living in the 21st century, my heart can have many desires, too, and isn’t that beautiful?
In the past years, I kept thinking that it was already too late for me to pursue legal studies because of my age or because I have already grown too comfortable in my current career. I always felt that I was already settled in what was then my chosen life, so what was the point of doing something that was completely off-track? Wouldn’t that cause a great disruption in the life that I have already built?
Truth be told, while I really loved the life I built around my career in writing, I have also always been extremely interested in the law and jurisprudence and have always known that I can use my skills and passion to help the poor and the marginalized, so why should I stop myself from doing so just because I am turning 30 – pretty late and pretty old – already? I object to that, Your Honor.
So life does not end at 30, or at any age for that matter. If my 20s were spent pursuing my first love, then maybe my 30s will be spent doing my other passion, and then my 40s will be for something else, and so forth. My body clock is different from anybody else’s and maybe that is just how life is.
I am just grateful now to still have the energy to, somehow, begin a new life. And isn’t it amazing to think just how many things you can do in life? What’s the fun in giving yourself a deadline?
The deadline is not 30. The deadline is whenever you set it.
No further questions. I rest my case.
Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who writes in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, and gender. The views expressed are his own.
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