Whatever the 31-year-old in me has become, I think I like it.
While many of my peers are in their prime — starting a family of their own or reveling in the peak of their careers, seeking greener pastures abroad, earning their graduate or post-graduate degrees or driving their own fancy cars — I’m just at home staring at the ceiling trying to fight off my insomnia.
It’s hard to be 31. It’s as hard as learning to walk, but this time not having your folks to catch your fall. It’s like starting anew in the same, old world you have whined about a gazillion times on social media. It’s like chasing the NEW in the OLD. And the irony just drives you NUTS.
Have you ever felt like the tricks are on you? Or felt like the cosmos is playing villain against your happiness — but then you realize you’re just a speck of sand in the whole wide universe, so who are you to be given such special maltreatment?
And so, like every lazy millennial, I’ve searched for answers on Wikipedia. And it says, it takes 29 and a half years for Saturn to complete one full orbit around the sun. And that same time frame, they say, marks every person’s cosmic rite of passage. Astrology calls this phenomenon, “Saturn Return.”
Simply put, between age 27 and 30, we advance into a new stage of adulthood, when we take on more mature roles on Earth. It’s like going back to square one — but now faced with even bigger responsibilities to fulfill and higher expectations to meet.
It’s a point when we’ve outgrown the tantrums of quarter life crisis — like always itching to switch jobs or constantly whining about one’s weight. But it’s also a point of not being sure if you’re ready to level-up. Saturn Return is the real deal — a make or break. And your receding hairline reminds you that time is ticking fast.
Saturn Return can be very cruel.
I even think it might be the culprit behind the deaths of what’s known as the “27 Club.” This is a roster of popular musicians and artists who have died at age 27 — either due to drug and alcohol abuse or suicide. For the list, look it up online. You’ll encounter familiar names like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.
So it gets you to think, what’s with the number 27? It was also at age 27 when an international pop superstar shaved her head and attacked a paparazzi car with an umbrella, remember?
But now, I’m 31. And I‘ve come out of quarter life crisis and Saturn Return alive, though not unscathed. In the years leading to my 30s, I spent so much time alone on bar stools night after night over cold beers trying to define and make sense of my crisis.
It was also a time when I was an insecure rebel, who would stress over collecting Tinder matches. A belligerent overworked employee who hated his capitalistic employer but couldn’t leave a job that he loves. An underachiever struggling to prove his worth in the playing field. And an atheist who valued humanism but ironically hated a lot of humans.
It was so stressful.
So when I turned 30, I vowed to do one thing with my life: TO SIMPLIFY IT. And these are the things I’ve been striving to accomplish:
STEP 1: Simplify My Diet
They say we are what we eat and I agree. I once had a diagnosis that I’m hypertensive and I reached the Obese 1 category. I always felt sluggish. So on January 28 this year, I decided to stop eating animals. Radical move I know, and I do respect what others eat.
But I really grew up eating all kinds of vegetables. When I was young, I enjoyed picking tomatoes or ampalaya fresh from my mother’s chopping board. So my becoming vegetarian was more like going back to the basics than masochistic self-deprivation.
Yet people always ask me, “Hindi ka ba nagugutom?” Deep inside, I just roll my eyes.
And yes, I lost weight.
STEP 2: Simplify My Closet
That I was able to give up one of life’s greatest pleasures, that is eating meat, I gained a feeling of reinforcement. I can do more.
So one day I just piled up all the clothes I don’t really wear and asked my grandmother to give them all away. I ended up disposing half of my clothes, which are not so many in the first place.
Now I only have a few pieces of plain, black shirts; three pairs of overused pants; and three hoodies. People who see me daily might think I don’t change clothes because my look is almost the same everday. But it’s such a relief that I don’t stress on what to wear. I just want to be comfortable.
STEP 3: Simplify My Hobbies
There was a time, I wanted to try everything. Wakeboarding, but going out of town regularly can be too costly and tiring. Target shooting — I just liked the idea that I could channel my rage to shooting targets but it never materialized. I then went to the gym, but it only lasted a month. Thought of frisbee, badminton, boxing, and mountain climbing — but I’m lazy.
And the list could go on.
But I found one thing that made me happy — learning to play the ukulele! This four-stringed instrument is simple and handy, I could take it to the beach. I just needed one hobby that I can be passionate about and I’ll be fine.
STEP 4: Simplify My Bed
Or actually, I totally removed my double-size bed and replaced it with a standard-size yoga mat. I always hated myself for overstaying in bed everyday, which made me procrastinate a lot and be less productive — so I thought of sleeping on something less inviting.
At first I thought sleeping on a yoga mat would give me body pains, but surprisingly, no. And I found out that sleeping on the floor actually has awesome benefits. When your body sinks on a bed, the mattress takes the shape of your body and it puts pressure on it. But when you sleep on a flat surface, your bodily tensions naturally ease up as your hips and shoulders align.
I also find delight in making and keeping my “bed” daily. At night I would spread my mat on the floor and just conveniently roll it up again when I wake up. Such a space-saver and I’m forced to sweep the floor.
STEP 5: Simplify My Ideologies
I was a free-thinker for five years, crossing out my belief in a divine being. But my liberal views made me a drifter — like a ship without anchor over raging waters. From free-thinker to over-thinker. (I’m not saying this is true to all agnostics.)
But at 30, I just reached a point of realization that I needed my faith back to keep me calm, give me restraint and redefine my purpose. This helped me become more introspective and to keep things in moderation. At times I’d fail but never hopeless.
STEP 6: Simplify My Revelry
I was at some point a heavy drinker and smoker. March this year, I decided to stop for spiritual and practical health reasons. I still drink moderately, but most of the time I would settle for just a glass of wine for socialization.
I’ve also lessened my karaoke nightouts with friends and spent more time at home. There were times I would jog on Friday nights, play the ukulele or just sleep instead of hanging out.
STEP 7: Simplify My Cyberactivity
Facebook has become really toxic these days since the very divisive presidential elections last May. All the cyber-pollution really creeps in the head. How many times have I been triggered, annoyed or angered by things I read in the comments section?
So, just like that, I shut down my Facebook. Such a deviant, I know. (Good thing, it’s now possible to keep your Facebook messenger app separately). The time that I used to spend on Facebook, I’m now able to monetize by taking an online freelance writing job. I get to read books too or catch some sleep.
But I haven’t totally become a hermit. I’ve retained my Twitter because it’s a primary source of news and information. I’ve also kept my Instagram to spare me some fun.
When people find me weird, sometimes I’d ask myself: what did quarter life crisis and Saturn Return do to me? But in retrospect, I don’t regret any of these drastic choices. Will I change my mind someday? Yes, I might— like any other thinking human.
But for now, stepping 30 and beyond feels like getting out of a fierce storm. And suddenly, all your life’s pursuits are simplified to seeking calm.
About the Author
Ephraim Aguilar is a ukester, a vegetarian and a striving minimalist. Presently, he is an Executive Producer for News TV Live and Balitanghali Weekend and a News Producer for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. He was also previously a Southern Luzon Correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Journalism 2006, Bicol University. Read more of his articles here.