I seem to have made a habit of writing reflective birthday posts in recent years and I would very much to like to carry on the tradition. While new year posts seemed to be more milestone focused, my birthday posts were mainly posts of self-reflection.
I am spending today in contemplative solitude and silence, I was never really into celebrating anything anyway. If anything, the anniversary of my birth serves as a constant reminder for me to reflect upon on my personal growth and why I was given life 32 years ago.
At 30 I have found myself, at 31 I discovered the meaning of life, at 32 this year, I am learning that finding myself and the meaning of life is only a small step towards a long and winding road ahead. If I compare myself to a computer game, it is as though my character took this long while to be trained in order to acquire enough XP so that I can embark on real challenges. Game on.
I am reminded of this quote by Steve Jobs I read a couple of days ago, that people misunderstand that having a great idea is 90% of the work, but the magic actually lies in the process of execution. Nobody really sees the nitty gritty details that goes into an execution. They do not see the tradeoffs.
Great ideas come by easy, so do great ambitions. Having the belief and the perseverance to see things though, is a whole different matter. Having the persistence and the patience to get people to buy into your ideas, takes the game to a whole different level. People stop playing games because they run out of patience to go through difficult challenges over and over again. You get worn out over time and you question why you bother in the first place. Life, is the same.
I have learned that life does not unravel in spectacular fashion once I have found myself. I had the naivety to believe that once I have found myself and my meaning, everything will fall into place. I was very wrong. It only opened my eyes to the gigantic mess I have to navigate through in order to have a stake in my dreams. Life gets harder, not easier. Like a game. You do not go through easier levels as you complete each one. It gets more difficult because that is how you will know how how far you have come along as a human being.
I am starting to take a very sombre approach to life now, once I understood that the magic we see in this world did not come by because “the universe consipred to do so”. It is because certain human beings continuously make difficult choices to see things through. The privilege some of us have in life, just to be able to live in a first world country and not having to go through war, is only made possible by individuals fighting the impossible dream. Liberty and rights, no matter how much we take for granted now, no matter how often we seem to talk about sexism in tech, we tend to forget that it is only decades ago that women are not allowed to vote.
I still believe in the magic of the universe, but the magic I believe in now is not all hunky dory with golden sparkles. The magic I believe in requires the conviction and courage of many people. The universe can conspire to help us, sure, but the difficult choices still have to be made. The tradeoffs and the heartbreaks still have to be chosen.
I have learned that life has to exist in paradoxes and contradictions. That sometimes loving something means having the courage to let it go. That holding on may seem selfish in retrospective. That losing a game may mean winning in the long term. That walking slower can mean finishing the race earlier. That acceptance may not mean resignation.
I have come to accept that life will always be full of trials and tribulations. That sometimes it is simply better to go with the present flow instead of stubbornly hanging on to a rock. But other times perhaps it is worth injuring yourself holding on to some rocks if going with the flow means losing your sense of self. There are no correct answers. No proper directions. We can only hope to try our best, that whether we stumble or fly, win or lose, our effort will mean something to this world some day.
Unlike many people I know, I do not wish to live forever, nor do I have an obsession of staying young and keeping my age a secret. Inversely I am proud of my age and I am grateful to embrace the fragility of life. I do not work this hard because I want to leave my name in history. In fact plenty of times I question my own motivations. What is it that I really want, out of this life?
I guess for now, on this day, my answer will be: I am fighting for many others to have a chance to feel alive. There will always be shit happening, there will always be hurt, I do not believe in a utopian world because I think an imperfect world is necessary for people to experience what it means to be alive. But I do believe that everyone should have a fighting chance to live life feeling alive. To have a chance to be a contributor to this world.
The beauty of life doesn’t lie in a perfect fairy tale, but the continued desire to struggle for better even with all that imperfections. I do not have the audacity to dream of ending wars or poverty. I only wish for creators to have more opportunities to create. That their self-worth will not stem from their ability to shut down their dreams.
Why does it matter to me anyway? That more people have more opportunities to create? That they do not pursue career paths deemed worthy only by social expectations? I guess I have experienced that magic, the magic only made possible by stubborn people not afraid to make a hundred tradeoffs, I have seen what can be possible by sheer human will and determination. And selfishly, I want to experience more of it. To experience the fruits of other people’s imagination and audacity, it is one of the greatest joys in life.
I am typing this with my MacBook Air, made possible by the vision of the people at Apple. I am privileged and enabled today only because there were others before me who fought for my rights and made tools for me to use. I am only able to experience what it means to have the liberty to create and have a chance to fight for my own dreams because of such people.
I think it is only right for us, borne of the later generations, to try as hard, if not harder, so that the ones of even later generations will not inherit a world devoid of magic.
For my birthday today, I do not wish for a perfect world, or even world peace. I wish for a world, with endless possibilities, enriched by the limitless imaginations of her people.