Today is the last day of my twenties, and this morning I reread an entry from my journal written almost a year ago. I spent much of this year avoiding the implications of what I had learned while writing it, and so now seems like a fine time to re-post and re-evaluate it.
This is the village where my grandmother lives. With its backdrop of verdant hills, filled with the songs of tweeting birds and of elderly people singing Cantonese oldies as they stretch and exercise alongside playing children, it is far removed - in character, if not in distance - from the chaotic, skyscraping cosmopolis that is usually evoked when one thinks of Hong Kong. I have thought of it as a second home since I first remember visiting at the age of eleven and, as the sun begins to set on my twenties, it is both the setting for and the subject of many questions I now ask myself.
I am single, childless and without the defined career trajectory that most people either enjoy or endure. My childhood and teenage years were spent living in my own head: I played video games, I read books, I watched films, I drew pictures and wrote stories. Since I graduated from university, I tried to correct that and have lived a life of extravagance and hedonism: of sex and booze and raves and restaurants and parties and press nights. I've earned more money than I ever imagined I would when I was a student, and I've (mis)spent it all and more. I've seen more of the world than I ever imagined I would by now, known so many moments of incredible joy and felt so connected to so many extraordinary people, and yet found that it doesn't add up to anything like contentment: rather, that the further I pursue this escapism - if that is what it should be called - the greater my existential discontent.
It has been three days since I arrived here in the village where my grandmother lives. Each morning, I have risen early and gone for a run along the river. I have taken many photographs that please me, an occurrence much more unusual than many might think. I have read more and written more in a three-day period than I have for some time. I haven't had to fight against the urge to engage needlessly and constantly with my iPhone. I have been for walks without wearing headphones, listening instead to the world around me. When I have been able to forget about the stress that awaits me when I return to my home in Glasgow, I have felt more content in being alone than I have for a long time.
I have walked around with my shirt untucked. This is an act which sounds laughably trivial but which is profoundly significant. I felt liberated: not because it is more physically comfortable to leave one's shirt untucked, but because *I didn't care* that my shirt was untucked. In realising that I don't care what the people in this village think of me, that there is nobody here to compete with, I released myself - my SELF - from the shackles of my own self-image. It is a self-image which I have constructed in collaboration with others over the entirety of my adulthood. It is one which I have broadly accepted and even embraced, and is perhaps all the more burdensome and all the more pernicious for it.
It is strange how some of the most significant things that happen in life - like falling in love with someone, or realising who you really are - aren't things that happen at all. They are not events which take place in the outside world, but are nothing more than a change in thinking, a rearrangement of pathways in the mass of jelly located inside your skull.
My epiphany today has not taught me anything I did not know, but it has made me feel the truth of things I have known for some time. First among these is that Glasgow is a city too small for both me and my past. Every street I walk in Glasgow is heavy with the weight of memory.
I wonder what life would be like if I lived in this village, how much happier I might be. I must take care not to romanticise my experiences here; they are not representative of the day-to-day struggle of living.
But I am wondering. And that's a start.