Tuesday, 31 December 2019


I realised tonight that next week is not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade – my third end of a decade as a full-fledged adult.

The first decade after high school started for me in a missionary house, with me part of a team hoping to convert more people to the Christian faith. The decade ended for me in the streets of Hong Kong, very far from home, and even further removed from any kind of certainty about my own future.

I started the ’00 decade as an overweight smoker with a bad attitude and a problematic self-esteem. Ten years later, I exited the decade at a bit of a low-point – less overweight, no longer a smoker, but financially relatively broke. And I was already 38. The decade did include some of the proverbial best years of my life: I started writing in 2003 as if a fever had taken hold of me, and by the middle of the decade I had met a woman who could only be described as an angel descended from the seventh heaven upon my earthly existence. Nevertheless, the highlights were in the middle of the decade; the end would have made any mortal anxious.

And so began my third decade as an adult. In 2011 I turned 40. I continued with a variety of projects intended to bring about more financial security, and I returned to my writing with renewed dedication. This decade had highlights of a different intensity, and the lows were not quite as low as in the previous decade.


What are my predictions on the eve of this fourth decade of my adult life?

No predictions. No short speeches to motivate myself. I’m already happy. I’m already doing much better financially than in previous decades. I’m already living the fuller life I dreamed of in my twenties and early thirties.

Am I prepared to do even better? Am I ready to travel even more, give more, provide more assistance, do more of what I am already doing? Am I ready to experience even more of life? Is there a fuller version of me that I’m already becoming as I type these words?

* * *

One fairly wealthy friend of a friend mentioned this year that the life we – Natasja and I – are living is closer to the lives of billionaires than to the lives of people struggling for survival. “Sure,” he said, “billionaires have fine Egyptian cotton linen and they live in bigger houses, but you – like them – have running water, modern plumbing, stable electricity and high-speed internet. Compare that to people who live in shacks with no running water, no electricity, no internet …”

I was also reminded recently of an old truth: There are things we have no control over; there are some things we have partial control over, and then there are things that depend to a significant degree on our decisions – if you choose this path, then this is the path you’ll be following for the next few months, and maybe for the rest of your life; if you choose that path, that would be the path you’ll be following for the next few months, and maybe for the rest of your life. It is therefore wiser to focus instead on the aspects of your life that you do have the most control over. And if you tend towards honesty and a critical view of things, you’d recognise that you have sufficient control over your own life and the environment in which you live to create the fuller life of which you could only have dreamed when you were younger.