Today, I Turn Thirty — and I’m OK With That. Here’s Why.

MAUI, HI—Dirty thirty; it’s finally here. It’s an age that I’ve given very little thought to, though this morning it’s obviously on my mind.

Like many people in their late twenties, I’ve said that age is just a number — one that doesn’t correlate to how I actually feel. But it’s hard to say goodbye to my first full decade of adulthood without reflecting on milestones: what I have (or haven’t) accomplished, what I plan to accomplish, and what other people around me are doing. It’s only natural.

I haven’t worked for the past week, and I was lucky enough to have my brother visiting for the past few days. He left last night, but we were able to spend the past few days adventuring — hiking the crater at Haleakala, stargazing, whale watching, snorkeling with turtles, and just kicking back and watching the sun set.

Quality bro-time for the birthday

Quality bro-time for the birthday

Watching the stars with the bro

Watching the stars with the bro

We spent our weekend indulging in shared experience, if you will.

But today? I don’t plan on doing much. I woke up, had some coffee, and responded to the stream of messages from all you well-wishers. I took some time to think about my life, and what I’ve accomplished — how I’ve spent the past few years pursuing things that I was interested in. How I’ve spent very little time putting down meaningful roots in a community — or working on honing any one professional skill.

I’ve spent the past few years exploring, working on what I call my life resume. I’ve indulged myself in countless ways: I’ve worked as a photographer, I’ve learned to scuba dive, I’ve indulged my passion for writing, I’ve made friends of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, I’ve dabbled with various religious philosophies (read: meditation camp), I’ve tried living in the mountains, at the beach, and internationally, I’ve learned how to balance my alone time as an ambivert, I’ve considered becoming a lawyer, a businessman, a teacher, or a journalist, I’ve realized that I have a deep passion for the natural world, and the mark I want to make with my life will be working with the environment — I’ve done a lot of different things, most of them revolving around experience.

Getting paid to scuba dive is an indulgent way to make your money

Getting paid to scuba dive is an indulgent way to make your money

I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world around me through all of this experience. Yet experience doesn’t help others — all of this has largely been for my own benefit. One of the reasons why I love writing so much is that it gives me the chance to share just a little bit of my experience with the rest of the world, but we eventually all come to a crossroads.

When do we become responsible for something greater than ourselves?

At what point do we cease the indulgent exploration of our early life (let’s say, our 20’s), and devote ourselves to something greater than just our own experience? At what point do we stop moving-to-Maui-just-because-we’ve-always-wanted-to-live-in-Hawai’i?

Many of my peers have already made this leap. They are dedicated doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, homeowners, and members of a community. You know who you are, and you know what it means to seek meaning in something greater than yourself.

For whatever reason, I’ve felt the compulsion to explore a little bit more before I take on the responsibility of something more than myself. To do anything less is a disservice to the people who will someday be the nucleus of my adult life, because without these experiences I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be able to concern myself with a greater purpose, because I’d always be wondering what if.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to have taken the time to explore the what ifs of my life, but as I get older I think about the impact that my actions have on others, where I want my life to go.

So, how am I spending my birthday?

Reflecting on it all.

I’m thinking about the people who have made me who I am today, and how I want to approach this next decade — to what causes, individuals, and communities I want to be a part of, and how I want to be responsible for something more than just myself.

I won’t be celebrating in the traditional sense. I’m not having a party, and I’m not telling everyone to go to a bar to have a drink for me.

I’m not doing anything special, because I’m content. An açaí bowl for breakfast with a friend, and the chance to work in a beautiful place with people I enjoy being around. I’m happy with the choices I’ve made to get where I am today, and thinking about the choices I’ll make to create my tomorrow.

Among the many gifts I received in the mail this morning, perhaps the best was my Hawaiian ID card. While I’m certainly thinking about my future, I’m not done experiencing things just yet, and the symbolic nature of that document isn’t lost on me.

Today, I’m just celebrating the life that I’ve chosen for myself — and I’m really, really OK with that.

A day at the office. PC:  Nathan Kelley

A day at the office. PC: Nathan Kelley