On Turning Thirty (Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel)

Many of my friends are turning thirty this year. Since today is my birthday (born 12:46 pm CT time), I thought it’d be a good time to look back at what I wrote on approaching that milestone two years ago.

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Many of my friends are turning thirty this year.  Since today is my birthday (born 12:46 pm CT time), I thought it’d be a good time to look back at what I wrote on approaching that milestone two years ago.  Also, as I shall be leaving for Ebertfest tomorrow, this will be my last entry for a couple of weeks.

Apr 20, 2009

Current mood:contemplative
In less than a week, I will be another decade older.  When I was twenty-five, I remember looking back at what I had accomplished and thinking, “I should have accomplished more.”  Little did I know then that, a little over a year later, I would be teaching English in Japan.

Now that my Japanese adventure has ended, however, I am left with memories and experiences, but with no future path, other than the one I have wanted to pursue since elementary school: become a published writer.  Technically, I already am: I self-published a poetry book six years ago (though “self-published” is not the right word, since someone else published it for me.  Rather, I paid them for the copies, rather than them paying me for sales.).  But though self-published authors may believe that how a book is published is not important, so long as it is published, I disagree.  Of course, with amazon.com and with some vanity presses now involved in helping with distribution, the world of self-publishing is better than what it was years ago.  Still, one cannot conquer the world if few strangers read one’s words.

But, getting back to turning thirty.  Again, it’s a time for me to reflect on what has been accomplished.  Certainly, I should not thumb my nose at my academic successes, but they were so long ago now as to belong to another lifetime.  My Japanese experiences are still fresh enough to be drawn on as a source of pride, but how long until those experiences, too, shall fade into the background?  I’ve thought about going back there, perfecting my Japanese, and living happily ever after, but a country that would blur out all male and female genitalia in its publications and movies–even to the point of censoring art-house films (I imagine this to be true, though I have not done research into it)–is not a place I would be comfortable in.  Better to censor too little than to censor at all.

Also, to move my entire life there would not be easy.  Though I find Buddhism an interesting religion, I want too many things to ever be good at practicing that faith, and I love my material possessions too much.  Wattage would not be a problem (like it would be in Europe), but who wants to travel fourteen hours on a plane to see friends and family?  According to Popular Science, supersonic jets and “spaceliners” will be available in the future (the latter able to travel from New York to Sydney in ninety minutes, a trip that now takes close to twenty-four hours to complete), but how long until we see these marvels (2015, supposedly, for the next fleet of supersonics)?  And how much will they cost?

Places with thousands of years of history interest me the most, which may be why I am drawn to Asia and Europe.  The culture of Europe is closer to my own, while the novelties within Asian culture make me want to learn more about it, especially Japan.  I took an “Asian to 1600” class in college, where India and China were the main countries covered, though we took brief forays into Korea and Japan.  But to study about a different culture and to live within that culture are two different things.  I do hope to visit Japan again in the future.  Perhaps I will meet some of my students again, too, once they have become adults.  I wonder sometimes how they are doing, and if they understand that I left because it was time for me to go, not because I didn’t like teaching them.

Last week, I received an email concerning the Semester in London program at JMU.  I realized that next year will be the tenth anniversary of my trip over there (this year is the 30th anniversary of the program–fall 1979 is when the first group of students went over there, making me slightly older than the program).  Putting that in perspective, the children of the couple who looked after Madison House while we were there, who were then around the age of my nieces (the girl was younger, the boy was older), would now be teenagers.  In fact, the boy might be old enough to drive.  My friends who went there haven’t aged much (maybe after they have kids…;-)), but to think of it in terms of the young children who were there…now that’s frightening.

If I were working right now, and supporting myself, no matter what the job was, I would welcome my thirties as the beginning of the rest of my life.  My early and mid-twenties were pretty crappy (minus London and the Mark Twain House), but my late-twenties were awesome (minus this final year, under circumstances that I have control over and yet often feel that I do not).  The three years in Japan, though not always easy and not always fun, were always full of LIFE.  And while I saw my friends in Japan less and less as the years went on–partly because some of them left Japan, partly because they and I switched jobs–I got to do more and more.

