Today, I turned 26. As my aunt put it so eloquently a few days ago: “that’s kinda old for a young adult”.
It’s true, too. Even by Asian standards (where we stay with our parents till we get married/till our late twenties/we get enough money to get our own place which, given the current real estate situation here, is pretty much five years after our death), 26 is the number I’ve always felt where one crosses the threshold between young + adventurous and Time to Get Serious. Where we can’t just party the night away anymore. Well, at least not without some serious tribulation the next morning.
So, how have things changed since my last birthday? Well, I’ve gone through my very first operation (for sinusitis). I’ve put on about ten kilograms (and I’m sadly not even kidding here). Oh, and I’ve graduated and am now working full-time(-ish). (Or rather, I will officially graduate this Friday but I finished my final exam and started getting more work cases before my birthday. [Ironically, I spent my last birthday visiting my friends at their commencement ceremonies but I’ll be skipping my own this year because I’m
forever alone have other stuff to do.].) Not too shabby, I guess.
Still, knowing that I’ve somehow managed to successfully survive my first quarter century, I had the obligatory what-have-I-done-with-my-life monologue over the past couple of days. Of course, being Asian, this meant comparing myself to every single 26 year old I could think of (let’s not even begin to think of those who are older and what they achieved at 26).
Unlike some of my more successful fellow 1987 babies, I haven’t acted (and sang) in a hit television series, or won a couple of grand slams, or headed a hugely successful band with my sons, or acted in every hit movie since 2000, or, y’know, ruled Narnia. Heck, I haven’t even filed my first income tax yet.
But then, in what is presumably my first act of wisdom since turning old(ish), I decided to focus on the things I have achieved instead (while of course bearing in mind that we are not defined by our achievements).
I’ve managed to keep myself in decent health (on the assumption that health and fitness are two totally separate concepts). I’ve traveled to different countries and experienced different cultures (and foods, more importantly). I’ve gotten a diploma in an industry I’ve always wanted to work in (make that a diploma with merit, too). I’ve gotten an honors degree in another industry I’ve always wanted to work in. I have a stable job helping children lead better lives. I’ve recorded in a studio and gotten a song out on an album before. I’ve gotten published in local magazines. I’ve been, I think, a pretty decent friend and family member
some a few times. Oh, and I’ve all the names of the 693 existing Pokemon in my head at all times. Not bad for 26 years of hard work, eh?
At the end of the (birth)day, while I had perhaps the most mundane birthday I’ve ever had (filled with work, traffic problems and rain), the one big thing I took away was the notreallyallthatepiphanous epiphany that, ultimately, we are not in a race with anyone but ourselves. There isn’t a need to compare what we’ve done to what others have done. As long as I feel that I’ve done enough to warrant my 26 years of existence (and I think I have), who cares what others have done, Wimbledons be darned.
Could I have done more with my life so far? Sure. Is there anything I can do about it now? Nope. The only thing I can do is look forward to another 26 years of even more productive times, achievements (measured in my own idiosyncratic ways) and experiences. And hopefully another 26 after that. And, fingers crossed, maybe even a few more after that. Because, as I replied my aunt, “26 is also kinda young for an old adult”.
Happy birthday to me.