Between the ages of 20 and 40 we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow, and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impugnity.
- W.H. Auden
Last year, I turned thirty (30). The big 3-0.
At the time I didn't make much of it. Another year, another birthday. It was the same old stuff. But then this year, I popped back into my blog - after making a new year's resolution to resume blogging - and I stumbled upon this draft. It was titled "A Masterpiece in Progress" and the only text in the post was the quote above by W.H. Auden.
So... What was I thinking when I started the original article? I don't know. But I'll tell you what I'm thinking about now.
Currently, at the ripe old age of 30, I am quite literally halfway through the process of what Auden described as the years of self-discovery - and I'm wondering if, well, I have discovered up to half of what I ought to have discovered.
I'm wondering if, for instance, I know myself any better now, than I did when I was 20; and if I have truly learnt any life lessons about my limitations, and my character...
Those of you who have been following my blog over the years, may be thinking to themselves - (ahn ahn nau, after all the articles you've written on your realizations, and thoughts about life, isn't the answer obvious?) - But as I sit here now, I kid you not, I struggle to call to mind any lesson I have learnt about myself... and I wonder if I am growing up at all?
But you see, that's the thing. Is growing up something you actively do? Something where you can say, "yes - when I turned 35, I knew I had finally grown up" OR like college, where you can say "in 2 more years i'll have my adulting degree - I just need to take those courses on financial literacy, time management, and how to quit a video game addiction.
It isn't, is it?
So then is it something you passively do? You live your life however way you decide and then realize one day "oh my, I'm truly an adult now! I have a job, I pay bills. I've stopped watching cartoons. I have a wife and child...
That also isn't quite right, right?
So I'm sitting here trying to qualify my adult life. I legally "became" an adult at the age of 18, BUT, since then I've also continued to strive to be one... I didn't die at 18 - "o tan, ose, thank you for playing the game of life, you are now qualified" - and I didn't suddenly attain my dreams "oh 18? you've made it! Here's your car, your house, your new wife..."
All that happened was, that society decided it was finally time to leave me to my own devices and be responsible for my own actions. In my newly found adulthood, I was left to be me, and expected to more or less self-regulate.
Which brings me back to W.H. Auden's quote. What he is talking about, I believe, are the prime years of adulthood. The years where we discover, define, and refine, what it means to us to be an adult. It's where we practice adulting in the real world - where live feedback is your only grade, and decisions are your only answers. Where you can choose to be, or not to be, and what to be and how to be.
So then, if adulthood is not a destination, but rather, a way of life after a certain age, "growing up" is a continuous and lifelong pursuit! At thirty (30), I am an adult, who is still practising adulting; and at forty (40), I'll be a better adult who is still practicing adulting; and at fifty (50), I'll be an even better adult who is still practising adulting; and so on...
Thus, my second quote:
You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.
- Sofia Bush
Because this adult life is here to stay, and I must appreciate the adult that I have become, while I work to become the adult that I am becoming. A Masterpiece on one hand (by God's grace), and, a Work-in-Progress on the other.