A Sweet Tribute to my Roaring 20’s

A strange thing happened yesterday. It started like any other Wednesday: I finished work at 11:30 a.m., hugged my 6-year olds goodbye as they began their lunch, and dashed out the door to my Local Bubble tea stand to feed what has become a proper addiction. My most fluent Chinese is in this particular moment, ordering my bubble tea (translates to: Big Bubble Milk Tea, large size, half sugar, less ice, no bag- these are all options that one must answer before they hand over the stash). I joyfully slurped up the tapioca balls through my giant straw, reveling in this moment, as I do every single day, and meandered through my neighborhood and felt ever so blissful that I landed here, as I do every single day. I then walked home to drop off my backpack and decide what to do with the rest of my day.

The sun was shining and the day felt promising, so I decided to grab a quick 7-11 snack (because sometimes convenience trumps all else when there is exploring to be done) and hopped on a train to a beach I hadn’t yet visited on the outskirts of Taipei, called Baishawan Beach. The journey there wasn’t the most ideal hour and a half I’d ever spent, with the usual winning combination of crowds and linguistic confusion, but when I finally arrived, it was truly a little slice of heaven.

People had advised me about going to this beach as it gets insanely crowded, but on this Wednesday afternoon it was virtually empty. It wasn’t the most scenic beach I have ever been to, but I’m slightly jaded in this regard so I try to put the reigns on any criticism. The sand was soft and white and the water was clean, so I had no complaints. I spread out my towel, nestled in, and gazed out at the horizon.

It was deep blue and surprisingly still, sprinkled with a few boats and maybe one swimmer. My first thought was how nice it felt to get some peace and quiet from my bustling Taipei life. And my second thought was that I was turning 30 in exactly three days (!!!), and this was probably my very last peaceful “me time” session I would have while in my 20’s. Yes, in just three days I would be gracefully (I’d like to think) exiting my 20’s in a probable haze of shisha and belly-dancers, and stepping into the big scary number 30.

And then that strange thing I mentioned happened. As I lay there on my back, digging my toes into the warm sand, the stubborn Asian sun beating down on my legs and bare shoulders like only an Asian knows how to do, crisp wind blowing through my hair, any sense of fear I had felt over turning 30 dissipated. And in its place was a deep sense of contentment, gratitude, and a feeling of joy that ran deep to my core.

Then, like a movie, the decade of my 20’s started playing through my mind, from beginning to end. There on Baishawan Beach, in complete solitude, I allowed myself to watch it, to embrace it, to feel it all. And it looked like this…

Memories flooded my consciousness of all the distant places I have traveled.. all 31 countries, the five countries I have lived in, the countless people who have drifted in and out of my life, like waves in the ocean, yet impacted my life enormously. The mountains I have climbed, chai-infused smoggy India sunrises, sunburned skin, coconuts, sleepy eyes and dirty feet. Polking my head out the train door in a sleepy haze during torturously long train journeys fit for a pilgrimmage, when time stood still and I was reduced to nothing but an anonymous traveler in a country I didn’t belong. Countless sunsets slamming cheap beer on remote islands with strangers who turned into friends who turned into people I never got over. Blistering hot days and freezing cold nights spent in deserts, on beaches, on hammocks, in bungalows, in jungles, in filthy hostels, and in ritzy hotels (much much less often, I must admit).

The times I have fallen in love, both for short periods and long periods. The heartbreaks that turned into wounds that turned into scars, that turned into barely visible marks that are better left undisturbed. My MBA I earned in three countries, chilly London afternoons spent in a cozy wooden pub by a fireplace decorated with Christmas lights, that heavy dank pub smell that London does best. My time spent working in San Francisco, passing time on the roof with co-workers, watching over our city. Summers spent on the deck of my parents’ house, sipping iced tea and cracking jokes. My time spent in the rice fields of Bali as I became a yoga teacher and discovered the real beauty in complete stillness. The life I fell in love with in Bangkok, my summer in Vienna, my flirtation with India, struggling through China, being lost in Bolivia, teaching kindergarden in Taiwan.

I thought about my family, who have been my foundation, my rock, my tireless support network for 30 years. I thought about my friends who have loved me unconditionally, maybe even when I didn’t deserve it. I thought about my friends and my family who love me without needing to understand me. I thought of the hearts I had broken, and the broken hearts I have had. And I thought about how much time truly does heal.

