Two weeks ago I turned 30. To some people this is nothing, to some others it's a big deal like giving birth since this is quite the first experience of feeling-old. To me, I felt it's a timely reminder to reflect and opportunity to overhaul my life by revisiting all decisions I've made and about to make.
Throwing back 8 years ago, I made a big bet by withdrawing myself from the part-time ICT degree I've gone through for two semesters. I couldn't see myself feeling happy working 9-5 in a cubicle on things that doesn't genuinely interest me. Spending lots of time hustling in traffic jams to-and-fro between work and home is a huge turn off too. I wrote in a more elaborated post of the happenings and thought process during that time here if you are interested.
I'm not willing to be tied with a huge study loan after finishing studies nor I want to burden my father to support my tertiary education. As much as what many people think how good a paper certificate may be, I think not all of them will make our return of investment of time-and-money justice, it's true for my particular situation cause the academic side of things are not my forte. At that time my younger self thought, although competitors and photographers around me are around their 30's, I should be able to achieve something by the age of 30 too seeing photos I take gets a bit of compliments and generates little income even I'm just a beginner at my early 20's. Luckily, it wasn't a blinded and inflated perception. Fast forward today, being a photographer helped me arrive adulthood just alright.
Though it sounded very easy, the struggles and fear for the first few years are very real after I decided to quit my studies. This is not what people can / normally do in Asia, many have at least a diploma or degree being a safety net or risk being ridiculed by other people especially the older generations and despised by peers. I stopped at A levels. At the beginning, it's very depressing cause almost everyone around me is studying and at some point I felt like a total failure especially the first few years of starting out full time in photography. I have no assurance of what I can work as without the entry ticket of a paper certificate, and there were little to no business cause I'm starting out fresh without any client base or connections.
Moving on, I remember 28 (2015) is the year my ego side felt proud of myself. It's the age I receive platinum credit cards, eligible for new car and house loans on my own name and got through my own wedding without parents' sponsor. It's all done without a paper certificate and while I am self-employed, to me this is huge. I still remember at some point in early 2012, I bump into cashflow issue due to the lack of proper budgeting and near the end of the same year, I started dating with my then-girlfriend-now-wife who works in Singapore. I visit Singapore every or bi-monthly, with the currency exchange of 1 SGD against 2.5-3+ MYR over the years. All these felt like achievements cause they seemed to be tall orders that kept me awake at night. I used to secretly doubt I could ever achieve them unless I change my career path. In hindsight, it's amazing to see how I got through these and it's also kinda silly I felt proud too cause it's really no biggie. There are many more people who did even better, I shouldn't be complacent. So basic material thingy... checked.
Looking ahead, there will certainly be new challenges like being more serious about investing and the retirement funds, allocating sufficient time for work and also family, deciding what's really essential for my next 10 years' career path, figuring ways to take myself to a better level as a photographer etc.
For the first 30 years, I am glad with how many things turned out to be but there are aspects which I hope to have more improvements too. Some things that are certain in another 30 years:
1) 40, 50, and 60 y.o will be less of a big deal cause I'm used to being an 'uncle' already
2) I will be in a less busy-ish retirement state (hopefully)
3) My parents would likely be gone by then due to old age
4) I will be gone too if I don't take good care of my overall health
I will never be able to thank all of you enough, who helped me throughout this whether direct or indirectly - you, who read this or still care about what I do, people who talked about me with friends or family, clients who took a risk of hiring a nobody photographer, friends who helped and supported me at my worst. You all matter.
I hope to continue being a positive and helpful friend to you throughout my life.