Does wisdom really come with age? Lillie Rohan asked six New Zealand high achievers to write a letter to their 25-year-old self. Today, chef and Eat Well for Less NZ host Ganesh Raj.
I want to focus on my twenties, which were wicked good: Punchy, illuminating, fulfilling. And it's been downhill ever since … na, just kidding!
Obviously, you'll will remember some of this better than me, three decades on. And some of it you'll be in the thick of as I write. But some of it is yet to come - and that's exciting right?
After doing my military service, I left Singapore (where I was born and got my unbearably open-minded view of food) and moved to Orlando, Florida, to pursue my degree in audio engineering. Because music is dope. And making music is even more dope.
There I had a list, "100 rites of passage", which culminated in me and my friends going to the 1991 Lollapalooza music festival in Orlando.
That was a game-changer. So much there contributed to my insatiable need to collect knowledge and experiences. The main stage was filled with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam and Lush. The side stage featured Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Porno for Pyros, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Stone Temple Pilots, Luscious Jackson, and Temple of the Dog.
Yeah. I know.
Thinking back, if it wasn't for Lollapalooza, I wouldn't have finished up in Orlando and gone on to sell all my music equipment and gap it to London to be a recording engineer.
London taught me how to hustle. I got lots of little gigs as an assistant engineer - the world of music recording was still super-closed in the 90s so being inside it was like being in a special gang of misfits. Misfits who loved art and humanity, both for their glory and despair.
You'll remember your early twenties - they were defined by constant hustling and running through every door that opened. It paid off because it led me into the world of corporate television studio-land. That meant I was in the ecosystem of all areas of TV production, which included sound. Audio was my entry, but through this incredibly nurturing ecosystem I became a sound mixer, video editor, and budding director.
Socially and personally my entire world was about acid jazz and funk music. I got wrapped up in this motley world through people I knew from TV.
That meant being part of the Acid Jazz Records ecosystem when Jamiroquai released debut single When You Gonna Learn in 1992. That means being at The Fridge in Brixton (where I lived) as Jazzie B mastered the art of Soul II Soul. That was when jungle took hold as a musical genre.
I look back now and all I see is a slightly shy boy, a little out of his depth, deeply in love with music, but deeply alone. I was obsessive, to my own detriment probably. But the universe dropped me breadcrumbs to follow and so I met a girl.
That girl lived in the small English town of Glastonbury, Somerset. I mean, this town dates to the Bronze Age. It was famed for its witches and as the mythical resting place of King Arthur. I laughed it up but I used to have a penchant for of drum circles and burning sage.
Me and my crew ended up selling crystals at the famed Glastonbury Festival back in 1993. We lived in the teepee fields where everyone was pretending to be Native American. What is it with me and drum circles?
That year I popped so many live music cherries: The Black Crowes, Robert Plant, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks and Lenny Kravitz on the main, Pyramid stage. Other stages featured Galliano, Wynton Marsalis, Van Morrison, Suede, Digable Planets, Jamiroquai, The Verve, The Lemonheads, James Taylor Quartet, Roy Ayers and Nitin Sawhney.
I wish I'd stayed in the UK longer, but I didn't have the nous to sort it out. So I moved back to Singapore, hooked up with some friends and started a production company.
My entire office was Singaporean and my clients were all international TV networks and ad agencies who'd set up shop in Singapore because of the incredible satellite and comms infrastructure - and the 10-year tax break the government gave them. (There, I said it.)
My life was super-varied. Some days, I would do day trips from Singapore to Bangkok, Manila or Jakarta for meetings and shows, and be back home for dinner. On others, my world included stints at Disney, Nickelodeon, MTV, ESPN and HBO, delivering content for Asia.
It was here I took on another 100 rites of passage. My crew and I made a Thai hip hop EP in Bangkok, at a recording studio next to a Muai Thai gym for kids. Those kids were tough.
Somewhere along the way (don't ask how) I became a stop-motion claymation animator and made kooky pieces for MTV Asia. This led me to becoming a computer animator. Having always been part-geek, part-creative, visual effects and animation were natural to me and that's how I honed my skills as a visual effects director and director of visual effects-heavy ads.
Was I fearless or just plain stupid? I think a little bit of both.
And so, The Groove rollercoaster kicked off. The show I hosted on MTV went out to 11 countries and 22 million people throughout Asia. It was the only show of its kind in the MTV worldwide ecosystem.
It led me to tap into all my London connections. I went to see them and the floodgates opened. London told New York what I was doing and those music videos started to pour in.
The internet had just started (not the band!) so 14.4 modem dial tones and Alta Vista (a very old browser) became my best friends. I would trawl the then-quite-limited worldwide web for info on all the bands and music that I needed to write my weekly scripts.
The show broke so may incredible artists in the Asian market and filled my twenties with wild experiences.
I recorded an interview with De La Soul in an attic under the stairs in London; I did a crazy interview with Bono and Larry from U2 in a van that was driven around Dublin till we were done. The day I broke bread with Massive Attack for the release into Asia of their Mezzanine album is still very special to me. I am a huge fan.
And every day since, in some way, shape or form, I have continued to write, direct, animate and present. The genre or form has never mattered to me, I just need to exorcise the art inside me. And at least attempt to satisfy the curse of my insatiable curiosity.
Looking back, I wouldn't give any advice to my 25-year-old self. Every experience was another stitch in the motley and rich tapestry that was my twenties. A period when I discovered the essence of living, which I think is to try, fall, learn and change.
So, what have I learnt?
Love as much as you can. And don't be an arsehole.
Rinse and repeat.
• Ganesh Raj is co-host of Eat Well For Less NZ with Michael Van De Elzen and host of his own channel, The Humble Yum Yum, on Youtube and TVNZ On Demand. His Humble Yum Yum podcast is out every Saturday and his recipes are available on the Herald's Eat Well microsite. The podcast is available from iHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts.