30 years and 300 posts
And also my 30th birthday. An arbitrary figure that represents the 30th time that the planet has been in this position relative to the sun since my birth. A day of no significance, in other words, globally or universally. Do I know how to party or what?
Some years ago, in a previous incarnation of this blog, I bemoaned the passing of a birthday laden with significance. Noting that by their mid-twenties most artists had created their masterpieces (although this popular legend is not actually true – the most commonly cited example, Michelangelo completing David at 24 is tosh – he only started it at the age of 26 and completed it when 29) I took solace in the fact that I had not yet reached the “Jesus age”.
Put simply, the “Jesus age” is 30 – traditionally the age at which Jesus left home, and began his ministry. I took solace that whilst I may not have composed a great opera, or completed a famous sculpture, or devised a paradigm shifting scientific theory by my mid-twenties – at least I wasn’t still living at home, had gone out into the world, and so at that point was doing better than Jesus. Of course, now Jesus is beating me, because from 30 to 33 he has a pretty good career going. However, if I can avoid being crucified in three years time, I might just have a better record in the long run….
So yes, now I’m at the Jesus age, taking stock, and wondering just what in the hell I’ve done and can do.
But I’m not alone. By the age of 30, Henry David Thoreau hadn’t done much either. He’d been to a top university (Harvard), had a handful of jobs that didn’t always work out well for him, and in the final few years before he turned 30, he laid the groundwork for what cemented his reputation. He spent two years living in the woods, and a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes, two events that would later be turned into his most famous books Walden; or Life in the Woods and Civil Disobedience. But by the age of 30, family and friends were looking at him funny – wondering why he was wasting that good education and potential, and hadn’t found what he was supposed to be doing yet.
Me? I feel like that a lot. I went to some pretty good universities, I’ve held a handful of jobs that don’t really work out for me. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me why I’m “wasting my time” when I have law degrees (ignoring the fact that it would take a minimum of 3 years further study to translate them into an employable traineeship, all on far less money than I currently earn). I imagine that most people think I don’t really have ambition, or any idea what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’ll concede that if they do, then they are partly right…
But the last couple of years have been a proving ground for me. A hard, rough proving ground. I’ve been through things I don’t want to talk about, things that I don’t want to go through again. I’ve tried things out, some worked, some didn’t. I’ve put myself to the test and discovered that I can do more than I thought I could, and I’ve laid groundwork for things that this year and next will begin to come to fruition.
Thoreau turned 30 with ideas burning in him, ideas that at last he had figured out how to put into action. So do I. I have at times stared enviously at those my age who have achieved so much, at those who have come before who were further ahead by my age. I am conscious of not keeping pace with my peers. But Thoreau, famously, had something to say about that.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
I hear my own drumbeat. And the tempo has quickened.