Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I turned 31 in March. There was a noticeable decline in Giving a Shit from when I turned 30, and that was already a pretty significant fall. I recall waking up the day of my 30th birthday and caring a little bit less about... well, everything. I felt more relaxed in my own skin and comfortable with my life. Turning 30 was like reaching the end of the hardest race you've ever run and finally getting a moment to coast.

So imagine my surprise at the existential dread that hit me as I approached 31. There's a difference, you see, between turning 30 and finding yourself in your thirties. Thirty is the new twenty-five. Your life is beginning and there are so many possibilities ahead of you. You're experienced but still learning. You're an established, independent adult but with a youthful zeal. You can continue to shop at the same stores you did in your twenties, and Aerie has such comfy leggings. But 31? Congratulations, you're old. You're seeing your body break down. There are grey hairs just popping up all over the place. Like my chin. There's 30, and then there's "well you're nearing 40." I still get acne, though. I guess that's the last trappings of youth on an aging face?

But it wasn't the noticeable and gradual breakdown of the body I've abused and neglected. It wasn't waking up sore just from sleeping in a different position, or the prominent dark circles under my eyes that never seem to fade. Nope, it was the question I'd always been able to brush aside with confidence.

What have I done with my life?

What have I contributed to the world? What will anyone think of when they think of me? Will they think of me at all? Have I made any impression on those around me? People I know have switched careers, moved far away, started businesses, started families. They donate and volunteer. They are determined and successful. They are inspiring. But instead of feeling inspired, I just felt overwhelmed and unfit. It's that impostor syndrome, rearing it's ugly head after years of building self confidence.

I'm 31 years old and it had taken me so long to get to a point in my life where I'd not only started to accept who I am, but to have pride in myself. Maybe it's gender related, maybe it's generational, maybe it's years of self doubt causing me to question everything I do, but even the idea of having pride in my life and what I do feels... bad. As if somehow "I'm proud of the person I've become" is a shameful statement. I thought hitting my thirties would be the time I worked myself out of that mindset.

And maybe it is.

Sure, I don't own my own business. I'm not much of a business idea person and the truth is the concept of a daily grind doesn't have a large appeal to me. And that's okay! I have hobbies and goals that I'll never financially profit from, and those keep me as busy as I want to be. Nearing 30 I found myself feeling confident with who I already am. Perhaps this next decade is when I'm able to look around and say, "This is okay, but what can I do to really get the most out of my life?" No one wants to find they've peaked, and they certainly don't want to find out they peaked at 30. The more I started to think about it, the sillier the notion of reaching some finish line at 31 seemed. Maybe I can no longer turn my neck all the way to the left and these grey hairs just keep growing like weeds, but our thirties are still so early in our lives. We have the benefit of lessons learned in our twenties, the same youth we've learned to enjoy, and free time that comes with established priorities. However, hangovers do last at least two days. You'll want to consider this when you're drinking on a Saturday.

At 31, I know enough to realize my life isn't exactly where I want it to be. But now I recognize that that doesn't equate to failure. I can grow because I want to continue to improve, not because I feel like I'm not enough.

Maybe you've had this thought at any age. Maybe you're in your twenties and wondering if you're the only one blindly feeling your way through life. (Spoiler, you aren't. There's a pretty good chance everyone else is as internally terrified as you are.) But at some point you start to see that you're taking things in stride and you feel more prepared. And before you know it, you're 31 and you can feel "IDGAF" in your soul in the most positive of ways.

30 was full of some challenges and changes, and I can't wait to see where the next decade takes me. Most importantly, I realize that I can determine that path myself.