I turned 34 about three weeks ago, and I officially entered my mid-thirties. I have been busy in my early thirties. I got married, and I became a father. I thought it is important to slow down a little to write down what I have been thinking lately.
After three decades of ‘trial and error,’ I know what I like and what I dislike much better than before. As a result, I find myself becoming more reluctant to be outside of my comfort zone. I am more selective about whom I hang out with, where I go, and how I spend my time. Part of me wants to believe that being selective is an inevitable and natural progression of adulthood, but I have to admit that I often mask my selfishness with a façade of being prudent. It’s been an uncomfortable tug of war in my mind. I don’t believe there is a magical recipe to be generous; it will require many more years of practicing generosity.
Speaking of selfishness, I feel very selfish with my money lately. Seoul is going through a historic rise in housing prices. The median housing price in Seoul just surpassed one million USD, and the majority of homes in my neighborhood are well above two million USD. Because of the rapid rise in housing prices, the government has introduced extremely stringent down payment requirements. The down payment requirement for properties that are worth more than 1.5 million USD is 100%. (not a typo, the down payment requirement is really 100%) To buy a typical house in my neighborhood, I need two million dollars in cash. Unfortunately, I cannot afford one right now.
I thought I have been savvy with my money. I try to keep my budget as low as possible. I save and invest a fat portion of my paycheck, and my stock portfolio has been compounding well above the S&P 500. How did I drift further away from homeownership after faithfully executing all great money advice??? Although my net worth is the highest it has ever been, I’ve never felt more insecure about money.
Starting my own family adds a bit of nuance to how I view money. It reaffirms my belief that money is not the most important thing in life, but money does seem so much more important because it buys goods and services that sustain my family. Money, from the practical wisdom of accumulating wealth to developing a healthy perspective of it, will be an ongoing challenge for a while.
I’ve always desired a picture-perfect life where every aspect of my life is impeccable: finance, relationship, career, personality, health, faith, and hairline. I am slowly letting go of my perfectionism because life is too messy to achieve an ‘ideal’ state and nearly impossible to maintain one. I still think picture-perfect life is worth pursuing, and I should strive hard for excellence in every area of my life.
At the same time, I am comfortable with the fact that my life is not quite perfect right now at this very moment. I don’t have to run away from my deficiencies, flaws, and imperfections. I can embrace them and work on them one at a time. More importantly, it is perfectly okay for others to be not quite perfect. I have a terrible habit of demanding perfection from others, and I’ve hurt many people with my unrealistic expectations. I hope my mid-thirties will be more of grace, acceptance, and encouragement rather than a ruthless pursuit of perfection at the expense of others.
Most of my close friends are all scattered around the globe, and many of them are married with kids. It is getting more difficult to spend time with them, and my friendships does not look ‘perfect’ right now.
How frequently should I make new friends? Or should I make new friends at all? Aren’t they all going to leave me sooner or later? How much time should I spend maintaining the friendship? I’ve got many questions with no straight answers.
Although friendship has been the hardest void to fill in my thirties, I am optimistic! Writing and sharing about my life is one of many things I started to re-kindle a friendship-building (or maintenance) spirit, and I very much look forward to hearing from everyone :)
In movies, the wise one is always an old Asian man with an Asian accent. I have the gene, and I have the accent. I thought I just needed to age till the cosmic wisdom rains on me. I am learning that wisdom does not come automatically with age. It needs to be groomed, nurtured, and sought after. More life experiences can lead us to more opportunities to grow, but they can hinder our growth as well. There are many life experiences that make us bitter, cynical, and petty. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been disappointed, and I am being squeezed out of the housing market right now. I’ve accumulated enough ‘salty’ life experiences that have torn apart youthful and naïve fabrics of my life.
However, the wonderful process of fermentation can happen when you add salt to an aging body. My life does not seem so fresh right now with a shrinking bladder, expanding pores, and receding hairline. My life is not as flexible as it once was as I already made some important life decisions that are hard to reverse. I’ve traded possibility and potential with real lived experiences. The wear and tear of time are here to stay, and I will never be as cute as I once was.
Some say life is a constant collaboration of past, present, and future self. Maturity is being responsible for all the decisions (good and bad) of the past and the present self making thoughtful decisions for the future self.
While writing this blog, I realize I have a lot of work cut out for me. I thought, by the time I turn mid-thirties, I would be a competent, courageous, and conscientious man overflowing with great life epiphanies. Yet, life is still full of challenges and unknowns. I look forward to tackling them one at a time, so that my future self can enjoy a well-fermented life that is savory, succulent, and … stinky.