Experience and hope: a 30-year-old little girl

I turned 30 a few days ago.

If I may disclose a public secret — being 30 feels exactly like being 29, just like being 29 felt exactly like being 28…I don’t need to go on. But I can’t deny that the imaginary threshold is working on me, like an itchiness at the back of my brain, a phone ringing in the midnight that you’d eventually have to pick up — I can’t help thinking what does 30 years’ life mean, if it means anything at all, and what kind of existence should a 30-year-old person stand for.

I’ve always been a pessimist. And I had all these peculiar beliefs that I held on to firmly when I was little. For example, since I started to form the minimal level of independent thoughts (ie. mid-primary school), I had been telling everyone around me that “I’m going to die before 30.” I was so certain of it for 2 reasons: 1, I couldn’t bear to even imagine I would be a 30-year-old woman one day — it simply sounded dreadful. I didn’t consider how exactly I would die (apparently I thought I would have loads of time to work out a plan) if it doesn’t happen naturally, I just knew I had to; 2, I thought 30 years was more than enough to live — in my young immature mind, everything I ever wanted to experience (eg, being able to go to bed as late as I want; being able to watch TV as much as I want; having a job I like and getting paid, having a boyfriend and sweet love, etc) would definitely happen before 30 and everything afterwards would just be repetitive boredom.

The other this kind of bold and “laughable” statements I’ve made also include: I will never get married. (coz i don’t believe in it — the concept is too perfect for imperfect human beings); I will never have kids. (coz I can’t bring myself to pass the underlying pain of life to another person while I couldn’t even convince myself my life is worth living. The whole deal of giving birth — creating life for the enjoyment of oneself or whatever other selfish reasons — makes little sense to me.)

As I am 30 now, I guess this is the first time “things go against wish” for the younger self of me and her assertive pledges — I have disappointed her, by turning 30. I almost feel sorry, while at the same time, I, as the 30-year-old present self, take it quite well. It even feels like a pleasant surprise — having lived for 30 years in this world trapped in this body is, in my own standard, quite an achievement, no matter if it felt like one or not.

So what kind of 30-year-old person am I? (deep breathe.) I guess it’s time to do a reality check. (/damage assessment)

  • I have no savings (at all).
  • I am a property owner in paper thanks to Chinese parenting and I’m very much in debt (only 29.3 years left).
  • I am single, with baggages, inevitably.
  • I have a job, one that numbs my soul and pays the bills.
  • I have been living in a city I dislike for 12 years.
  • I have identity crisis. Being culturally marginalized for almost half my time, I barely have any sense of attribution to any cities I’ve lived. I’m rather detached political-wise and the priority level of my mother language is fading in my brain.
  • I have an estranged relationship with my parents, who still treat me like I’m 15 and incapable of living my life. It unsettles me when I try to imagine the discrepancy between the daughter in their mind and who I really am.
  • I am self-diagnosed as sociopath and misanthropist. My sense of socialness is decreasing and it’s almost impossible for me to make new friends. Obsessed with deep, intimate and intellectually equal connections, I find it unbearable to carry most casual conversations with general acquaintances.
  • I started to see a therapist a while ago when I sensed symptoms of depression.
  • I am evidently not a happy person. (But even for me it takes some courage to admit that.)

Obviously I can’t say I’m at my prime state at this point of my life, but if I’m being fair to myself, I would say I’m not a terrible person, even faintly likable, with a certain quaintness; I’m definitely not dull, somewhat intelligent, and I don’t believe my life is on the boring side on a scale of interestingness. I’ve always known myself as an experience-driven person, and I did experience things, even tho I never went out of my way to seek for them. Thinking back, my experience portfolio is probably the only thing I unquestionably possess.

But don’t get it wrong — when one is at my age (now I’m starting to sound like I’m 30), one should have realized that experiences are not always valuable, not even for someone who lives on experiences like me.

