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30, flirty, and living with my parents
you have to feel proud of what you've lost
An acting teacher used to tell me, “the work has to cost you something”. Meaning that while in a scene, even though you are acting, you must give something up. Something deep and precious, that is yours. Something you won’t get back.
That’s what makes a truly memorable performance.
My 30th birthday is next week and it feels entirely ridiculous to say that because whatever idea of 30 I had growing up, is not anywhere close to the way I feel now. But in some ways, I think I feel better. I feel nervous and excited, but yes, weirded out.
Nervous because I lose the protection of my 20s. Suddenly living with my parents and having a series of odd jobs in order to focus on building a strong artistic career seem entirely un-endearing now. Not that it ever was endearing to be unstable as a 29-year-old, but I felt I could hide under the guise of being in my 20s, so it at least looked semi-forgivable.
Yet, I feel excited because it’s the start of a fresh decade. One in which I feel the most empowered in knowing myself and what I love, what I hate, and what I want to chase. In a way, I feel like the clock resets and the carnage of my 20s will be cleared away in one fell swoop. 10 years of explorations, failures, transformations, and losses. 10 years of costs. Reset. Back to zero.
As I look back on what I experienced, conquered, and forfeited — I wonder, was everything worth it? Did I spend these years on the right things?
In my 20s I wanted to be free. I wanted nothing to do with whatever ideas of adulthood I was presented with in my youth. I didn’t want a nine-to-five job, I didn’t want to place value on finding a husband, and I didn’t want kids. I wanted to be running through my favorite cities learning how to be a successful artist. I wanted to be a wild expression of life untethered by the remorse of settling for a life without risk.
In my 20s I inhaled risk. I did everything I wanted that scared me.
In that regard, I have no regrets.
Yet, this freedom has cost me something. Unlike others my age, who might be reaching moments of earned stability, I have none of that.
I leaned so far into freedom without finding a certain kind of balance. And maybe that’s what’s happening to me right now. The costs of what I’ve chosen. Living with my parents and continuing to build a fledgling artistic career. Sacrificing what my life looks like on the outside so that it feels right and true on the inside. Navigating windiness, turmoil, and uncertainty.
Three whole decades on this Earth and this is what I have to show for it.
As I begin to enter my first steps into this clean, new decade, my hands are covered with the rubble of my past adventures. Their discoveries dirtied my hands with their soil. I toiled and rummaged for a life that was expressive and free. And now I have it. But now, I want to make a tweak to my approach as I tumble into this new set of years.
In my 20s I spent my focus on freedom, transformation, and unlocking my artistic voice. And in exchange for those things, I lost certainty. Of course, no one really has certainty. But I chose a life that centered on not knowing. I wanted to submerge within not knowing to see what I could find for myself. To see what I could uncover on my own without someone telling me this was the path to a safe and stable life. I rejected safety and stability. I wanted to live as if my life was a lottery and risk daily to see if I had the winning ticket.
I’m wiser now to understand that embodying freedom doesn’t mean the absence of stability. In fact, freedom is only bolstered by it. But it has to be the right kind of stability. It’s a balancing act that requires refinement. Or really, just the belief that freedom is an extraction. It’s something you can trigger in anything you do.
It’s a cost that pays itself back.
You don't always get the freedom you imagined for yourself. It might not look as picturesque as you dreamed when you were 19 imagining what it would be like to close out your 20s. But I’ve learned, I can be as free in my room as I can be running through New York City. All it takes is a minor switch. A mere perspective change. Which luckily, due to my constant risk-taking these past years, is something I can do. Because freedom is a risk. It’s a commitment to a truth you can’t see. That you have to wear. You have to own. You have to breathe as if it is breathing into you.
Freedom is an understanding. Reaching it is only a few adjustments away.
How much time will I gain now that I know that I’m already free? That it is nothing I need to chase. How any amount of money or accolades or resources or time won’t change this discovery.
Because what if freedom is finite? Finite in its infinity? Meaning that once you understand freedom is accessible in every moment, the only difference between being free, and not, is knowing that you are. That it is only our belief that dwindles or swells. Not the freedom itself.
I hope, these years and what I’ve lost, account for this. I believe that they do.
I’m still figuring out how to live, as we all will continue to do — but these soon-to-be 30 years of experience I hold in my hands like gold. And it could be I'm still preparing for the moment it all comes together. Where everything I’ve risked for finally makes sense and I experience the convergence of success, stability, and artistic adoration.
But what if in this next decade, it doesn’t happen? Would it still be worth the risk?
I think for some of us, we don’t get to choose the risks we take. It’s something just embedded within us. Like a star we walk towards. I’m okay with giving and not getting something back.
Are you spending the years of your life in the way you want to lose them?
Are you losing them to the right things?
Have you added up what these years have cost you?
And has it been a worthy investment?
Can you say you’re proud of what you’ve lost?