It Took A Layoff, A Canceled Move & Turning 30 To Figure Out My True Calling

Every milestone is worth celebrating, no matter how big or small. That’s why we partnered with Shane Co., purveyors of timeless fine jewelry, to highlight the unique stories of those celebrating special life moments. Whether they found success in following their passions or are embarking on the next chapter of their journey, we’ll learn how these individuals are commemorating each milestone — and the role their jewelry can play in marking these significant events. Ahead, a former marketing consultant shares her journey of returning to her roots and finally pursuing her creative dreams at age 30.

When Jess Tran, a multi-hyphenate creative from Sydney, Australia, decided to move across the globe to New York City a decade ago, it was on a whim. “I followed a boy I met at a music festival at age 20,” she says. “I thought, You know what, I want to move to New York. I love this guy. What’s the worst that could happen?

However impulsive a decision it may have been, she had a very specific plan for her future in mind: She would pursue a career in marketing and climb the ranks of corporate America — something that, as a child of immigrant refugee parents from Vietnam (and as such, was raised with a scarcity mindset), felt like the “safe” route she needed to take in order to be financially stable. And then, once she turned 30, she and her partner would wrap up their life in America and return to Australia, where she’d move on to the next chapter of her life: motherhood. She had it all figured out…or so she thought.

All went according to plan for the first seven years or so, until a series of events catalyzed a complete and total life shift. First, the pandemic left her jobless and unceremoniously cast out of the corporate world. So, she pivoted into opening her own marketing agency to take a more entrepreneurial approach to her work — “a natural next step,” she says. Then, her relationship of eight years ended.

Through the inner work and therapy she leaned on to help navigate her breakup, it suddenly hit her that she had veered off her true path years ago, and with 30 quickly approaching, she needed to course-correct. “It was a very symbolic moment for me,” she says. “The dissolution of this relationship, combined with choosing a ‘stable’ career over one I was passionate about, helped me see that I was never on the path I wanted to be on all along.”

Rather than leaving America as part of a couple, she turned 30 in New York alone and closed her business to answer a different calling, one she can trace back to age 13: writing and photography. After coming across old teenage journals proclaiming her creative passions, she realized that she had always been this person, “but I had been suppressing it my entire life because I didn’t have the confidence or the language to identify myself as such,” she says. “I didn’t understand that Asian, immigrant-born people could pursue these paths. Today’s TikTok generation has access to people all over the world, but I didn’t have Asian role models or references growing up.”

All that’s to say, this new chapter of her life is not so much a pivot as it is a return to her roots — and in more ways than one.

Now balancing commercial photography with freelance brand consulting, Tran has the time to focus on a new body of work that’s deeply personal: a portrait series and a book, both of which explore immigration — specifically, the relationship between children of immigrants and their parents, and the behavioral patterns that can stem from their upbringing. “We tend to not have a sense or understanding of where we come from due to a communication gap with our parents; there’s this cultural divide,” she explains.

Undoubtedly, there’s a sense of fear in giving up the stability of your “money” job for your creative dreams — there’s less structure, there’s no formulaic plan to follow. But if there’s one thing Tran has learned through this process, it’s that money isn’t everything, and it’s never too late to pursue the things that mean the most.

“I think many people in their 30s have this anxiety of being ‘too old’ to find success or feeling in competition with younger people — especially thanks to social media and these arbitrary ‘30 under 30’ lists,” she says. “These very binary perspectives of what success looks like exclude 90% of people’s actual life paths. We should celebrate using wisdom, time, and age to understand that we can change directions and do what we actually want. As long as we’re doing something that matters to us and feels like we’re tapping into whatever unique skill we’ve been put on earth for, then age doesn’t matter at all.”

For this reason, Tran’s 30th birthday was especially symbolic — a marker of this major life shift and the knowledge and wisdom that came with it. And to commemorate it, she knew she wanted to gift herself something special. “When you buy some sort of object to celebrate yourself, you’re imbuing it with a specific meaning, and that symbolism has always been important to me in marking moments of my life,” she says.

For her, that was a pair of Shane Co. threader earrings featuring pear-drop amethysts — a stone that symbolizes clarity, decision-making, and inspiration, which not only represents the journey that got her to where she is today, but all she hopes to bring into her artistic practice over the next decade.

“For the first time in my life, I believe in myself in a way that I feel deep, deep down in my core, and I don’t think any of the women in my family have ever been able to reach this state,” she says. “I’m now acting from this feeling of self-belief that took my entire life thus far to reach. Life is so long — you’re allowed to make mistakes, and you’re allowed to rebrand yourself — and I’m just so excited by all the possibilities.”

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?