Of course I have had many nice experiences, ones that at some point did convince me my life is worth living just to have that. The moments of falling in love, even with the most impossible persons; the girl history, without which I wouldn’t know first-hand the existence of spectrum and the possibilities in sexuality; the places travelled, roads walked, people encountered, the ultimate excitement of doing something adventurous as a solo traveller; the day I got my first and only tattoo; the sweet moments in relationships like when he knelt down to help me redo my shoelace; the evening of my best friend’s wedding and the MOH speech I had to get myself half-drunk to deliver; the years working in the newsroom and the primitive satisfaction despite of the realistic limitations and being poorly paid; the sparkling and witty conversations on a breezy night with someone like-minded that made me feel like I was in Woody Allen’s movie; the shivering in heart when greatly moved by cinematography, literature, architecture and art; the perfect state of mind briefly found in Kyoto; the late night picnic by an abandoned reservoir overseen by a sky of stars, the rainy getaway weekend on a local touristy island, the psychedelic camping on a remote beach, the rooftop sex, and all the crazy and romantic situationist love-making.

Then there were those experiences that only served the purpose of opening your eyes, those you don’t mind but probably wouldn’t wanna have again. The drugs, the bad trip, the ridiculous parties and clubs, the threesome, the junk boat, the motorbike accident in the middle of nowhere in Thailand, the moment of lying in my own blood and not sure how alive I was, the ultimate fear and loneliness.

Then there were those that you secretly wish they never happened. The cheating that ended my first relationship and damaged my trust system. The cheating that ended my last relationship and the continuous suffering from the guilt and remorse even two years after the breakup. The alcoholism of an ex-boyfriend. The afternoon of being sexually assaulted in primary school, which I subconsciously chose to forget for the whole childhood and only remembered it years into adulthood. The phase of being sexually confused and lost. The dark passage of self-decadency. The illness. The dreadful moment of getting a call of “bad news” and the horrible 24 hours before I found it out. The demoralizing days that I had to force myself to face treatments, surgeries, medical reports and expensive hospital bills. The embarrassment of dragging myself to SLAA meeting, sitting with a bunch of random strangers and realizing knowing there’re people like me or even more fucked up does not help.

I can’t bother to even try to be comprehensive and logical when I disorderly list out my experiences, and there must be a lot others hidden in the shadow along the memory lane. But I do wonder if these will all flash up at the moment before I die like what people always said — your whole life playing like a fast-forwarding movie in 30 seconds, a condensed capsule to give you a conclusive push.

The thing is, even though I’m dealing with my complexities and polarities, trying to neutralize the self-loathing that evades frequently, when I think about it hypothetically yet seriously, I still wouldn’t say I’d rather swap my life with another kind given the chance — not because I am narcissistic in nature (though it may be factual), but that I wouldn’t be able to imagine who on earth I am if I had never experienced all the pains and struggles, love and hurt. I am tamed by my personal history, my 30-year-long life. I’ve come far enough that I wouldn’t even intend to live differently from scratch, not to mention that I can’t.

For a long time I thought finding happiness is the goal of life, and wanting normal happiness is a humble wish. If there’s anything I could say based on my 30 years’ life, I’d say that is perhaps a bit too aggressive for my kind. I still hope for happiness, unmistakably, but I have also come to the realization that attaining happiness could be beyond my reach,while making peace with pain is less far-reaching.

30 years in life, you’d have realized it’s time to let go of the “wished self” and deal with the “status-quo self”; it’s time to let go of the “wished life” and deal with the “status-quo” life. 30 years in life, you’d have realized life has never been so cruelly real the way it is now, and even more, it had actually been so cruelly real all the time without you noticing; you’d feel like you have a lot to catch up in terms of the realness and you might feel tired already just by thinking of what’s waiting ahead, but it’d also give you a sense of relief, that life, is unavoidably happening. 30 years in life, you’d see it’s not about trying to decide what kind of life you want anymore, it’s only about remembering to breathe, living it, being it, it’s about putting yourself on the spot, giving it out, taking care of every trivial detail wholeheartedly, and praying that it would not be as terrifying as it seems. 30 years in life, I’m still not quite sure what this is about, if there is any meaning, why am I here, but one thing is affirmative, life itself has creepingly convinced me to stay longer than I ever planned, with everything it has put me through.

I do still have a vision of myself, however vague it is. I will still be cool, even tho being cool is not important to me anymore. I will be able to love unreservedly again and it will be worth it despite of everything. I will do a few things I’m proud of, out of the daily banality. I will experience more and hopefully I will know how to contain it better. I will deal with more pain and I will be a stronger person by then. My boldest guess of life — I might even be a mother one day, and if it happens I will be able to tell him/her: “You’re a wanted child, you are here for a reason.”And of course, I will let them know what a miracle it is for a girl who used to only want to live for no more than 30 years.

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