With a little less than 30 days away from turning 30 years old, I woke up the other day (and actual several times in the past couple of months) with my anxiety through the roof and heart pounding, unsure of why I was so nervous about a seemingly normal day. I thought I had gotten over my constant existential meltdowns in my twenties, but here I am again, freshly restless.
To begin, I know that I am too comfortable. This makes me sound so ungrateful and spoiled by my blessings, and it’s funny because it’s everything I had worked towards for so much of my life, particularly the last 10 years, but I am indeed too comfortable. Apparently and ironically, this makes me feel restless.
I think a huge part of this moment of grander reflection is that I’m turning 30 and entering a new decade of my life. This sort of age-related milestone always seems to trigger emotional responses because it’s a signal of how far I’ve come, kind of like a highway sign. I was just listening to my music, cruising down the highway, living life, and all of a sudden, I’m reminded of how long I’ve been driving. Or, it’s like falling asleep on a plane and being woken up by the flight crew over the speaker system announcing that we should prepare for landing. I feel like I just woke up and I’m about to land in a new country, a combination of exhilaration and restlessness.
I look back to when I was 21, 24, 25 and can feel retrospectively how hectic my life felt. But with that chaos, I think I lived in a constant state of that exhilaration and restlessness that I think strangely simultaneously stressed me out and inspired me. It fueled me and motivated me to meet more people, visit more places and make changes to my life much more proactively and bravely. Back then, I was so desperate to reach this level of comfort that I’m now so wary of.
On another recent evening with another friend, as I sipped a dirty martini, which by the way is my new favorite cocktail, we spoke about how youth is such a mindset. If I break down what I’m nervous about leaving behind, it’s the idea that I had all of this energy and spontaneity when I was young, but now it seems like I don’t or won’t have those things. And it’s also an obvious case of hindsight.I have a tendency to romanticize the past, so looking back to when I was 21, 24, 25, I remember it as this time where I had all of the energy in the world.
Youth! I would go out every day of the week, meet new people constantly, go on solo adventures across the world. Our hearts were broken and mended and then broken again. We had so many people we met at bars and dinners and some of those people had us on some invisible string that we couldn’t seem to break free from. I grabbed a beer with a friend and got so excited and listened to songs that reminded me of them which made me giddy and confused and anxious. And youth was such a night owl. There were so many conversations and events that happened on long walks under the stars or in dimly lit living rooms. We’d fly from Hong Kong to Seoul to San Francisco to New York to Montpellier, go out for spontaneous drinks, dance with friends, and end nights with pizza or ramen.
But that time in my life was also hugely chaotic and I had so many mornings and nights where I’d feel this incredible hollow loneliness. I lived in New York and Seoul, some of which are the most lively and exhilarating cities in the world. But even when it felt like I was living in the center of the world, I floated around like the little lost soul that I was.
I think I’ve grown past that a bit, or at least I’d like to think I have. My friendships are far looser and more flexible, but I also understand my boundaries. I have a wonderful, loving partner – truly, his kindness is unmatched. My family is far more functioning than it was back then, and I would say I’m at peace. So I guess I’m wondering – was this my dream all along? Was this peaceful sense of contentment everything I had yearned for? Was my dream too big or was my dream too small? And was the cost too great?
I’m looking forward to a new decade, but I’m also looking forward to finding my next adventure.