An approaching birthday reminds me how unstable I seem for my age. But who's putting more pressure on me to conform to a "normal," "successful" lifestyle -- me or the world around me?
by Jane D.
The 35th birthday is around the corner, so let's start the countdown or the meltdown. After the 30th birthday, each that has followed has been a sore reminder that time is ticking away and that I need to decide on a career, a man, and eventually a city to call my own before my youth is totally gone.
So far the only three things that I am certain about are as follows: I love to swim, I love to drink red wine, and I loved living in the penthouse in Gotham. (I still think about the penthouse sometimes and how lovely and graceful it was compared to the modern skyscrapers and shopping malls here in Hong Kong.)
That leaves a lot of room for certainty, which strikes fear in me, because I really don’t know what I will do, and what will become of me. And I'd like to.
Hey, this is serious business. This birthday is a reminder that I am not a young adult but rather a seasoned trooper. Thirty-five is a sort of no-nonsense number, a milestone that my 20s are now far behind me. It is a crossroads age when I feel like I should have an epiphany and, more importantly, act on it. My only epiphany so far is that I now will be closer to 40 than 30.
And as the countdown starts with the birthday, the grandmother and relatives who are close now that I've been working in Asia are starting to fret and wonder what is wrong with me. Well join the party, I’ve been living with these concerns and worries since my 30th birthday. Here I have culture to contend with, too. Women, no -- excuse me -- Chinese women, are not supposed to do this, or so I'm told. What is the “this?” The “this” is living like a well-educated gypsy, collecting new addresses and frequent flyer miles, and not settling down or achieving the usual milestones of real adulthood -- a marriage, a mortgage, a baby, and maybe even a pet.
A few weeks ago, my aunt sat me down and said with great concern, “You know, the Chinese have a saying that at the end of the day everyone wants a house of their own. Your own house can be home sweet home, even if it’s a doghouse.” She must not realize that I also want to settle down with a family and home of my own. Thing is, I can’t tell her -- or most of the rest of my family -- about my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) or anxiety, the things that keep me from a stable life. If I did tell them why I feel unable to settle down and commit to anyone or anything, I am sure I'd be even further removed from their idea of success.
So, this is 35. Happy birthday to me.