On Turning 30

Like so many people I know, and I’m sure many I don’t, turning thirty is something that has gotten my brain stirred up in a major way.  Tomorrow I will officially leave behind my twenties, and will enter into an age that demands clear-headedness and responsibility.  I’m not sure how well I will fit those expectations I have set for myself- based on what others have described of this notion of adulthood.

Ten years ago, how did you think you would be today?  I saw myself married with at least one child, in the midst of a career, possibly living in a foreign country.  I thought I’d have all my shit together, but here’s how it really played out:

In my early twenties, I got my bachelor’s degree in American Literature and Culture at UCLA, obsessed with the Beat Generation, spending my days yearning for more time to focus on my poetry.  After I graduated, I moved back home to Northern California, working at the mall as a make-up artist and saving up to move to Argentina.  I was intrigued by the “Paris of South America” that I’d heard about, intrigued by the accent, intrigued by the sheer fact that this city was so far away from anywhere I’d ever been.  (At the age of twenty one, I celebrated my graduation with a trip to Hawaii I funded with my credit card, and later went with my parents to Monterrey and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.  Surely, I romanticized these places just as much as the next, but I was still overwhelmed by the longing to see the other side of the world.)

I did move to Argentina, struggled with their Castellano, and started a long-term habit of working, saving up as much money as I could, traveling as far and as long as I could, and then briefly moving back with my parents while I got on my feet again and could start the whole process over again.  I ended up staying in South America that first time for almost eight months, and traveling by bus to Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. All of the experiences I had, the people I met, the friendships I forged, the risks I took, the beauty and poverty I witnessed, and the things I learned, would stay with me forever and change who I had been.  I thought originally that I would get this “traveling bug” out of my system and be able to change over to a more mainstream way of life in later years.  I was wrong.

As the name of this blog plainly states, I am a travel addict.  I probably always will be, and I don’t feel the need to change it.  Sad will be the day that I decide I don’t need to explore another country’s culture, food, people, history, language and so on.  So sad, in fact, that I believe my passion for life will have been lost.  The thing I now realize I do need to change, however, is the instability and lack of sustainability by which I pursued my endeavors in the past.  After seeing the movie some years back, I recently read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, a look into the life of Chris McCandless.  Like me, McCandless was an idealist, a nonconformist, an anti-capitalist, and an extreme wanderlust.  After growing up in a well-to-do family and graduating from college, he burned his money, eventually ditched his car, and went hitchhiking throughout the United States, eventually reaching Alaska.  He found beauty in solitude and considered Jack London his personal hero.

Krakauer included a quote from Theodore Roszak at the beginning of one of the chapters that resonated deeply within me: “It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.”  While it is my opinion that I am able to transfer my insight into art and thought, what is important to note is that it has not led to a “durable” way of life by any means.

I spent my twenties traveling, writing, living, learning, but also consistently ignoring the fact that eventually I would have to pursue a career.  I could, I suppose, avoid that endeavor in life, but I don’t think it would be a happy existence.  I do not and never will discount or regret all that irresponsibility and not thinking ahead have afforded me.  I was able to live in and visit 16 foreign countries, obtain fluency in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, study and forget Japanese, and also earn my Master’s degree in Latin American Studies.  I ponder all that I have wanted to do and am pretty satisfied that I’ve done almost all that I set out for.  But now, as I near that glaring reminder that I have been around for three decades, I realize that it’s time to sit down and share everything, it is time to embark on the adventure that will allow me to continue my journey, one that doesn’t land me in a secretary’s chair mid-life.  It’s time to think about the future, and time to write.

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