I spent my 29th birthday 2 weeks ago.
I didn’t know my birthday was coming until all the banks sent me text messages at the beginning of this month. I didn’t plan to celebrate my birthday, just like in the past two years.
It panics me to know that I’m another year older now. I am racing against time to get myself together, to do the things I should have done many years ago, and ultimately, to build a solid identity. As much as I have progressed since my first try, it’s still not enough. I know there’re still tons of things I can improve on. I haven’t reached a state in which I could find equilibrium within while coping with my insanely hectic work. My routine system is fragile and can be easily disrupted. I still constantly feel guilty and anxious for not making the most of my precious time. I don’t want to be reminded that my 30 is coming and I’m not ready yet.
The night before my birthday, a girl from the UK I met on Tinder earlier insisted to buy me a cake, so I invited her to have a veggie dinner. It was my birthday, so it was mainly me navigating the topics. I told her how I felt about getting old and why I was anxious. I explained how my past had left an indelible impact on me, and why that attributes to my anxiety as well. I don’t want my past to dictate who I will become, so I have been consciously reparenting myself since recent years. For me, 30 doesn’t only mean 三十而立 (At thirty, one must become well established), it also means juggling with learning computer science that others had already started learning in their early 20; working my ass off to stay competitive in work; learning how to deal with solitude, how to handle relationship, how to speak in public, how to live like a truly mature man in the turbulent modern world, .etc. I’ve always been feeling inadequate. I need more time.
The English lady is in her early 20, so I gave her a lot of unsolicited advice that I wish somebody had told me when I was her age. I told her that 20-something is crucial in one’s life and that you need to be careful with your time and start to build your identity capital as soon as possible. It’s not all about preaching the virtual of hard work and succumbing to meritocratic capitalism. It’s about building your identity, and more importantly, creating the meaning of your life by yourself.
3 years ago, I was totally lost, finding myself trapped in the so-called ‘quarter life crisis’. I collapsed and cried during a phone call with my ex-girlfriend. After an embarrassing and exhausting relationship, I decided that I needed a drastic change. So I started with a career change. It was a rewarding journey for me. What I gained is not all about career advancement. More importantly, it’s about building my identity. There were countless times that I got held back when asked to introduce myself. I found it hard to explain to people what motivates me, what excites me, or what I contribute my energy to. There wasn’t a guiding force in my life.
I’m still on this journey of self-parenting and building identity capital. It was a little embarrassing for me to say it in public. But here I am, with complete honesty, telling you a little story of a late grown-up (not a bloomer yet). However, I’m not justifying my anxiety. I’m not trying to persuade anyone else in a similar situation that they should feel the same. People have different priorities in life, anyone should feel fulfilled if he or she finds enjoyment in what they’re doing.
If you’re in your 20 and feel that there must be more in life. I recommend you to watch these two YouTube videos: