Well, today I'm 30.
It's sort of a weird feeling. I remember thinking in college that 30 was the end. Every one of my favorite writers had been published before they were 30. By 30, I was suppose to have been in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. I was suppose to have been best drinking buddies with David Foster Wallace and George Saunders. Conde Nast would have me on speed dial.
Somehow, things didn't quite turn out like how I had envisioned when I was 20. First of all, I'm a photographer now (not a bad lot in life). Back then I was to be a writer. A Writer. A writer of our times.
After months of writing for dotcoms during the boom then the bust, I found myself writing the cheesy trivia you see on DVD "special features." (rent Meet the Parents...truly great literature buried within its menus)
So I left writing for design.
I worked for a design firm, then got scooped up doing design for one of the nation's largest law firms. It paid well, but after about 6 years I was tired of being the mouse jockey of a bunch of lawyers who didn't know what they wanted and whose idea of art direction was koan-like "make it the same, but different."
During my time with the law firm I started experimenting with photography and over the course of say, three months, I knew that's what I wanted to do next. Things worked their way out and I left the law firm and was set loose on my own.
I became a photographer. Not quite the Photographer of our times, but a photographer.
That was almost 2 years ago. When I was still in my 20s.
Now I'm 30. My photography business is doing well and I'm still learning all the time. I don't think I've "made it" or "arrived" yet, but I do feel ok with certain things. Like the New Yorker, I'd still be happy if I got published in the NY before I was 40.
I'd be totally okay with that.
The funny thing is, looking back at the (short) arc of my life so far, those enigmatic words that were given to me at the law firm, "the same but different," take on new meaning. In a way, I've been doing the same thing but differently.
I remember in high school, I had made up my mind that I wanted to be creative when I grew up. Of course, "creative" isn't a job. It's not something you can check mark on a marketing survey. I just knew that I always wanted to be doing something different, something unique, something that didn't involve a tie.
So far I've succeeded. This "creative" has taken on different forms (writing, design, photography), but the essence is the same.
I'm still not wearing a tie.
Now I'm 30 and I feel good with the things I've accomplished. Nothing grand, nothing that has made it in the national headlines (although I was quoted in a Time article :). I'm starting to realize that My Work is just beginning and I have a longer journey ahead of me and if I'm doing the same but different, things will turn out alright.