On November 24, 2020, I turned 31. Next year, my age will no longer be found in the calendar. That’s a big deal for most people I know. But I am not most people I know. Sheets of paper often defiled by my father for all sorts of reasons have no influence over how I feel about myself. I am neither young nor old; I am 31. Based on a quick Google search, 31 still qualifies as a young adult by UN standards. But I do not live within UN premises and Gen Z-ers probably see me as that killjoy uncle while executives, late thirties and above who I deal with quite a lot, see me as a baby. While not absolute, there is truth in both impressions. I cannot really complain.

My 30th year on the planet was nothing short of interesting. While I can assure anyone that I am not some demon child meant to erase humanity at 30, it felt like I turned 30 and many things around me started going south. 2019 was a good year. I started on a new and challenging job, successfully broke into management and consulting, traveled quite a lot for business and leisure, won projects, made good plans, and started living like a free-spirited young adult. But then I turned 30 and a few weeks later, Taal volcano covered south Luzon with ash. Around the same time, the first case of COVID-19 was identified in China. The following month, the first suspected cases were recorded in the Philippines which rose to over 600 by March 2020. By mid-March, the world seemed to have stopped with countries going into lockdown in response to the pandemic. Millions worldwide lost jobs after. And recently, while the country is under the longest lockdown, a barrage of typhoons wreaked havoc on several Filipino communities.

But, I am safe. On my birthday, someone sent me a message and told me that there’s a lot I should be thankful for. That’s true. While I choose to not rejoice in public to show sensitivity to those who have it rough, I truly am lucky to reach my 31st year pretty much at my best, physically and emotionally.

I quit my job without any fallback just when unemployment was at an all-time high. Although it all happened indirectly, that job developed me in many ways I couldn’t have imagined. It helped me kill a lot of my limiting beliefs and taught me that I am enough to achieve what I want. I am grateful. But I needed a period of clarity and peace to evolve. I did not regret choosing that over a good monthly salary. Not even once. After all, my performance could have deteriorated if I stayed. Six months after, I cannot be any more excited to start a new job. One that aligns well with the plans I couldn’t have developed amidst the chaos of my previous job.

It took 44 applications carefully sent in the span of 3 months—the most number of job applications I sent during an employment gap in my entire career. A younger me would have been really nervous in that situation. But the current me was okay with that. Somehow, letting go of opportunities and even moving on from rejections was easy. I was not inadequate; it was just not the right fit. Force a square peg into a round hole and you’ll end up damaging both. Most of us didn’t realize this when we were younger. We just wanted the job. And after we forced our way, we started hating every minute of that job until we felt that the money was not worth it. I also made practical decisions that turned out to be terrible. If anything, I learned.

I started meditating and exercising more regularly. I am not at all a fitness buff and wouldn’t spend more than an hour every day but it helped me feel healthy and that’s very important for happiness. Also, accomplishing a couple of regular activities first thing in the morning helps me build momentum and be productive for the rest of my day. But contrary to one of my previous bosses’ claims, I am not a productivity junkie. I just love my alone time and it’s only logical to protect what makes you happy. Only in my case, it means ensuring that things are happening as timely as agreed.

I also started reading quite a lot of news and technical literature lately from the newest technologies to machine learning to management best practices for a number of reasons. It kept me up to date with the news which helped in my job applications and in upskilling myself. But most importantly, it helped me discover the right path for me. A decade ago I couldn’t imagine myself picking up any technical reading material. They didn’t look fun and they didn’t feel like me. It turned out I was just not trying. The test is so simple it’s almost stupid. If you can sit through several pages of a technical book or a 1-hour online lecture ending up asking for more instead of dozing off, it’s probably something you would enjoy building a career on.

My creativity went through the roof. I became more comfortable with my visual art style and broke into different media like film, audiogram, and podcast in very enjoyable ways. I got into personal branding and did consulting for local organizations. I did a one-man art exhibit, hosted fun virtual events, counseled troubled developers, and assess business opportunities all for fun. I had a lot of adventures for a period that most people would likely find uneventful. I myself was surprised.

While it’s not easy to believe partly because of the lockdown and partly because it was not really planned, my 30th year had been a year of tremendous personal growth. I thought that this year I would grow by traveling to different places and experiencing different cultures with my parents. That of course didn’t happen. I would have to wait a bit more. Nevertheless, I am glad that I learned to let things be and focus on things I can control. That, coupled with introspection produced a lot of good stuff.

Now 31, I do not expect the coming year to be the same. I expect different adventures and bigger challenges. If there is one thing I am certain of, that is I am not slowing down. I was able to make my 30th year a definite win amidst all adversities. I can do it again. -mB

Photo by Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

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