I was 23 when I moved to Taiwan. I had just graduated college, after five years instead of four. I was going to teach English in Taiwan for a year, make a little money, learn a little Chinese, see some new places, whatever…and then go home and get a real job and settle down.
My roommates that first year were in their late 20s-early 30s. Fresh out of college, all perky and full of potential, I loved what I was doing. But I knew there was no way I’d be in Taiwan looking for work if I were any closer to the big 3-0. By the time I was 30, I was going to have a job, and I’d be on a career path, I’d probably be writing, I’d definitely be happy, and of course I’d be married and ready to start a family.
I looked down on the roommates. I wondered what they were doing with their lives…
But then – after five years instead of one – I was still in Taiwan. I was in a dead-end relationship, I had no savings, no retirement fund, and I had just spent five years teaching before figuring out there wasn’t any opportunity for advancement.
I decided I wanted to be a writer, so I left Taiwan to go to Shanghai to be an intern for someone who had outshone me when we were classmates in high school.
The next year, I turned 29 whilst chugging fluorescent margaritas on the patio of a tequila bar in Shanghai. Three months later, I was single and unemployed, sleeping in my mom’s spare bedroom in Pittsburgh.
One month later, I was sleeping on my friend’s futon in Philadelphia, still running my mouth about wanting to be a writer. I spent most of my time sleeping, cooking, and walking.
It was becoming clear that my imaginary timelines and deadlines for my amorphous goals weren’t worth shit. That in fact, it was incredibly easy to turn 30 without a job, a life partner, or even a place to live.
Whether you put up a fight, whether you have a game plan, whether you have goals or intentions or dreams you can’t even speak to yourself, time keeps moving.
When I finally got my corporate job, I had to borrow money from my younger brother to pay the security deposit on a studio apartment. I turned 30 four months later and my mom drove from Pittsburgh to Harrisonburg to celebrate with me. I shared a bottle of sparkling wine with a stranger and tried to dance on top of the bar, the way we used to in Taiwan. She told me to get down and herded me home.
I hated that job just weeks after I started it. I spent 15 months writing a dictionary, and then they moved my whole team to the windowless second floor and sat us in cubicles to encourage collaboration. During an impressive temper tantrum, our manager told us we couldn’t even ask to move to the empty desks on the floor with the windows. Our projects were scrapped, one by one, then we were.