- How old are you turning now?
- Wow… so next year will be a big one!
It’s quite a common response when I share with others that I’m turning 29 this year. 30 would mark a new milestone — I get it — oftentimes, we see people celebrating it hard on their 30th, 40th, 50th birthdays and so on (oh, and 21st in America, of course). I don’t think we overvalue beginnings, but I do believe the significance of endings is usually undervalued or overlooked because there’s an even bigger milestone, which is the beginning of something else, coming up next (or so it seems).
But endings and beginnings are inseparable. Endings are often bittersweet memories — even on an extreme spectrum, when endings bring someone joy or heartache, they do so because the prior period is associated with either a profound sense of struggle or pleasure. New Year’s Eve. Graduation. Leaving a job. Breakup. No matter how intense it may feel, these bittersweet changes lead us to new beginnings and plant the seeds for our growth.
I used to feel anxious when my birthday was about to come, not because I was afraid of becoming older but because there was (or perhaps there still is) a conflict in me that partly wanted to spend more time with others while also craving more time spent with myself on this day, and finding that balance isn’t always so easy. While that internal conflict doesn’t seem to go away, and as much as I find myself quickly agreeing with people who say “I’m usually not big on birthdays when it comes to mine,” I’ve learned to at least understand why it is and should be a big deal on a personal level, not to mention well worth celebrating (regardless in a big way or small way), for it reminds us all that we’re alive and how wonderful it is to be alive.
It is a blessing to be alive.
I’ve read that researches show humans tend to perform better and are motivated to work harder when we approach the endings of things (years ending with number 9, December, last year of school) while also reading that other studies show we will make better bets in encouraging people to change or take on new habits at the beginning of a cycle thanks to its association with a blank slate (new year, birthday, onboarding period). I believe both are true — and that is not to disregard the value of beginnings but rather remind us all to also celebrate endings for their own worth (instead of seeing them merely as a means to an end) and set our intention for what’s considered the beginning of an end to make the best of it.
29 may mean that it’s the last year that I can say “I’m twenty-something” but, genuinely, I feel as if I was still just about mid-twenties (which probably shows since that’s what many people tend to guess when they meet me in real life). My internal conflict arises again as I always know I have an old soul even though I truly feel young at heart. Indeed, I’ve been treasuring the process of aging and finding myself enjoying life more and more as I become older — not in the literal sense because correlation doesn’t mean causation, but because I find becoming wiser with time enlightening. It takes time and also massive internal work to truly understand what a privilege it is for us to experience hardship early in our lives, but when — and only when — we comprehend what that means, our quarter-life crises become our greatest assets.
After all, time is an illusion and we can’t help but attach meanings to it. I’m not here to disregard the value of time or make a philosophical argument about it because I actually quite like the illusion that it creates. Instead of denying it, I like finding ways to make such an illusion work for myself and perhaps even proactively creating the illusion of endings and beginnings for certain things in my life at times. It’s probably helpful to clarify that I’m not talking about the kind of mindset such as “live everyday as if it was your last” or “treat everyone like they were going to die tomorrow.” Despite the well-intentioned advice they impose, I don’t necessarily like the idea of having extreme thoughts — life is not a sprint and I doubt if it’s mentally healthy to always live on such an emotional high. However, I do enjoy identifying where the endings lie in each process and flipping my perspective to them when I need an extra boost of focus to cross the illusional ‘finish line' that I set for myself at a given time. Endings are that powerful.
I don’t know what 29 brings but I’m looking forward to it. Here’s to savoring every last bit of ‘twenties’ with mindful intention, overflowing gratitude, and no regret 🥂✨