2012 is a big year for me and many of my friends and classmates that were born in 1982. Full age disclosure — I’m a part of the lot that is turning 30 this year. And I haven’t yet decided if I will make this whole “turning 30 – thing” into a big deal or not.
I can hardly remember my 20th birthday, not so much because of my aged failing memory, but more likely because it was uneventful — turning 20, at least for Americans, is symbolic only because it means that you’re on the brink of a seriously good birthday. My twentieth year did bring some very good things into my life — it was the year I finally traveled abroad to France for the first time, after so many years of having wanted to go. It was the year that I would meet G.
How should I feel about thirty? A sense of relief to have reached a stage of autonomy after the angst-ridden twenties? Misery in the sense that my youth is fading away? Panic that I have not yet achieved certain goals and dreams entertained by my younger self?
I rather like thinking about age in terms of Hindu Life Stages — these stages are fluid, qualitative descriptions of a life roadmap as opposed to emotionally charged numbers:
During the first stage, one is charged with being a student, of accumulating knowledge about the world.
The second stage, “homeownership”, is when one turns toward domestic and civic concerns. Gathering material goods and establishing oneself in the context of a family and a community become primary concerns.
The third stage, or “hermit” stage is when one’s duties as a homeowner and family person begin to end. Spiritual contemplation and a retreat from community and civic society begins.
During the fourth and final stage, “wondering ascetic”, the (hopefully) wise and aged renounce the material world and focus exclusively on contemplating spiritual matters.
At thirty, I think that my “student” stage is fully behind me, and the challenges and satisfactions of domestic concerns and establishing myself in the wider world lie ahead…