Five months since my return to the US, and I find myself in somewhat of a holding pattern. It’s not as though I haven’t been up to anything – I recently had the chance to speak of my experiences volunteering in Japan at a Hosteling International event – but, for the most part, I think I’ve been surviving, rather than living. Certainly given me time to think about options.
This all comes back to turning 30 in June. The big 3-0. I’m excited by the prospect of finally reaching one of those benchmarks that accompanies adulthood, but I just can’t shake society’s expectations of where I’m supposed to be by this age… which, according to my parents and the media, should be in a house with a mortgage, married with a kid on the way, and working a stable job with a 401K.
I’m not as ignorant as I come off: I know there are other options to someone like me, who knows how easy and affordable it is to live abroad. And maybe I’ll even meet that special girl on the road. I know that I should work smarter, not harder in my quest for success, whatever that word means to me. And I should listen to my friends who’ve already hit 30 when they say there’s nothing monumental about it. Life goes on as it did before.
As it did before… my life since graduating UT has been nothing but living day by day. No grand plan. No ambition for the future. Just getting what I need to survive to make it out the day: money for food, money for rent, money for frivolous things. Even with yearly contracts in Japan and Korea, I never really thought I’d be going anywhere in my career. Teaching English is many things, but it is not the way to advance yourself personally or financially; you could be working the same job at the same hagwon or eikaiwa for years. I’ve seen it happen to guys in Japan in their 40s.
On the other hand, I’m starting to realize I’m not going to be able to do everything I want to do in this life, as I have only one to live. I still have plenty of time, no doubt, but I don’t see myself becoming everything I’ve ever wanted to be in the next thirty years, when the physical toll may finally catch up. The only way I know to push forward is to know what I want to do, rather than who I want to be, and see if I find a path that suits me along the way.
I want to run marathons.
I want to travel the world.
I want to write.
I’ll still probably be spending the next two months in San Francisco getting rid of the last of my travel debt before celebrating my 30th with friends and going off on another adventure. I don’t plan to teach English in Asia, or to go anywhere I’ve been before. I feel Japan calling me back, but I’ve tried that route, and found it wanting. Maybe Europe…