Lifestyle is the career of the 21st century, and 30th birthdays are the new performance evaluation. In her blog about turning 30, my friend Grich said, “It’s that time in your life when you have to sit down, reflect, measure, and criticize the way you lived your life for the past 30 years.” Judging that she’s right, I believe that my turn to step under the formidable microscope has finally arrived.
Am I more successful now?
I had earned my star for perfecting the ABC, peed in my pants, posed for class pictures, feigned fevers and flu, won Quiz Bee medals, forged signatures, signed attendance sheets, and checked the attendance. I had gone through the drills of the CAT, passed the UPCAT, and failed job interviews. I had interviewed applicants, attended grad school, turned in overnight papers, reviewed students’ overnight papers, been promoted, and then resigned. I did my practicum at BOI, had bouts with UTI, worked in HR at Jollibee, and ate breakfasts at McDonald’s. I had earned a few awards from writing competitions, collected rejection slips, bought LOTTO tickets, and won a toaster at a raffle. I rode the subway in NYC, fell off a motorbike in my neighborhood, swam in a mud puddle, and sunbathed in Boracay.
Have I become a better person?
In the last 29 years, I have been stuck in traffic and had bits of food stuck between my teeth. I had mutton bone pried out of my mouth and occasions where I had to pull my foot out of my mouth. I’ve worn braces on my teeth and braced myself for bad news. I had cried at the movies, laughed at corny jokes, cheated on a test, and been cheated on. Several times, I had taken the garbage out and listened to trash. I’ve dated good men and bad, got stood up, stood someone up, manufactured “emergency” excuses on bad dates, and believed in excuses.
|I had gotten to know the meaning of success because I understood what failure is.|
In my life, I have had imaginary friends as well as people whose friendship I had only imagined. I’ve played a number of musical instruments. I had been played. I had questioned God’s existence and then prayed in crisis. I had worn a crown on my head once, and had my head on the toilet bowl a couple of times.
For someone crazy, I realize that I’ve managed to live a life that’s normal and extraordinarily ordinary, yet not devoid of irony and meaning. I have been to unpretty places so I could see what’s truly beautiful. I’ve been through times when I had nothing so I could learn to be grateful when there is only enough. I had gotten to know the meaning of success because I understood what failure is. More than once, it has looked me in the eyes, and I refused to be intimidated.
I am turning 30, and I haven’t made my first million yet. I don’t have a PhD (yet). I have not published a book (yet). I haven’t gone backpacking around Europe (yet). I have not raised a child (yet).
What do I know about success?
I’ve learned enough to understand that it’s not measurable by the number of commas I have on my bank account statements. Not even by the prefix or suffix I can add to my name. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, success is “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” Defying the word authority, I would say that success is the completion of a goal that you have set for yourself. And until you know what you want out of life, success will remain a quantitative measure of how far you’ve gone in life—an endless cat-and-mouse chase, a treadmill ride where you walk too fast to get nowhere.
In my lifetime, I have written more than a million words. If any of them had caused someone to smile or laugh and feel encouraged, I would consider more than half of my goals fulfilled. They say that life begins at 40, but I think that 30 is when you really understand what’s there to live for.
The author is celebrating her 30th birthday on August 23.