My 40th Birthday

It’s my 40th birthday and I’m chilling in the studio apartment that I rented in Manila. It’s more of a subpar hotel room with poor internet and a less-than-ideal bathroom, to say the least.

Nonetheless, I’m celebrating this day in a foreign country, something I’ve always wanted to do at least once in my life.

Actually, I was born in China and grew up in the US so I guess I already celebrated many birthdays in a foreign country.

As I’m typing this while resting on the bed in the mid-afternoon, the sun’s warm rays are shining on my bare legs and I’m listening to Belle and Sebastian from my laptop. There might be better things in life than this, but it’s the simple things that are best suited for me. This quiet and peaceful feeling is what I like the most about life. It makes me want to reflect on my life, which I'll do.

I don’t know if I’m any wiser than I was ten years ago, but I’m certainly in a better situation since then. Ten years ago, I was on the tail-end of a stretch of life that mainly consisted me of doing nothing except focusing of my mental health and being on welfare. My mood was finally stable from the right medication that I was taking for my bipolar disorder. I determined that my illness will not deter the rest of my life.

In the last ten years, maybe it’s the result of making some wise decisions, I earned a graduate degree, obtained meaningful work, cycled across the US, had a decent relationship, saved and invested money. And now I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a teenager: traveling. I guess I can die happy now.

I can’t believe I’m four decades old. I thought the year 2000 would be a milestone if I made it. And I did. Now 24 years has passed, there are people living as young adults now. I feel ancient thinking about it. At least I look young, as most people would say. The trick to youth is to reduce stress. That’s one advice I would give to anyone who is asking.

I’ve been thinking about what would the next five to ten years will bring. I want to continue to be healthy, hit my FIRE goal of having $500,000 invested, have found a life partner, and travel to more places in the world. I can also see myself having a place of my own and settling down somewhere, a place that I enjoy and have yet to find.

However, for some reason, I always feel I’m ten years behind. What I’m doing now should have been done ten years ago. I have to live with the fact that I had “wasted” my twenties since I didn’t do anything productive measured by society. I guess I’ll just have to give my middle finger to society, accept defeat, and move on.

Such is life. Some regrets. Some wins. I found the hard part is to just enjoy the moment no matter what stage of life I’m in. To do that, I have to be grateful for everything that has happened to me. It’s already a good comeback movie if I had to say so myself.

Sure, if I didn’t have depression and mania in college my life would have turned out differently, but the milk has already spilled. I was dealt with a hand of cards and I had to play them as best as I can. And I did. I like to think that now I have earned a better set of cards going into my forties. I wonder what will happen to me and for me.

For now, I like to look out the window on the 15th floor of this apartment building and see half of Manila in front of the backlit sun. Just enjoy this moment.

A view of Manila from my room window


  1. Hiatt, happy birthday only one day late. I hope you did NOT stay in your room all day. Now that you have stumbled through your mind-laden 40th birthday, get outside and, hopefully, get some fresh air. I want to hear about your local travels and who you met. Remember, this is the first day of the rest of your life. Make the best of it.

    1. Actually, I took a walk to a district called Makati and took some photos. I didn't meet many people recently since I'm now back to traveling solo. Today, I'll be taking the ferry from Manila to Coron.

  2. Sounds like a great birthday Hiatt!

  3. Happy birthday! What a milestone, to be in Manila living freely and doing what you wish. I think you are in a great place now and wish you happiness and joy in your coming adventures.


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