I thought about how hard I have worked, how much I have read, how much I have loved, how hard I have tried, how much fear I have faced, and how much courage and strength I have gained.

And I began to cry. Not out of sadness, but out of infinite gratitude and joy. I cried because I finally realized my life has been nothing short of miraculous, and if it ended today I would not have one regret. Life has had a way of continuously bringing me to exactly where I need to be, and I couldn’t possibly feel more blessed. I have grown to trust in the moment, and to trust myself. I have lived my 20’s fully, the good, the bad, and the in between. My transformation runs deep, and my gratitude unexplainable.

I feel beyond grateful and blessed for everything I’ve experienced, all the beautiful people who have entered my life, stood by my side, or left and taught me lessons I needed to be taught. For all I have accomplished. For all the love I have in my life right here, right now, and all over this world. For everything that lay before me… the infinite possibilities that lay in the mystery of tomorrow.

The memories that played through my mind like a movie at Baishawan Beach aren’t just any memories- they are gentle vibrations that have painted the canvas of my life, and are tucked away in the deepest corners of my heart.

Although there’s been ample transformation in the past decade, I also know there is still lots to discover, lots to learn, and lots of growing up to do. There are still many things I want. And this is what makes life exciting. There is no end goal, there is nowhere to “arrive”. We are always in a state of flux, and the beauty is in learning to dance to this rhythm. But I know that right now, in this moment, I feel deeply content, centered, and strong. As I lay here alone on an isolated beach in Taiwan, I understand that life is amazing. My life is amazing. My cup is already full.

So no, 30 doesn’t seem scary. Honestly, It’s about damn time. I look forward to the next chapter. And to everyone who has been a part of it, I thank you from the deepest part of my soul.

Bless.

Goodbye 20’s! I miss you already.

And cheers to a job… done. 😉

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7 comments

  • Very beautiful post … wow, you have done a LOT for someone just 30! Great perspective and of course, gratitude is always a highly-evolved emotion! Happy Birthday … I’m turning 61 tomorrow (yay Scorpios!) and I feel pretty much the same way about my life — so grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the places I’ve been lucky to see!

    • Thanks for the comment, Betty! And happy belated birthday to you. Nice to hear that you feel gratitude as well- it’s definitely the attitude I’m always trying to cultivate and grow. 🙂

  • Great blog Emily, so beautifully written, and such a beautiful story. You certainly have a lot to be happy about, and a lot to be thankful for. And, you still have decades ahead of you – I wonder what amazing things are in store for you!

  • Emily, I don’t know you, but I feel threw your beautiful mother I do! What a beautiful blog and yes so well written! You sure have had a beautiful life and so much more to come:) I hope I get to meet you some day it would be an honor to meet such a fabulous women! I wish the next 30 just as great as the lat 30:))) I so admire you and your beautiful kind and loving mother!

    Much Love and Caring
    Linda

    • Thank you very much, Linda! I am extremely grateful to have the mother I do- truly the kindest and most beautiful person I know. 🙂 I appreciate the comment and you taking the time to read my blog. Best.

  • Emily, We met while trekking over the Salkantay Pass in Peru. I was the 50s something guy with all the camera gear. Sadly, I have lost track of the others who shared that adventure with us (each one amazing in their own right). I have three children including a daughter who is 15. She has already spent a month in India teaching basic math at a school for tribal girls, two weeks in China on a cross cultural exchange and visited a half a dozen countries in Europe and Central America. I share your love of travel and experiencing new people and places and am trying to nurture this passion in my children. You are one of a small group of people who I hold out to them (especially my daughter) as examples of people living fully and on their own terms, soaking up all that life has to offer. The ripples from the steps you take travel farther than you may realize. Happy birthday!

    • This was amazing and heartfelt to read. Thank you, Carl. I definitely remember you, and that trekking trip over the Salkantay Pass remains a very dear memory to me! Wonderful group of people, wonderful trip. It sounds like your daughter is having so many amazing worldly experiences at such a young age- good on you, and good on her! And thanks again for this comment- means a great deal to me. 🙂 Very Glad we are still in contact. Take good care and thanks for following!

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