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Countdown to 30: All systems are now GO

Saturday marked one-month until my 30th birthday. A group of friends and I were talking about this over the weekend, and one asked me if I had done everything I wanted to do in my 20’s. I thought about that for a minute and my answer was “I don’t know.”

It is hard to say if I did everything I had set out to do over the last decade, because really, there were many points when I wanted different things.

When I was 19, I one of my biggest “dreams” was to skip over age 20 so I could reach the seemingly magical age of 21. Time seemed to pass at turtle-like speed as I awaited that “milestone” (now I can’t seem to slow down the hands of time).

Also at that time, I had hoped to pursue a career in music as I had played the piano and clarinet since I was 5-years old (I was your quintessential 1990’s high school band geek).

As my 20’s progressed, I became more involved in activism within the LGBT community and my goals changed.

I no longer imagined myself teaching and playing music (I guess I was never really that good at it, anyway) and saw myself as more of a community leader/politician type. I got involved in a number of organizations within the community and have been at it ever since. Most of the experiences I've had within the community have been amazing, offering me so many different avenues and opportunities.

But all this leads to me wonder whether I am truly on the path I want to be on. I am pretty happy with all the things I am involved with and doing, but still I wonder if I could or should be doing more. What is out there that I haven’t yet experienced or seen? Maybe I even have some hidden talent or expertise that I haven’t yet unleashed.

While I have a number of personal goals that I continue to work towards (buying a home, political aspirations, running a marathon, traveling all of Europe, completing my master’s degree, etc) what is most important to me as I enter the next chapter of my life is stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. I want to overcome my fears, stereotypes and plain laziness when it comes to seeing the world in a different way.

This can be as simple as forgoing a weekend in Hillcrest and heading out to the country to experience nature to trying out a new workout routine to volunteering for a non-LGBT cause to taking public transportation every so often to save gas and the environment (my SUV loves gas).

While my commitment to my family, friends, and community will be stronger than ever, I hope to be able to challenge myself to expand my mind in different directions from time to time. This will keep me grounded, strong, and provide an occasional change of scenery.

While there are individual instances and actions I may have taken over the years that I regret, in general, I am quite happy with my life in my twenties - from 2000-2010.

Sure I never went to a fraternity party while in college (but then again I was the LGBT Student Union president and I am sure there was some list that banned me from entering), but beer pong has never really been my style.

I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked, but I suppose that is what retirement is for. And I still have yet to figure out completely what it is that I want to do when I "grow up” (but I know people in their 50’s who tell me they haven’t figured that out yet either)…

What I have done is made some great connections, met some great people, and have put a pretty good jump start on my future.

Like it or not, 30 is coming – all systems are now go!

The most important lesson I learned is that we can only look forward, learn from our mistakes, and go forward. Instead of regretting things I didn’t do, move on, and make plans to do it! Although I think I’m a bit old to go a Spring Break foam party in Cabo – but I’ll pass!

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".