Posts tagged with "growing old"

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 5/12: The Uncarved

If, 5 years ago, you asked me where I’d be now, I could­n’t have even giv­en you a decent guess.

I nev­er imag­ined I’d be work­ing in graph­ic and web design at a den­tal lab. Or that my job would shift to more of a cor­po­rate lev­el, some­thing that hap­pened because I hap­pened to have the right set of skills at the right time.

Self portrait at 29 5/12


I nev­er imag­ined I’d meet peo­ple like Bronwen or Julie or Heather G, or Frédéric and Misun, or Jesse and Audra, or Shane and Krista.

I nev­er thought I’d dis­cov­er bands like Magneta Lane, The Knife, From Autumn to Ashes, and Muse.

I nev­er knew I’d start play­ing the ukulele. Or have an art gallery show. Or final­ly, final­ly, final­ly start learn­ing astron­o­my and own a tele­scope.

But I’m not sur­prised at where I’ve end­ed up. And who knows who I’ll meet, what I’ll do, or where I’ll be? Long ago, I decid­ed I’d stay in Ottawa until my Tai Chi teacher retired, and that’s soon com­ing. This city is com­fort­able, but it’s also just as small, and I’ve always dreamed of liv­ing in an alpha city like Hong Kong or New York or London.

It’s easy to fall into the belief that we’re in con­trol of our lives or our des­tinies. The real­i­ty is that we’re just trav­el­ing through life like leaves being car­ried by the cur­rent in a stream. There are so many things that can hap­pen along the way out of our con­trol. Connections you can’t pre­dict. Experiences you can’t even imag­ine.

I turn 30 in sev­en months, and I don’t know where I’ll be, in life, love, or home.

The Turning 30 Series

29 4/12: The Mask

Man can­not cast off this mask; it is a pro­jec­tion of his own flesh and spir­it. He can no longer remove from his own face this mask which has already grown like skin and flesh so he is always star­tled as if dis­be­liev­ing this is him­self, but it is in fact him­self. He can­not remove this mask, and this is agony. But hav­ing man­i­fest­ed itself as his mask, it can­not be oblit­er­at­ed, because the mask is a repli­ca of him­self. It has no will of its own, or one could say it has a will but no means of expres­sion and so prefers not to have a will. Therefore it has left man with an eter­nal face with which he can exam­ine him­self in amaze­ment.

—Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain

Self portrait at 29 4/12


I turn 30 in eight months, and I still don’t know if I’m the per­son who smiles, or the per­son who hides behind the smile.

The Turning 30 Series