How I survived in perfect conditions
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 28, 2014
This year I turn 25. I don’t feel a day older than 18—that is, until I stand beside someone who just graduated from high school. I don’t feel that young either, until I stand next to someone with kids, a spouse, a mortgage, a pension plan, and a will. When I look back at all I have accomplished in my 25 years of life, I realize that my achievements are internal. For a quarter of a century, I’ve been living the Canadian dream and if I could go back in time and tell the six-year-old version of myself what I’ve done, I think he would be proud.
I dreamt big as a child, as most children do. I wanted to be an actor, or at least someone with the opportunity to be creative. Here I am—not an actor, but definitely creating. I feel pretty accomplished in that sense, not because I have achieved anything extraordinary (anyone with an opinion can write for the Other Press), but because I’m persistent and I’m staying true to my values.
Regardless of your age, I hope you are too, and that you’re not looking down on me for doing so.
I think reaching the 25-year mark still aiming for the goals I had as a child is remarkable. After all, think of all the other stuff getting in my way. Yes, the real life shit: money, education, relationships, entry-level jobs, parents, and peers. I see my high school friends, all of whom are turning 25 this year as well, moving out, getting engaged, and being promoted. They’re settling down with their lives, and it makes me so happy to see, because another trait I want as a 25-year-old is to be supportive—the same way I want my friends to support me and my silly choices.
But does that mean I’m a failure because I don’t have any of those things my friends have? Not at all, because like I said, what I have achieved is inside of me. It’s my own investment.
If the objective of life is to get a mortgage, then sure, I’m failing so far. And by the looks of it, I’ll continue to fail until, well, maybe my mid-life crisis. Yet, I have succeeded in recognizing that I would trade in a small two-bedroom house in exchange for travelling or writing a novel or getting a robust education. I believe when I’m 65, I’m going to be proud that I’ve indulged in life as a 25-year-old instead of taking roots in an existence I have no desire to grow old in.
I glance back on my successes and failures, and dwell a little bit on the failures. Yes, I wanted to be an actor and failed. I wanted to be a film director and failed. I wanted to be a standup comedian and failed. I made money as a dishwasher, a barista, a background performer, a sandwich board advertiser, and a door-to-door canvasser. I look back now and I can’t believe I did that—the same way I can’t believe I went bungee jumping. It’s weird what I’m proud of: not my successes, but my failures.I can’t believe they felt like the right decisions at some point. I can’t believe I did those things. But I did and I survived and it’s a part of me.
Up until now, my life has been a wrestle with adversity. But man, what an experience that’s been. What a great 25 years I’ve lived. What fantastic people I’ve met along the way. What wonderful privilege I had for being able to chase my dream and for being able to continue doing so. I don’t care what your age is, you should still be able to chase your dream. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll never grow up.