Thursday, 16 December 2010

At thirty I stood on my own two feet...(Confucius ANA:II,3)

Contained in the Analects of Confucius are many teachings, like the title of this piece. Confucius, a Chinese thinker and social philosopher prized study above everything else, wishing his disciples to think for themselves and stand on their own two feet. The Analects compiled many years after his death apply to the world and its people even today. My own interpretation of this line holding personal significance. A teaching to aspire to and master before this decade passes. From my present position it's very apt for I turn 30 tomorrow.

Am I dreading it? Am I grief-stricken at waving goodbye to my youth? In a nutshell no. Like a relative you can't wait to see the back of, I grimace behind my 20s and look for the first opportunity to push them out. Minutes later, another knock at the door. Well hello 30s, come on in! As a society, we place great emphasis on age. It might be a cliche, but age is just a number. Sour grapes? No, just an observation. Why do we allow time to dictate how we should look? From how we look physically to what we wear – even to govern our interests. Age does not define who you are. All it signifies is a passing of time. Sure you may no longer be the person you were at 20, but is this cause for regret or a reason to celebrate? I take the latter view. I don't want to go back in time to a younger self, to correct misdeeds and misfortunes. I want to go forward. To learn and accept me as I am – not in the past or in the future, but right now.

20s gone, it's not the end of my youth, nor the incoming 30s the beginning of maturity. Somewhere we've been sold the idea that 30s means settling. To be a smug married with a nice car, house and 2.4 kids. I may have chosen differently to my contemporaries, but that doesn't make me a less responsible citizen. I have a job, roof over my head and bills to pay. I'm a contributing member of society, as no doubt we all wish to be. 30s are the middle ground. A time of learning. To be at peace with you are, including all your flaws - to accept them, admonish them and create new ones .

Confucius said, “It's a pleasure to learn and put your learning to its appropriate use...” What I failed to do in my 20s, is what I hope to master in my 30s. I've already begun. Inspired by biographies of those gone before – normal men and women, eons ahead of their time. A poor example are the autobiographical accounts from trendy-somethings. Barely out of nappies, their life half lived. I ask you: is fame more inspirational to others once you're dead? Crudely put, but my answer, I'm sure, would come as no surprise.

With the door to 30 creaking open, I thought I already stood on my own two feet, but maybe, just maybe, I'm still down on my knees...