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Amber Paulen

On Turning 30

7 June 2010


Four generationsYesterday I turned 30. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean yet: Thirty. (Responsibility! Babies! A Real Job!) Today it has been 30 years since the death of Henry Miller. When Henry Miller turned 30 he was already on his second marriage, trying to write, only dreaming of Europe. The other day I read a review for a book written as a Master’s Thesis. She’s now 24 and the Thesis is up for an Orange Prize. This is crazy.

I’m only 30. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to think this is crazy or not, but I do. No one bothers any more with the value of Experience. Instead we pay for the privilege of writing a Thesis, paying for interfering fingers to manipulate what doesn’t suit them; we pay for the privilege of not thinking for ourselves. When I am done (finally) with writing this book that doesn’t seem to finish I believe it is my duty to not attempt a novel for at least five years. At least five years to accumulate not only more experience, but to sharpen my philosophy of interpreting that experience, to let the world push me and sway me, to be immersed. When these five years are up I will close myself in a hut and again make good friends with solitude.

Besides the above, what I am going to do in my 30s: 1) I am going to learn to read the stars. Under the glistening sky of Ko Phayam, stoned and sparkling I stood staring up. Intoxicated, it occurred to me that always above is the oldest, most ancient book of human civilization and far before. I must learn to read the stars. 2) I’m going to travel to South America.

It’s best to keep goals short, simple and possible.

I’ve been trying to think of something meaningful about age to finish with, but what can I? I’m only 30. At the end of Force of Circumstance, Simone de Beauvoir bemoaned her expected oldness, wondering how one could enjoy the nearness of death as lover of life; at thirty I am still immortal, in other words, I have so much left to learn.



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