How Many Lives Have You Lived?

Akina Marie Chargualaf
3 min readAug 17, 2020


This idea always fascinated me. While 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, it’s also a much-celebrated milestone. It’s the closing of another decade. Ironically, I also turned thirty last month. That too was a bitter-sweet end of a decade toasted to my wanderlust twenties.

I remember sitting in the bathtub the morning after my birthday celebration with my mind slightly hungover not from the copious amounts of alcohol (copious for a thirty-year-old, mind you) but instead by the memories that flooded from my not so distant past.

That was when the thought hit me.

How many lives have I lived?

While our physical world has shifted drastically in the last several months, so much of ourselves have grown — physically and mentally — this past decade, alone.

We may all measure life differently. We might measure it based on the different careers we’ve had, birthday celebrations, or even the places we’ve called home. However you decide to count it, it’s like each chapter itself is a blank canvas waiting for you to add a new set of colors. Paint a new picture. Not an artist? That’s ok. You get the point.

For me, one life consisted of living in the beautiful city of San Francisco, where my nights were filled with 2 a.m. dance parties with the roommates and sprints sessions to class when I missed the Muni. I would order a double shot espresso with pumps of caramel over ice because I couldn’t afford the standard $4.95 for a legit Starbucks caramel macchiato. I frosted cupcakes for a living and realized I didn’t want to be a journalist.

In another life, I was a hotelier reporting for a 7 a.m. shift pinning up my frizzy lion’s mane into a neat bun. The mornings also included dance parties behind the desk when managers weren’t watching, providing insight into Guam’s best eateries, and fighting with colleagues as to who would be cut early. Because by 7 p.m., the bobby pins that kept my lion’s mane were pulled out, the headpiece comes on, and the sound of the kulu’ was my sign that my life as a Polynesian dancer was about to begin. For forty-five minutes, I swayed my hips to the beat of the drums that echoed into the night.

Since then, I’ve been a roaming traveler, a restaurant server, a half-ass translator, and a restless writer. I’ve been a hopeful intern, a defeated business owner, a joyful bridesmaid, and a mourning daughter.

We continue to shed different layers as we grow older, wiser, more tolerant, and intolerant of the things life may have planned for us. I’ve come to realize that I’ve resisted many of these changes with the conversations that play on repeat.

“My life wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“I’m not where I want to be.”

“What do I do with my life?”

But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize. The life I envisioned was just one — a single story, identity, goal, or whatever you want to call it. It didn’t have the complexities and layering of what my life turned out to be. As the world continues to move and shift the way that it is, you also move and shift with it. You don’t have to move to an exotic place or start a new career to have these different experiences or lives.

Whether you measure your life in years or by decades, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to live multiple entities that are all intricate and unique in their way.

So, tell me. How many lives have you lived?

Originally published at on August 17, 2020.



Akina Marie Chargualaf

Human who likes to write about human things: mindfulness, connections, and five-line stories.