Found 12 results when searching for "the turning 30 series"


I turned 30 in France. This wasn’t planned. It wasn’t even an excuse to buy the ticket, when I made the decision to fly there so many months ago.

But when I was at a dinner party that day, speaking with a woman who polished her English from a year of doing her degree in London (and had an appropriately posh British accent mixed in with her French), she guessed I was 30.

“Amazing”, I said, “To the day.” She had to confirm, “Aujourd’hui?”, and I couldn’t stop her from hushing the other conversations so she could announce it to the table.

portrait at age 30

Kisses from the babies, the girls, and the babygurls.

They lit a thin candle in my banana split sundae, sang me Happy Birthday in two languages, and plied me with expensive alcohols. Earlier that day, Darren sent me an e-mail, telling me to get drunk. I didn’t let him down.

It was a far bigger deal than I was used to, but it wasn’t hard to appreciate the attention, from people I had only known for an evening or two. I thought they must have been happier than me, just to have an excuse to celebrate something, and talk, and drink, and cheer.

No wonder people like their birthdays. No wonder people love France.

There’s no way for me to deny how significant the last year has been. At one point, I finally felt like I was the person I’d be for the rest of my life. Then things changed, and I fell to my lowest point. But I picked myself up, and here I am now. Still human. Still alive.

This project was a way for me to document my evolving life and aging skin as it is now. I never knew how much I’d go through, and how much would change between each interval.

I turned 30, and I wonder who I’ll be in another day, another month, another year, another decade.

The Turning 30 Series

29 11/12: The Work in Progress

He who is not satisfied with himself will grow; he who is not sure of his own correctness will learn many things.

—Chinese proverb

As much as I think I’ve become settled in my character and my mindset, I still surprise myself with how much these continue to change.

self-portrait at 29 11/12

Me and my Plushstache (handmade with love by Shannon Gerard).

I used to think I’d finally be happy if I was a certain person — some idealized version of myself who was indestructible, infallible, and flawless — but I recently realized that I shouldn’t see this as the goal. Instead, I should be happy with the fact that I’m not there yet, because change means evolution and growth.

It would be folly to believe that an arrival is also an end. One should continue to struggle, and to doubt, and to hurt, and to be a work in progress.

I turn 30 in a month, and I still don’t know who I am.

The Turning 30 Series

29 9/12: The Rocker

Music has always been a big part of my life, so it’s strange to consider the fact that I only seriously took up an instrument the year I’m turning 30, which I generally consider late to be starting anything new.

I used to play piano and flute, but that was never really my choice. For the former, it was more of my mom wanting me to be a good Chinese boy, and me not wanting to let her down. When it came to the latter, my school had a strong emphasis on arts, and either visual arts or music were mandatory. I chose music1, and played the flute; far from ideal for a teenager going through puberty and an identity crisis.

I bought my first ukulele a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ve stopped playing since.

Self portrait at 29 9/12

Jammin’ in my jammies. With what may possibly be an erection.

Photo by Jess.

So much of my life has been filled by those four little strings. It’s an entirely new medium I’m still exploring, a muscle I’d yet to flex, a way of expressing myself that’s so unlike any of my other outlets.

I get pains in my fingers and wrists from playing too much, so I structure my life around the breaks; doing laundry, writing, cleaning my room, sorting my paperwork until the tingling or pinching goes away. The pads of my fingers are dead. I used to fall asleep thinking of her — now I work out scale patterns and chords across the fretboard in my head until I pass out. I even decided to make the ultimate commitment and grow out the nails on my strumming hand because the longer they get, the more pleased I am with the sound (and I find both long nails and asymmetry absolutely disgusting).

It’s come to the point where I’d rather play ukulele than play games, or go out, or talk to people. I love playing so much that I enjoy it even though I’m still no good at it.

I turn 30 in three months, and music is my hot hot bath, my dead end, and my girlfriend.

The Turning 30 Series

  1. Ironic that I’m so much more of a visual artist now. []

29 8/12: The Son

There’s no revelation more startling than the fact that your dad is cooler than you.

This is especially true of my own father, who isn’t just cool for an old guy, he’s cool period. As a teenager, I remember him wearing a leather bomber jacket, and learning to ride a purple Kawasaki Ninja sport bike which he eventually traded in for a silver Porsche.

When I was even younger, my friends would tell me he looked like a secret agent. One time he came to help me move out of residence, and his jeans had wider cuffs than mine (and back then I loved wearing wide-leg khakis). I can’t remember a time when he didn’t wear something by Lacoste, Polo, or Tommy, and even though he may dress far younger than his age, he can still pull it off.

Now he’s a man moving closer to his 60s, driving a Mercedes and a BMW, with what seems to have a coterie of women whose common interest is him. He watches popular movies, practices singing, and dances on a regular basis. Even my grandma once told me that people like him because he’s the fun one to be around.

Self portrait at 29 8/12


This is all very different from me; a shy, introverted, awkward person whose idea of a good time generally involves being in front of a computer.

Still, with all these differences, I know I’m his son. Just a chip off the old block, with the same work ethics, the same perfectionist tendencies, the same neurotic tendencies.

We get grumpy when we’re hungry. We hate feeling sweaty and sometimes have to shower twice in a day. We make the same silly jokes when we’re around new people. We decorated our houses exclusively with modern, minimalist furniture before we knew what each other’s houses looked like. And as I grow older, I’ve also started developing the same night owl habits, carefree attitude, insomnia, and digestion problems.

I turn 30 in four months, and I’m becoming my father’s son.

The Turning 30 Series

29 7/12: The Taoist

I got these tattoos to remind myself to stay on the path. A reminder like this is something of a paradox; to be on the path is to be unaware of the path.

Even though I strongly believed in the tenets of Taoism, I still found myself off the path more often than on it. There was a point where I began to question whether I was truly a Taoist or just a Tao-enthusiast, because my understanding of the ideas didn’t necessarily mean an ability to apply them to my life.

Self portrait at 29 7/12


But over time, I forgot about my tattoos. Or, should I say, I stopped thinking about them, the way one may be so accustomed to the nose on one’s face as to never dwell on the idea of it’s existence.

In the same way, I’ve forgotten about the path too, even though I know I’m on it. I don’t seek council from the Tao Te Ching nowadays, because there’s nothing left that I don’t understand. I found the feeling of serenity I’d been seeking for so long.

I turn 30 in five months, and I finally believe I’m a Taoist.

The Turning 30 Series