Today is my 30th birthday. As I take stock of the end of my 20's and the beginning of my 30's, I am struck by how much I am not who I would have imagined I might be, but yet I do have much for which to be grateful.
I have a wonderful girlfriend, live in a great city, have a family I am close to, and good friends. Professionally I am making my way on my own terms, running a software & consulting business and starting a conference on Networks. In the upcoming year I will need to redouble my efforts on both ventures to pull them off with success, but I look forward to that.
Entering my 20's I assumed I was just a year or so away from a college degree, and that a PhD (of some form) would quickly follow. After which, I assumed I would enter some form of career, exactly what was not certain, though technology was certainly a strong possibility. Having done some writing, I expected to continue writing and probably finish a book (or two), probably more in the upcoming decade.
At age 19 I had yet to have a significent relationship, really to date at all in fact. A couple of not very successful dates in my senior year of high school, a few friends on whom I had crushes, and a few unrequited crushes in my first years of college, but nothing romantic. At age 20 I would have my first real relationship, but entering my 20's that was yet ahead of me.
In my early 20's a very good friend offered me some advice. "Shannon", he said, "you are the type of man that woman in their 20's do not look for, but when you are in your 30's, you will be quite the catch." He went on, both to explain and offer some practical advice (which I mostly ignored to my detriment) - namely that while in my 20's I probably should date older woman who would be more interested in a man such as I. Now as I enter my 30's I do hope that in essense he was right, that my 30's will be a happier decade for me than my 20's were, they are certainly starting out on the right note. By happier, I mean not just not being single (as I was for the vast majority of my 20's) but also confident and comfortable with who I am, what I am doing, and where I am going.
Throughout my 20's I have had a number of careers, tried many different things. A few I was relatively successful at, most I left behind for the next challenge. In my 30's I hope to build on the diversity of my past and shape myself and my careers in the direction I want to go (and into one that provides me with the resources to make changes onto the world).
In my 20's I traveled - I drove around most of the western parts of the US in a 7 week summer trip, I took many business trips to London and NYC, I worked for 7 weeks one summer on an archaeological dig in Israel. I made a few trips to Paris, on my own without company, one trip with company to Toronto. Within the US I traveled to Washington DC, Boston, NYC, LA, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Hilton Head, Detroit, Madison. In my 30's I expect to return to Israel and to finally visit India.
When my business ventures are successful and allow me the freedom, and when my girlfriend has the time, I hope to take her to many parts of the globe. To a peaceful beach someplace warm, with just enough of civilization to avoid bugs and diseases, but quiet and solitude - to stay there for weeks at a time reading, exploring, and relaxing. To Paris, to walk with her across the Seine, to show her my favorite ice cream place in the world, to hold hands as we pause somewhere and catch a private moment and quickly kiss. To the south of France, where I have never been, but where food we both love comes from and where together we might wander markets, eat food fresh from the ground, and rent a small place with a kitchen to prepare our finds.
This decade, too, I want to go to Turkey to see the places I spent my college years studying about. To Asia, especially Japan and Hong Kong, to experience first hand places I have been reading about for more then a decade. To Thailand to taste food I have been enjoying many times a week since college. To Australia (and perhaps New Zealand) for months (most likely) of exploring a world of vast open spaces.
While I think we'll stay here in Chicago for much of this decade, I hope, by the end of my 30's to have lived in at least one other city, ideally to have lived in a few other countries as well as other cities - to remain tied to Chicago, but to have established ourselves in other places as well.
Early in my 30's I will witness the marriages of two of my closest friends throughout my 20's. I suspect that later on in my 30's these friends, and others, will have (and continue to in some case) children. I expect that by the end of my own 30's, I too will be a father. That will change me I am sure, but ground me as well.
As I sit here on the first day of my 30's, I make myself a few promises. One, I will end my 30's with my degree (at least one) - this means that at some point, I will have to give myself the time to finish. Two, I will finish a book - probably a novel, but it is certainly possible that I will write a few non-fiction books as well. Three, that beyond coming up with ideas and theorums, I will strive to share them - to take them from glimmers of concepts in my mind to works that can be published, shared, and implemented. Four, I will continue to be interested in politics, but most likely will get more so and more active - more engaged with effecting real change and growing opportunity for all in America (and around the world).
Now, on a more practical front, I have to celebrate my birthday by working. Tonight we, my family, my girlfriend and I will gather for a great meal. During the day, besides working and writing and reading, I plan on giving myself a treat or two, but not in excess.