Earlier this month, I finally did what I have dreaded the last 5 years. I left my twenties and stepped into my thirties. Not that I particularly had a choice, and not that someone came knocking at my door asking me if I was ready to be in my thirties, or if time should freeze for a while. Turning thirty came with a lot of contemplation, reflection, and introspection. If I continue to live the healthy life that I have lived so far, I would like to think this is where people break for the interval or half-time in movies. Of course, no one knows for sure.
I wonder how I would sum up my life. I wonder if I wrote a book off my life, how it would read. Certain times it has been a joy ride. Sometimes it has been painful. There have been achievements, yes. There have been failures and disappointments as well, lots actually. Did I get everything I had hoped for? Perhaps yes. Yes, there are certain things that I wish had never happened, or had happened differently. Such is life.
I wasn’t really trying to summarize my blessings, but I started to think of all those things, those eventful moments I have at 30 that I am thankful for, and all those things I wish I did. I am primarily an academically driven person, and I am thankful that my academics always got priority. I never had to choose work over academics because there was a dearth of money. I am immensely thankful for that. I have had an excellent education, although measuring education in terms of degrees defeats the purpose of education in itself. I have been fortunate enough to have two masters degrees, and to experience both, the Indian and the American system of education. I have been closely associated with two reputed research driven R01 universities in the US. I consider myself amongst the fortunate who came to the US as a graduate student, and got the opportunity to study without having to pay for it. I don’t think the experience would have been any better had I come for work on-site. My academic trajectory has exactly been the way I wanted it to be. I wanted to move to the US for academics (and not for work), and that is exactly how it turned out to be. Currently, I have a US degree to boast of, and another terminal degree in the making.
Traveling has played a significant part in my interest and development. I have lived and traveled in 3 continents. Sometime in life, I discovered the joys of solo, independent traveling as compared to traveling in herds, and have singly backpacked dozens of places. Along with travel came the interest in photography. Over the last few years, I have tried to better my photographic skills, and feel very special when a particular picture I took is recognized or appreciated. I am fluently conversant in 4 languages, and have workable knowledge of 2 more languages. I am proud that I got rid of my unfounded fears and learned to drive. I love my car (and camera) as much as I would love my family, and in the last 2 years, I have driven roughly a little less than the distance of the circumference of the earth at the equator (about 22,000 miles). I have visited 18 American states, 10 American national parks, and a handful of the wonders of the world. My first flight experience was 5 years ago, when I got to sit in the cockpit of the plane for hours as we flew over Turkey. I love visiting corners, and have been to the north western most and southernmost tip of continental US. I have had 2 full time jobs, one as a teacher and the other as a researcher, and survived a lay off during the American economic depression. I know functional salsa, and have performed on stage in Seattle 4 times, twice for dance performances and twice for a play.
I have spent 26 birth days with family, which is great. I have successfully managed to blog for the last 6 years. An activity that started out of fun and the need to do something with the extra time I had after graduating college soon became a driving motivation for me. I love my evolving sense of humor I have developed over the years, bordering on biting sarcasm mostly. I really like the way I see the world, myself included, and make fun of things around me. this wouldn’t have happened without the practice of writing for years.
I have had a brief (really brief) stint with modeling, when I modeled for a line of products. Don’t ask me more, I am not particularly proud of being in front of a rolling camera. I have managed to stay single, despite immense societal pressure and peer pressure. Most of my friends are married with school-going children now. I am not against marriage per se, I just didn’t want to marriage to become another one of those things in my check list of things to do before I died. I didn’t want to get into something without entirely being sure I was doing the right thing, just because the rest of the world has gone the same path. I have seen too many relationships going haywire, and till marriage happens, I am very comfortable living alone, globe-trotting confidently, and will not feel weird walking inside a restaurant having a meal just on their own or take a train and travel for hours just happy reading or seeing the world go by them. I would prefer it any day, than wake up beside someone not knowing why I married him in the first place.
On the flip side, there are things that I wish I had done by now. I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book, and haven’t watched a single movie from the Matrix series. I still haven’t visited Delhi, a city I have always wanted to see and know more of. I still haven’t written a book, despite contemplating it for years now. The list of things I wish to do, but still haven’t, is endless. However, beyond my entire list of achievements and disappointments, I consider my greatest achievement to be the fact that I have a job, a work life that defines my identity. I am neither financially dependent, nor work deprived. I would rather be swamped with work, looking for a vacation, than have my life as a vacation with ample time but no direction. Sometime during my twenties, my greatest fear was that I would live in the US, but as a dependent. Although I am a poor graduate student with no green card, multi-storied town house, fancy cars, or the so called achievement of bearing American children (like a friend once pointed out) to boast of, I am glad I steered clear of that dependent route, not succumbing to the panic of staying single.
I have had a great life so far. Fast-paced, eventful, and mostly the way I wanted it to be. But being 30 is not just listing the achievements and disappointments. For me, being 30 is also being wise. At 20, I was exactly the way people at 20 are. I was starry eyed, passionate, energetic, a dreamer, took up challenges, and believed that I could become anyone in life. At 30, I have an idea of probably who I am going to become, and am content with the fact that I will perhaps not become everything I aimed for, and am okay with that. Realistic is what I was not then, and am perhaps learning to be now.