My twenties, petulant as they were, taught me a lot of things. Important things, like how to not get seduced into reading ‘29 things you have to do before you turn 30’ and other click-baity titles that I click on it anyway because, well, the closer I got to thirty the more my bookshelf got populated by all the self-help literature.
That’s kind of the gist of my twenties; an impatient kid continually asking himself,
‘Is this it?’
And then finding out that
‘No, this isn't it you fool - you have to de-clutter your life and mind, and focus, and prototype, and dream, and passion, and mastery...'
And feel shitty that I am not that. And then get caught in the next self-help hype, 'designing your life' fad, forgetting the previous one like a bad movie.
I couldn’t have turned thirty at a better point in my life. Finally, I’m starting to ‘get’ at a gut level what it means to just fit in.
To fit into my skin.
This one-by-one box of bone, intestines, muscle, cells, unused tears, repressed memories, stories of guilt, joy, and brokenheartedness.
This box that, now blossomed to its full genetic potential, still kind of sags, but not like the way an old man’s does but like a kid in his dad’s oversized suit. Oh delayed adolescence...
Not that I look that I’m that oversized anyway, right?
I still relish the comments that I occasionally get that I look 20, though my hairline will not always be so kind.
At least I can’t guarantee that...
...though, now that I think about it, people have stopped asking for my ID.
At 30, I still can’t grow a beard with the density of a hipster’s - it kind of just looks like a concentration of pubic hair on my face, which I’m told is not so attractive.
Ageing, no longer has that positive connotation of growth. Now it’s kinda just about decay and hurtling towards death.
My hair, once a shimmering black puffball of an afro, is beginning to gray.
I no longer have the ability to suck in my stomach and produce a six pack (it’s popping out).
Along with my joints that crack a little more every morning I wake up, prefacing the onset of arthritis from years of huddling at my computer stalking girls I longed for in college on Facebook…
To fit into my words.
At 20, I swiped them from other, more clever writers - like David Foster Wallace
My words were missing that extra punchline that kept a phrase from being punchy and meaningful and capable of going viral
‘The truth will set you free.’ Right. Cliché. BORING.
And then DFW's twist:
I know that means something more but I can’t really grock it yet.
My words were overdue library books that I never actually read, but propped them on my bookshelf so that others would be like, ooooohhhh shiiiiiit. Proust, Heidegger, AND Joyce - names that could always lend more weight to whatever bullshit I tried to advance.
And now words feel more natural, more effortless. And, if you run them through a Grammarly check, you’ll notice they weren’t plagiarized!
To fit into place.
Even though I’ve never really had one, I guess.
A little Oklahoma became a Texas boy became a self-denying British kid who then became Texan again, but not really, because there’s no going back after you’ve gone so far, until you go to California where somebody can be anybody until I realised that was nobody, so I was like, hey why not try to be Bhutanese? Makes sense, right?
Sidenote/True story: I pretended I had OCD my ENTIRE freshman year because I thought it would be cute and quirky like that TV character, Monk. And then I saw that I wasn’t the only one, because a meme actually exists describing that sort of attention-seeking deception, and it made me think like WTF is going on with this generation that I’m a part of that we’ll go to the extent of pretending to be germaphobes?
But now, I get it. I’m American. Anywhere I go, I bring that lens with me. Sure I throw on a gho, speak a little Dzongkha, and respond to every elder with ‘Yes, la’. But in the end, I’m American, with all the baggage and pride that term carries.
To fit into my feelings.
Well, I didn’t really know about these actually.
Mostly because I was preoccupied with other people’s thoughts of me.
Until I realized how seldom they do - they’re too busy with other thoughts, like living their own lives.
And then I watched Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and I wept uncontrollably for the 10-year-old Chihiro when she finally realised that Haku’s the river spirit, but then she leaves the bath house of witches, giant radishes, and spirits that her parents can’t see.
To fit into my dreams.
My dreams were never really mine.
More like an idea from another person’s mind.
Of revolutions, radicalisms, brain hacks, transformations.
Overnight changes that promised salvation.
And then I watched Spirited Away again, and wept when I saw that I’d lost touch with the little joys that I still had, and were okay.
It turns out that insights are hard-earned and not transmitted through some cable that you plug at the back of your head (like in the Matrix).
But I’d be lying if I framed this whole decade as being the lead in my own story.
There have been my parents and brother who, after a decade of ignored phone calls, missed meals, and general neglect, still stand by me.
There have been many cast in and out, coming on stage probably when I needed it most, when I couldn’t bear just being the only one facing the light.
Friends, mentors, advisors, those random connections that you just can’t explain, like you’re at a party and all of the sudden you realise that the person across from you lives just two blocks down from where you grew up and just read Kafka on the Shore, like you did - and then you end up in one of the most intense 5-day relationships, spilling each and every one of your guts until yours and their merge into some chimera-like beast. And then never see them again after.
Yeah, those kinds of connections.
I can’t count how many I’ve had - and how much they’ve taught me. Messengers, I guess. I don’t like the whole New Age approach to ascribing cosmic significance to each and every one of these, but there’s something that defies explanation and that’s just far too wondrous to ever merit one.
But none more wondrous than this connection I have with this girl, Jialing Lim.
This girl who has shown me, day after day, how to actually say, ‘I love you,’ and mean it with a conviction that would make Wolverine’s adamantium claws crumble into sawdust.
As I enter the big 3-0, I’m starting to fit into my skin.
It took me ten years to really earn the insight that the skin’s less of a tight, tailored fit with little room to grow a belly. Definitely not spandex that would flap up to reveal the belly. More of a stretchy fabric, like the kind that Ministry of Supply make. They’re not a government Ministry, and this isn’t a promotional message, so I’m not going to hyperlink it. I guess you could always google it and find out for yourself.