Only got 30 minutes to write this before my next class starts. I’ve been working like a nutter for the last two months, teaching English, and on the side I’m trying to get my novel published – editing it, sending it to folks – and I’m also trying to get in shape, and I’m also trying to do social life stuff, and I’m also trying to eat a balanced healthy diet, and I’m also trying to get enough sleep, and—
I’m quite tired.
I’m 30 in 3 weeks and 2 days. I feel weird about it. I knew I’d feel weird about it, but I didn’t anticipate quite how much my brain would fry in the leadup to the big birthday. I don’t look any different to how I looked 6 years ago – hair a bit thinner maybe, ears a bit hairier, but otherwise the same – but I feel worried about 30 because I’m pre-empting how the world will see me: that is, differently.
I didn’t care a toss when I was 25 because I was smack in my mid-20s and nobody expects you to have an idea of what you want in life, or to have any money, or to have achieved much. At 30… I kind of feel like people do. And I don’t/haven’t. I mean, I’ve travelled more than just about anybody I know, which is nice, and I’ve made a lot of friends all over the world and I’ve done cool things. Bollywood film. Himalayas. Volcanoes. Day of the Dead. Distant desert gurus. Salsa. All that stuff. But I don’t really… have anything to show for it???
I know, I know. Me – lamenting a lack of physical possessions. 21 year old Dan would have nutted me. Or more realistically, he’d have just looked at me with poorly-concealed disdain and then written a strongly-worded blog post about me. I’d have called myself a sell-out. Who cares about physical things? Objects? Silly.
But it’s not so silly when you get back from another long wander, only to find that, while you’ve been away gallivanting, other people your own age – people whose minds work normally, people capable of thinking one thought at a time – have been quietly beavering away, playing the long game, tortoise and hare, and now own houses and cars and wedding rings. I own two backpacks and a fistful of grubby travel clothes that don’t match. My head is full of memories, yeah – but you can’t eat memories. They can’t keep you warm and dry. You can’t hug them.
I think experiences are wonderful. But I made mistakes in my 20s: I put them above everything else in the world. Nothing was more important than the next cool ‘thing’. This mindset, while very romantic and thrilling, has seen me slowly dig myself into quite a large hole, right on the cusp of my 30th year. My best friends are scattered around the world like confetti. My bank balance is low. My love life doesn’t exist: suffice it to say, I have made mistakes.
People might not give a crap that I’m 30. They might just be like ‘cool’ when I say my age. But what if they’re not? What if I get strange looks, curious faces, because I don’t own a car or an expensive coat? Should I commit to possessions, now that I’m older, so people will think I’m successful? I don’t really know what success is. When I was younger I believed it was simply living as fully as possible – being wild and reckless, being silly, laughing every day and telling your friends you love them. But now, out of nowhere, other words have entered my consciousness, rebounding around my head for weeks on end: stability. Security. Building a future.
So I’m torn. Teaching English online is fun and I am finally working in a role that I have a natural flair for. My students give me 5-star reviews; that’s amazing. But it doesn’t pay very well – at all – and I’m scared it could all fall down around me very easily. I guess that’s the nature of working for yourself; there’s no buffer between you and failure. I could pack it in and swing for the safety and good pay of another SEO writing gig at an ad agency, in London or somewhere, I don’t know, but that feels like the easy way out. And to be honest, I think a lot of my past regrets have come from taking the easy way out.
It’s weird. Years ago I was only afraid of one thing: wasted time. The idea of spending my youth at a desk in some glum office made me want to combust. So I used my youth – I did. I wrung it out for all it was worth. But you can’t have everything, and security and adventure make for strange bedfellows. I still feel the desire, as always, to be everything, everywhere, all at once – a writer, an adventurer, a journalist, a teacher, a fuckin lumberjack, in Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Namibia, whatever. But I also feel the tug of tranquillity: the simplicity of picking one damn life and sticking to it. Is it possible to have both? Or will these competing desires leave me stuck, forever afraid to move in any one direction? Or will I simply burst, pulled apart by the grumpy horses of clashing impulses? Idk man. Idk.
I’m determined to be better than I was seven years, five years, one year ago. I’m determined to be smarter, stronger, and a better man – less chaotic, frustrated and ultimately damaging to those around me. But that comes with a lot of pressure – and as you can probably deduce, a fair whack of stress. I am stressed. And quite scared, to be honest. I never used to be scared of the future. For a decade I told anybody who would listen that the future wasn’t a concern because I was in control of it – and why should I worry about something that I had the capacity to influence? I trusted myself.
I’m not sure I trust myself at the moment. I’ve slowly seen what a mess I can make of life if I let go, give in to random impulses and wanton desires and dreams. I feel nervous now because the next phase of my life – whatever that’s going to look like – will require willpower. It’ll require me being wise enough to recognise when my brain is going haywire, and to work to fix it on a long term basis instead of doing anything – unhealthy things – to shut it up. And I’ve always been so bad at that. But I keep telling myself: it’s a game of inches. Keep chipping away at it, keep teaching, and take things day by day. Good things take time.
There we go: a 20 minute article. Now I’ve got time for a coffee before my class starts. Aren’t I good.