Looking back at thirty years on this earth, there are things I wish I had done differently.  Coming back home from Japan was necessary, but I should have stuck to my plan once here, instead of letting it dissolve into nothingness.  Maybe then I’d be writing this from my apartment, instead of from my parents’ house.  I’m hoping that my advanced age 😉 and the nice weather we’ve been having will force me to act, though the truth is that I am the only one who can force myself to act.  I already have acted in ways to help with my job search.  I’ve gone to several sessions at MCC on resume writing, job searching, cover letters, and interviewing.  I’ve joined the Connecticut Poetry Society (guaranteed one published poem in their magazine).  I’ve researched associations at Rockville Public Library…and scraped the right side of my blue van in the process (Wall: 1, Car: 0).

Now I need to apply my knowledge.  Apply it, and start sending out resumes.  Or look for a master’s program, or some skill set that I wish to pick up, both for my benefit and for the benefit of a future career.

I need to rejoin society and begin participating in activities that I find enjoyable.  I need to reconnect with people, and not just through the cold, unfeeling medium of the Internet.  But, most of all, I need to believe that I am in control of whether or not my thirties surpass my twenties, or fall short.  For though “we cannot control the wind, we can adjust our sails.” (Anonymous)

9 thoughts on “On Turning Thirty (Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel)”

  1. Happy thirty second birthday! This is a beautiful post, so enjoyable to read. In Japan there is a tradition of celebrating the sixtieth birthday as a very special one, since it is said to mark the mid point of life. Hope you enjoy Ebertfest.

    Incidentally, Buddhism is not necessarily about renunciation and other worldliness. Correctly interpreted, it’s about living a fruitful, dynamic and victorious life, fulfilling one’s desires while contributing to other’s happiness. A fundamental principle of Mahayana Buddhism states “Earthly desires equal enlightenment.”

    Here is an essay by Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, and President of SGI.

    http://www.ikedaquotes.org/challenges.html

    1. This is what I love about having a blog: I’ll make some random observation about something, and then someone will comment on my observation and either add to my knowledge concerning that particular subject, or gently correct me. Thanks for the added information about Buddhism, S M.

      Readers, the article linked above is worth reading. And, coincidentally, my birthstone is a diamond. 🙂

      1. According to the Buddhist scripture titled “The Lotus Sutra”, whose spirit was revived in thirteenth century Japan by a Sage named Nichiren, and in modern times by the SGI, headed by Dr Ikeda, of which SGI (USA) is a constituent–well, according to this school of Mahayana Buddhism, everybody is a diamond with an adamantine life condition. In other words everybody is a Buddha, which, as someone may mistakenly think, connotes not a recluse, but a dynamic individual roughing the currents of society with an undaunted spirit. Hope this miniature lecture was not out of place.

        GREG: Your comments are never out of place. 🙂

  2. Many happinesses on your turning the big 3-0 (belated wishes of course)! And take care on your trip to Ebertfest. I wish you well in your celebrating your birthday. And I do hope you at least made good on your intentions to go out and be more sociable in finding more of what you wanted out in the real world.

    May the sunlight always find thee
    Thy days be long
    Thy winters kind, and
    thy roots be strong.

    –Elder Tree

    GREG: Being that it was two years ago, quite belated. 😉 But you can wish me a happy 32nd. 🙂

  3. “But though self-published authors may believe that how a book is published is not important, so long as it is published… ”

    I totally agree. I mean, self-publishing is fine, but I know I wouldn’t feel as arbitrarily validated.

  4. You probably won’t remember an inconsequential blogger friend from a couple years ago. Heh, I remember your old blog; now you’ve moved on to WordPress, and you’re blogging at Ebertfest–congratulations! Glad to see that some of you blogger-people [I remember S.M. Rana!] are still sticking together. How’s the writing coming? I’m still planning on buying your book, whenever it comes out/whatever it is. Good luck in life!

    1. Of course I remember you! After all, your handle is not a common one 😉 The writing is off-and-on, but I am still selling my poetry book through my old blogger website (so far, no takers, though). I moved to WordPress when Grace (Etheriel Musings) pointed out that blogger was losing some of her comments. Plus, WordPress is much easier to manage.

      Are you still writing your blog? Last time I checked, your updates were few and far between, but I’ll start following again if you’ve posted something recently. Anyway, thanks for commenting 🙂

      1. Nope, haven’t updated it in a few months. I have a half-finished post about the ending to Dark City, but I’ll probably never get around to finishing it. I’ve mostly been focusing all my writing into sporadic attempts at a novel. Y’know, typical would-be author stuff.

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