30 is one of those milestone ages that makes us question every decision we’ve made in our lives. Trapped inside our own heads we look at our regrets under a microscope, taking stock of the growth and decay of our insecurities. 30 forces us to be honest with ourselves because between all the excuses we’ve made over the years, the time has kept on ticking. We finally ask ourselves: Am I where I expected myself to be at 30?
I think most of us would say, “hell no! I expected to have a stable job, a significant other, and maybe even a house that would soon become a home.” Turning 30 feels like a slap in the face to our youth and the mistakes we’ve made but in reality it’s a valuable signpost for the measure of our progress. We need reality checks like 30 because otherwise we could go on making excuses while nobody listens.
I personally stopped making excuses early, probably around 19 when I was academically suspended from my first university, SUNY Cortland. Ironically enough, I still consider this mistake one of the best things that happened to me because it gave me a reality check that I very much needed. For the next couple years, I proceeded to take time off from school, eventually enrolling back in a community college while taking on various jobs to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I would later get accepted into an Ivy League institution only to turn them down and finish my undergraduate studies at the top of my class at CUNY Hunter in New York City. The whole arc of those 11 years began with a reality check and now I’m taking stock of my choices.
The only promise I made to myself by 30 was to become an internationally known poet. Well, in November 2017, with the help of my fiancé, Heather, that became a reality when we published The Immeasurable Cookbook and sent copies to readers in Austria, Paraguay, and Portugal. It was a high bar to set but I cleared it because I chose a good partner in Heather and always used writing as a platform to express my thoughts and channel my creativity.
Despite this achievement, the thing I’m most proud of at the age of 30 is my peace of mind. Through my study of philosophy and my ten years of experience in hospitality I have recognized that mental health is our crown achievement given the complexity and perplexity of the human mind. I’ve made most of my decisions from a rational disposition, but I’ve always consulted my conscience as a valuable litmus test for my happiness. I believe that without our conscience, rationality can lead to cold, steely, logical conclusions; yet without our rationality, our emotions can steer us towards the volatile polarities in life. My peace of mind comes from a drive to strike a balance, harkening to the doctrine of the mean from Aristotle and remembering that a happy life depends on a steady ship in rough waters.
By 30 I have lived all around the United States, experienced love and heartbreak, success and failure, and the boring stuff in between. I’m getting married in October 2018 to a partner who helps me stay focused on long term goals while I keep the ship steady. With our eyes on the horizon we’re charting a course ready for a storm, yet carrying the reflection of the sunset in our eyes. A reality check doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as you realize you have to adjust your sails.