I've been using my (30) profile picture since 2016, when I was 24. The bold and saturated orange number centered on the dark canvas with a Gotham font is a commitment to myself — I will achieve my goals when I turned 30.
The goals were extremely simple and even shallow. I wanted to have enough money in my pocket to dine out on a Friday night, and to live happily with a job I love.
And my motivation to have such goals was simple too. In 2016, luckily enough, I got a graphic designer job without professional training or experience. Because of my innate passion for simple and communicative visuals, it was a dream-come-true moment to make designs for a living. But soon I got frustrated with the reality that unmatched my naive expectations. Among various disappointments, the most depressing one was the graphic designer’s low salary in Taiwan.
Out of the frustrations, I determined to hustle until 30. So I put up the (30) visual on my Facebook and Instagram profiles and also on my laptop and phone screens to motivate myself. Many things happened since then; I became a front-end developer; moved to NYC; hit by the pandemic; moved to Toronto; got married. During these 6 years, I worked hard.
Eventually, on my 30th birthday in 2022, I was financially secure and stable. The moment should be celebrated as a career achievement I dreamed of, and I should take down my (30) profile picture on Instagram with excitement and pride, meanwhile planning for the next decade with ambition. But I didn’t change my profile picture for months, and I also felt no sense of achievement or joy. The numbness struck me with a critical realization — I’ve been ignoring the “live happily with a job I love” side of my goals.
I realized that I’ve been struggling to find joy in my job for the past 2 years for various reasons. And lacking joy from work also deprived the joy I can discover from life. So turned out I only fulfilled 50% of my commitment; the being happy part failed.
For the record, failing to achieve the goals never depressed me; the goals were only for motivational purposes anyways. But I felt confused about the reason for my unhappiness. I questioned the career decisions I made over the years. I was anxious to fix the problem. And I felt lost. Before I noticed, these negative emotions brought my spirit down to an even lower bottom.
I guess I’ve been unwilling to take down the profile picture because I didn’t want my (30) era to have a depressing ending.
But I didn’t stay at the bottom for too long. Thankfully. One of the biggest lessons I learned from the pandemic, which separated me and my partner between Toronto and NYC for two years, is to accept whatever happens with utmost patience, which creates more time to adapt to the situation and to solve the problem. And who knows, more time might be all it needs as a solution.
With patience and time, I kept meditating, exercising, reading, and listening to podcasts. Conducting these activities gradually lifted my spirit with positive energy, which put me in a better place.
Now, I feel that I’m ready to start a new journey. To be honest, I still have no plan or strategy to find joy through work. This is a tough and life-long challenge for so many of us, and I’m not confident to be the ones who successfully find their sweet spots. But I’m different from the (30) era self already. I know I need to discover things that bring me income while making me sparkle and be joyful. This is the biggest lesson for me to learn in the next decade, and I’m excited about it.
Finally, my (30) profile picture does deserve a meaningful closure. So, I want to say farewell to it with the following list of inspiring notes for myself in the next decade.
- Make a fortune by pursuing the true passion that brings joy.
- Remember that great graphic designs and stories are the best sources of inspiration.
- I’m not and possibly will never be a hacker. Don’t force it.
- Learn to be present and cherish the moment.
- Thank you. See you down the road.