My birthday is coming up. This one feels like a milestone even though it’s not.
I’m not turning thirty—I passed that a while ago—but I think my heart’s finally catching up to my age. It’s a good feeling, because I think I finally understand what Bruce Lee was talking about.
“Be like water,” he said. “Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow.”
When I first heard that quote, I was in my twenties.
“Ridiculous,” I said. “Water’s weak. It’s shapeless. It dilutes.”
I wanted to be like fire: vibrant, painful, all-consuming. The passion of my youth was like a roaring bonfire. I graduated from a program that I’d fought so hard to get into and got a job everyone told me would be near impossible to get. I binged on life so hard that I never had to deal with the repercussions of taking whatever I wanted whenever I needed it.
I was a winner, because I had to be.
Part of that was to make up for lost time. When I was in my teens, I felt like rock: dull, lumpy, stuck. I was forced to sit still while life roared at me like wind buffeting against cliffs. Whether I was in class or at home, I was surrounded by people who knew what was best for me. I followed someone else’s dreams, believed in someone else’s way of thinking. It may have taken a while, but enough of my pieces chipped away until I was ground down to sand.
And now, with another birthday on the horizon, I finally want to be like water.
It’s not about being the strongest or the brightest in the room, it’s about showing up and having the discipline and honor to put in 110% no matter how shitty I’m feeling. It’s not about being shapeless, it’s about having the quiet confidence to flow around obstacles. Not to smash or burn them away, but to accept their presence and acknowledge the resulting ripples as beautiful and necessary things. It’s not about following a path—whether career or personal—it’s about being true to yourself.
And the truth is: No matter how I’ve changed, my writing has been the only constant in my life. Maybe the style or the purpose behind it has changed, maybe I wrote on blank pages with pencils instead of on a laptop, but the act of creation makes more sense to me than anything I’ve ever done. I may have wanted to be like fire or forced to be like rock, but my writing has always been like water.
And it only took me a couple of decades to figure that out.
Postscript: I was looking for an image for this post by searching for “water” or “blue” or “lakes” or “rivers,” but it wasn’t until I saw the closeup of an old fishing boat that I realized what I was really looking for: something to symbolize who I am as a writer today. And yeah. The scars of an aged vessel crafted to traverse through water might seem an odd comparison, but I think it works. I kinda feel like an old boat (hah!) but it’s only after all these years that I feel like I’m finally in my natural element.