Something big happened in my life recently; a shift of sorts. One decade of my life ended and a new one began. I turned the big 3-0. However, this is not the shift I am referring to. I am talking about the shift in my life that I created when I quit my job and went to live in another country. Contrary to what we have been conditioned to think about this “scary” age, I am embracing it with open arms and dictating my own terms about this new age. Who is with me?
Thirty is one of those “milestone” years. Like eighteen, twenty-one, forty, fifty, and so on. Except thirty is the only year that comes with conditions. We are “supposed” to have life figured out by this age. Let's think of all the things we have heard of that are supposed to be completed by this age: education, stable career path, plans to climb the career ladder, married, with children or at least with a plan for children, owning a home or at least substantial savings to buy a home soon, a retirement plan, etc.
All things have to do with stability, permanency, and the future. Don't get me wrong, these are not bad things to be thinking about. However, they are not the only things. Our present is distracted from when all of this time is dedicated to future planning. Whether on our own or with help from others, we begin thinking about the next big thing more than being in the moment.
For example, if you are single, you are asked when you are going to settle down. Once you are in a long-term relationship: when you are going to get engaged? As soon as you are engaged: when will the wedding be? On your wedding day: when are you having children? Other people are always pushing on to the next thing before the current moment is over. Naturally, these outside influences tend to create a push to be living for the next best thing instead of living in the moment.
In the past 6 months alone at least a dozen of my friends on Facebook have announced their pregnancies or have had children. This is supposed to be my cue, right? I absolutely understand the pressure. I succumbed to it when this wave of friends were announcing their engagements a few years back. I got upset, fell prey to comparison, and judged my relationship's timeline based on others' timelines. Thankfully, I have since learned from that.
At thirty years old, I am not living in accordance with the majority of other women my age and it is not freaking me out. I quit a stable job that I enjoyed, packed up all my things, and left my home to embark on a journey across the globe. This would have been more accepted by others had I been twenty-one and just out of school, but at twenty-nine? People thought I was crazy, impulsive, and naive.
The truth is that I did not have the drive to go backpacking after college. Instead of feeling like it was a “lost opportunity,” I decided to go for it now. It was a rational, well thought out decision that I do not regret. In no way did I put my future on hold by going on this journey. I am still paving my career path, loosely planning for the future, and living in the moment.
At 30, I remind myself that I will be ready for all the things that I am “supposed” to be ready for when I am actually ready. I will know my readiness by being present and checking in with myself. I will know when I have done some self-reflection and come to the decisions on my own time. But Facebook will not help me become ready. Societal norms and other people's shoulds and musts will not help me.
So if you are in the same boat and you are feeling like I'm feeling lets repeat this mantra to ourselves: I will be mindful of my wants and needs independent from those of others. I will be present in the life I have created for myself and strive to make this chosen life the best one it can be for me.
In living on your own time, you can find the balance that suits you best. Plan for your future in a way that is realistic for you. Take time to slow down and enjoy the present moments. Learn to appreciate and live within the journey instead of only thinking about what comes next. When you get bit by the comparison bug, remind yourself that it happens to the best of us, but come back to your own timeline rather than the timeline of others.