It's a very odd feeling, this celebrating one's birthday. On the one hand, I understand the celebration: it's important to mark the passage of time. And it's a triumph, of some sort: congrats, man, for getting through another year of your life. On the other hand, I can't help but think that we don't have to pay attention to the passage of time; it marches on, with or without us. And it feels really odd to suddenly be retrospective about leaving 28 behind: it's not an important number, after all. We don't celebrate Things Of Momentous Occasions on your 28th year. I mean, these are celebrated on important years: when you turn 16, 17, 18; when you turn 21, 25, 27. On most days, I feel like I've not gone beyond 21, even though the electronic devices around me tell me otherwise. 28 feels like a bridge between your mid-twenties, when you're still allowed to fuck up, and your late twenties, when you are expected to act like an adult.
But here's the thing: I don't feel like an adult. Which is really odd, since I'm a teacher and I'm supposed to be some kind of role model. (Not an appropriate or impressive one, I'm afraid.) I don't think you ever really feel like an adult even when you're working and paying taxes and wondering what it means to "live a good life". I definitely don't have what many people my age are supposed to have: for instance, I don't own a car (I can't even drive). I certainly am not making payments towards a condo or house of my own. Coming up empty-handed on the romantic relationship side as well. My most expensive material items are my laptop and my books. I don't travel to exotic places every year; in fact, I've never been outside Southeast Asia.
But I can tell you what I do have: I have a fantastic, kick-ass job with some of the most awesome students (so far) that I've ever encountered. I work with some of the most interesting and intelligent people in this university - possibly in this country. I'd like to think that I'm contributing towards some kind of positive impact towards nation-building by teaching kids to think and to use their minds. I have a great set of friends - the best people I can imagine growing up with. My family is definitely made of awesome. I have books and TV shows and films and music and the Internet. I am being given opportunities to be a better writer, a better teacher, and a better person.
If this is what you need for a full life, then my cup is definitely overflowing.
A friend of mine was asking last Friday, when we were having my birthday celebration at Craft and waiting during the lull between sets, if I had a "bucket list" for this year; i.e. a list of things I wanted to accomplish during my 29th year. I said yes, but that I hadn't written it down. So in the spirit of honesty (and also to remind me of the things I want to do!), here's mine:
1. Learn to drive
2. Write a book
3. Be published
4. Attend an international conference
5. Go on a vacation by myself
6. Scuba dive
7. Lose 20 pounds
8. Learn a musical instrument
9. Be fluent in at least one foreign language
10. Save up enough money to purchase insurance
I know this isn't a typical bucket list, but really, I think that if you're open to new experiences and you're not afraid to take risks, then you'll find opportunities to explore and new doors will open up for you. After all, after the whirlwind that was my 28th year, I realize that I probably am not the type of person who stays still -- and I'm hoping that I can continue this pace without going mad. Well, at least not any crazier than I already am.