When does life even begin?

I had the best year of my life when I was seventeen – first boyfriend, first time away from home by choice, first iPod, and maybe even first cell phone. Even back then, I knew I was at the prime time in life. Every day I woke up, feeling healthy, happy and energetic. I did everything with joy, tried new experiences with the utmost open mind, dreamed of traveling far and long to exotic lands, and surrounded myself with the most supportive and compatible friends. It was the best feeling to live everyday to its fullest, treasuring the freedom and dreaminess of youth while fearing that in 5 or 6 years, by the time I turned 22, 23, my life would have ended – I would have settled down in only one long-time, serious relationship; I would have been committed to only one career choice that I was passionate about; I would have chosen only one country to live. Basically, I thought by the time I turned 23, I would have finished exploring my options and should have had my whole life figured out with a clear, one-and-only path for me to simply follow.

Now that I am 23, life is not as I expected. I am lucky to have a job that I love but I definitely do not have that obvious career path I pictured. My job can lead to various opportunities, and at this moment, I am still exploring which one is the choice. I certainly do not set my mind to one country. From time to time, I still find myself aimlessly browsing information about grad schools abroad, somewhere, anywhere – U.S., U.K, Australia, Germany, a Scandinavian country, Singapore, Malaysia, the list goes on. And I surely am not in any stable relationship on its way to engagement or even marriage. I still go out on dates with different people, feeling completely unsure what I am looking for in a man.

In a sense, my seventeen-year-old self was right – my life, that life, ended at 23. I am no longer that teenage girl, thinking in black and white, feeling extremely confident that everything would come easily. But as something ends, something else begins. At 23, my life, another life, has just begun. I am still having no idea which direction I should be heading. I am still exploring my options. The only difference is that I cannot keep the old lifestyle where responsibilities were not a big deal. I need to do everything with care, thinking about the consequences of my actions. At 23, I look around at my colleagues, all in their early or mid thirties, all married with 2 kids, living a standard, uniform life. I look at them and I see all changes end there, all paths converging into one trail that you have to follow, at 30s, when I will have been stuck in a job field for life, when I will have had no choice but stay with my children and the husband that I chose.

But then it struck me – when I was 17, I thought my life just begun and it would have ended at 23. Then I turned 23, I think my real life has just begun now and will have ended at 30. What will I think when I am 30? And it got me thinking, when does one’s life even begin?

Recently I read an article that life begins at 30. At that time, in that morning that you turn 30, you just feel it, the inexplicable yet strong sensation that you life begins just now. The author didn’t elaborate on that special feeling but simply assured “you’ll get it when you turn 30”. I don’t know if it is true. It will be a good 7 years for me to know, but surely I hope by that time, I will have my mentality figured out, enough so that I can accept all realizations in a calm, mature manner and have no regrets.


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