Detours column

[DETOURS] Is 30 too old to start something new?

Marj Casal Handog
[DETOURS] Is 30 too old to start something new?
‘Married at 30 – and we all know what comes next – how much time do I have?’

Editor’s note: How old is too old to start something new? This is a question that Marj would always ask herself whenever she finds herself with a new passion. In this essay, BrandRap’s editor shares her own detours story. You, too, can share your life’s greatest detours. Here’s how.

I’ve always been a late bloomer.

I started writing on walls when I was about 8 years old. I learned to commute by myself at 17 when I got to college. I didn’t use makeup until I was 23 and already on my third job. I got braces at 25 and my third, fourth, and fifth piercings at 28.

I recall my dad telling me when he caught me painting our walls with my mom’s snopake, you know that white, opaque liquid you use to erase pen-written errors: “Lumalaki kang paurong.” (You’re growing backward.) My dad must have just said it to a vandalizing child in jest but that comment would always nag at me whenever I would think of trying something new and felt too old for it. 

Good thing I found a friend who has been living her life at the same pace. Doing trivial things with her – getting braces and crazy piercings – seemed like the most natural thing to do in our late twenties. But enabler friend and I, we don’t always have the same interests. At least, it doesn’t always come up at the exact same time. And in those moments, I only have myself to convince me if I’m doing the right thing, at the right time.

That right now is my newfound love for drawing. Well, it’s not exactly new. 

It all started in 2018 when Instagram started throwing in watercolor artworks to my explore page. I thought they were beautiful – and easy (I couldn’t have been more wrong). So, I went to National Bookstore, got myself a set of student-grade watercolor, a cheap brush, and a watercolor pad. 

I loved painting. I loved the way the brush stroked the paper with ease, I loved the delicate, delinquent, beautiful stains that only watercolor can make. I enjoyed it until I didn’t. From a fun, therapeutic activity, watercolor painting became a trigger for my existential crisis. 

Every time I tried painting and didn’t like what I saw, I thought: 

“What was I thinking? I’m not good at this.” 
“I started too late. I don’t have the time to learn the techniques to be good enough.” 
“Maybe it’s just a phase like everything else was.”
“Maybe I should just stop this madness. It’s frustrating.”  

So, I stopped. 


I tried rekindling my love for watercolor painting a few times in the past years but every mistake brought me back to that 2018 conversation inside my head. 

Then I got older, got married. Somehow, in between being a wife and a writer, that nagging feeling to find out what could have been if I pursued art managed to creep back in.

With just the right amount of self-confidence and a supportive husband, I dug out my art materials from a bag carrying my past life. I experimented with brushes, pencils, and pens to find the medium I was most comfortable with, mustering the courage not to give up again. 

I eventually found my footing in graphite pencil drawing. I enrolled in online art courses, read drawing books, invested in quality tools, and practiced until my hand hurt. I even went ahead and created an art Instagram account (which I can never say without flinching).

While people praise my drawings, I still can’t shake off the feeling of being too old for this. They may find my portraits good but I know that they’re not as good as what others out there are doing. I know that I still have a lot of catching up to do. But married at 30 – and we all know what comes next – how much time do I have to be able to do that? 1, 2 years tops? 

Sometimes when I think about all the time and money I’ve been investing in drawing the past few months, I ask myself: is it really worth it?

But whenever I draw and settle into a trance state, see the piece that comes out of it, and realize the kind of support and space that not all husbands are willing to give but mine is – I do think that it’s worth it. 

Writing, of course, will always be my first love but I don’t want to regret passing this opportunity to hone a new skill and explore what could be. Life is too short as we all know now so why not do both?

I know that the answer to my question is no, 30 isn’t too old. We have heard about the tales of famous late bloomers like Haruki Murakami who started writing at 29 and Vera Wang who started designing at 39. But I think we could all use a reminder not just from the Haruki Murakamis of this world but from someone like me who’s not exactly there yet but is trying and persevering. 

So if you’re still second-guessing if you should do that thing that you’ve always wanted to do, go ahead and do it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this 3-year journey, it’s this: the regret of not trying would always trump the frustrations of failing. –

Marj Casal Handog is the editor of BrandRap and a self-taught artist.

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Marj Casal Handog

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.