I was 18 when I first watched the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, “The One Where They All Turn 30”. I couldn’t relate. It seemed distant and I thought, “why are they all so upset, 30 is still young!”
Fast forward to 2017, turns out it really is pretty scary when you’re born in a first world country. Suddenly your peers seem more successful in their careers, may own a fancier apartment with swimming pools, may have even started having good looking babies. It makes you stop to think, “What have I done with my life?”
I was depressed in July (birthday month), having never truly taken a break from work, without a plan or a freelance gig in the books. I’d started working on my current business with an ex-boss, but in the developmental stage, it was hard to tell if it would be worth the effort or time. (Now I know different, but at that point it did feel uncertain!)
I spoke to a few friends and realised that I wasn’t the only one. I’m thankful for the support I’ve gotten from the people I confided in. I even wrote down my “accomplishments” on my Notes app so that I could remind myself that I’m not a complete loser.
Perhaps the best and worst thing about turning 30 is that you have a somewhat better idea and awareness of your identity. It makes you more sure of your capabilities and perhaps, even harder to learn is to admit your limitations, the things that you cannot do and accept it for what it is (i.e., I probably will never be able to become a K-POP star if I wanted to). When you are young, you feel like you have so much time ahead of you, that anything is possible. But turning 30 is almost like a wake-up call. You’ve lived long enough to know that time is shorter than you thought it would be. To accept it and get the rest of your act together and do the things you want to do.
Except that the things you want to do may not exactly be what your parents, friends or partner might have imagined. I guess that’s why everyone is in a rush to do everything so quickly. Buy a condo, a car, have kids. I have to constantly remind myself to measure myself by my own yardstick of success, at my own pace, without pressure to conform.
I thought it’d be good to end it this post with my favourite excerpts from a column that my friend Larissa recommended. The chapter is “The Future Has An Ancient Heart” from Tiny, Beautiful, Things by Cheryl Strayed.
“I’m here to tell you it’s okay to travel by foot. In fact, I recommend it. There is so much ahead that’s worth seeing; so much behind you can’t identify at top speed.”
“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.
But that’s all.”
“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”