I’m turning thirty in a few months.
Yeah, yeah, my bio (if you’ve read it) says I’m in my early thirties. The truth is, I’m psyching myself up for it. If I pretend my thirtieth birthday has already happened, then it will be an easier transition for me mentally when it happens for real.
Looking back on the me of twenty, who was probably looking forward, I’d have to confess to him things are not all steak and Smithwick’s. I’m not a published author, nor am I married with children, nor do I have a perfect relationship with Jesus. I don’t live on my own, I don’t make six figures a year, and doing what I really want to do is still far away.
I can sum up some lessons learned, examining briefly my thirty years (all right, almost thirty) upon this planet. May they be better received now than at the end of the next thirty years by my nieces and nephews who get stuck in the same room with me at the family reunion, forced to be pleasant and attentive in exchange for the wi-fi password.
- Don’t follow your dreams. Imagine yourself on a busy street, looking for the way to an Owl City concert. Rather than pull out your phone and check Google Maps, you weirdo, you decide to follow a group of excited individuals sporting Owl City t-shirts and talking about the upcoming concert. Eventually, they lead you to the theater. Great! You made it! But what if, instead of merely following them to the theater, you ran to catch up to them and walked with them, explaining to them why Vanilla Twilight is a better song than Saltwater Room or generally interacting, swapping stories, and getting to know them. Don’t follow your dreams; run to catch up and walk with them everywhere. Make them a little part of everything you do. I carry a notebook with me and write down ideas for stories. Those little parts lead into the big projects, the leaps and bounds, the inspiration, the perspiration, the end results, the motivation, the determination, the completion, and then the new beginning of another dream.
- Work your day job and work your day job well. If you’ve found your passion in the job you do every day, great! Keep it up! If you haven’t and you’re flipping burgers when you want to be flipping cards in a Las Vegas magic show as the next David Copperfield, shuffle that Hoyle deck on your lunch break. Greet your customers with your best showmanship smile. Learn to clean tables and mop floors with swift efficiency and graceful artfulness. Recycle those motions and stretch those muscles to put into your future acts of prestidigitation and bedazzlement. One day, your heat bill, your cellphone bill, your grocery bill will be paid by your fifth sold-out performance at Caesar’s. Until then, break time, evenings, and weekends are practice times.
- It’s easier and harder to do what you want to do. The internet has brought a wealth of information into easy access. Online education, libraries, how-to videos – the variety and amount of resources are tremendous. You can find and form a community with a specific group that shares your interests more easily. As you create and learn skills, though, you’re struggling to be noticed in a sea of others who are producing like you with the same resources.
- Worry less about the people who are better at things than you are. I want to eat bread and butter paid with the proceeds from my novels and short stories. There are many, many individuals more talented, telling similar tales in better ways, and paying for their private jets and steak dinners with their latest advance. I can spend time comparing myself to them, or I can strive to improve the man I am to surpass the man I was.
This year, I’ve traveled alone to a foreign country by myself for the first time. I’ve purchased a website domain. I’ve written letters, eaten halászlé, and written dialogue for a talented artist so he can draw a comic for both our portfolios (watch this site for the link). Thirty-year-old me has a lot to do to surpass twenty-nine.
But I’m confident he will.