On being 31
“I like my thirties way more than my twenties: my twenties were horrible. My thirties are great. You know who you really are.”- Britney Spears
I never thought I’d say this but I completely relate to this glimpse of wisdom the princess of pop gave in one of her recent interviews.
Granted, I did not spend my twenties in the spotlight, with 50 plus cameras on me constantly capturing every single mistake of my life: from dropping babies, to public meltdowns, to custody battles and ambulance rides to funny farm.
Nonetheless, I did mess up. Many times. If I could somehow paint a picture of my early, mid or even late twenties, it would be one of those wipeout funniest moments videos you find on You Tube- you approach life head on, full of faith and enthusiasm. Then out of nowhere, you get sucker punched and butt kicked into water. And while you’re scrambling to keep afloat, your only consolation is that the glove and shoe were padded.
“At least I’m not Britney Spears” you conclude…
Apart from the very few people who have it all figured out by the age of 21 (what boring lives they must live), being in your twenties is just highly overrated and over glorified.
Hearts are broken, bad decisions are made (many, many bad decisions), consequences are paid… That’s not to say that these things occur only when you’re young. But the combination of naivety, immaturity and a general lack of life experience make things especially difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, you do have fun times too. But a lot of your time is spent on taking life’s knocks. The kinds you never saw coming. You are challenged to accept the fact that life is not quite what you expected or envisioned it to be. That’s adulting 101 at its’ finest.
Eventually the choppy waters start to calm down and you arrive at the ripe age of 30.
I’ve heard so many people (women especially) dread turning 30. Most of us feel like if we don’t have things figured out by then, we have somehow failed at life. Then there’s the aging aspect… Will I have to start investing in anti wrinkle creams? Should I start a go fund me page to raise money for a face lift? Will my metabolism slow down causing extra pounds to creep up like a bad dream?
Believe it or not, a lot of these thoughts have actually crossed my mind (minus the face lift). But I pondered my own thoughts and realized that:
a) they are fear driven and that’s usually a bad idea
b) they are heavily influenced by outside factors, such as social norms and expectations… and that’s usually a bad idea
In reality, who really has things figured out when they’re 30? And what does that even mean? Life is not a straight ascending line. It’s sinusoidal and rarely linear.
When I got over that fear and listened to myself, I realized that since I turned 30 my life has actually changed for the better. In more ways than one.
Here are a few reasons why my thirties are so much better than my twenties:
- You know who you are
You have figured out a thing or few about yourself and you can use that to your advantage. Because you know the kind of person you are, you can make various life decisions with a greater sense of awareness. And that in return leaves less room for mistakes. Over the years I have realized that I am not weird or anti social for doing the things I do. I am for the most part introverted and no matter how much I love certain people, ultimately I will always seek time alone.
I’ve become so much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, I have come to realize that I don’t have to focus all of my energy trying to “fix what is wrong”. I spent two years of my life talking to groups of people for 8 hours a day. I never really liked it, never felt comfortable doing it. Conversely, I have realized how much I thrive on one on one interactions. I have noticed I can help a person more when I give them my undivided attention. So why not look for opportunities for growing this particular skill instead of trying to be someone I am not?
2. You love and accept yourself
When I was younger, I used to dislike many things about myself: my personality, character, the way I looked. There would always be something to fix, improve or get rid of. But a lot of these things weren’t real opportunities for improvement. They were just insecurities rooted in a poor sense of self and blind following of social norms. I used to fret about almost everything: from cellulite on my thighs to my vulnerability to my fear of heights. The scroll was endless.
Nowadays I let a lot of that slide. 90% of women have at least some cellulite so I guess you can say that is a pretty normal condition. And honestly, what difference does that make for me? Will I be more lovable if I I get rid of these few cottage cheese curds that dwell on my thighs? (I know, that was a gross comparison).
There is an immense sense of peace and joy when you wake up to the realization that you are good just the way you are.
I have realized that if I want to get somewhere in life and keep a positive attitude, accepting and loving myself is not an option. It’s an absolute must. At the end of the day everything you do- all of your decisions will be a reflection of how much you value you. I spent way too much time in my 20’s trying to please people and live up to their expectations. Nowadays I put myself first. What is quite interesting is that when I love and cherish myself, I am able to extend that love onto others and in some magical way everyone is happy.
3. The pleasure is yours
Another shift in my way of thinking that has occurred in my 30’s is a profound feeling of wanting do do what I want. In “Heaven Beside Me” Jerry Cantrell sings: “Do what you wanna do. Go out and seek your truth.” Such a simple, yet potent message. I have finally come to discover the kind of life I want to live. And guess what? It’s different from the life I thought I was supposed to live back in the day.
I am not interested in climbing the corporate ladder or acquiring ego tripping job titles. I am done working countless hours and slaving away for people who couldn’t care less about me… people who don’t even know I exist. Instead, I want to live a SIMPLE life: have enough money as a safety net and then spend most of it on simple pleasures such as travelling, good food,books etc. I want to be inspired and get creative (aka write). I want to see meaning in the work I do. I want to help people and show them how much I care. I want to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes and live in a warm, sunny climate. I want to love and be loved and have a family. I want to have time for my family. And I want to have time for myself.
4. Life is what you make of it
Ah, we all know this saying. But how many of us truly understand its’ meaning? How many of us live by it?
I am definitely still learning but at the age of 31 I realize that I have a rather big and powerful influence on my life.
A lot of my problems from the past resulted in me not taking ownership of my own life. I was passive. I chose to stay in unfulfilling relationships because I could then blame that person for my shortcomings and mood swings, instead of owning up to the fact that I was a hot mess. With or without them.
Recently I made a mental list of all the things that don’t work for me anymore or maybe never have. I thought of different areas of life, such as work, the city I live in, the people I surround myself with, the foods I eat, how I spend my free time… and I have come to the conclusion that so much needs to be changed. And most importantly- I can make these changes! I can make things happen for me. So obvious, it seems…
Yet what’s most empowering and motivating is when you actually take concrete steps toward achieving your goals. Even if you are to fail, you won’t fail forever. Things will change for the better and you will be the one responsible for that.
Sometimes I long for my twenties. When life becomes a little too overwhelming, I wish I could be a 21 year old big kid again who goes to metal shows, dresses in black and wears dr Martens boots.
I wish I were 110 lbs again, fitting into XS shirts and size 3 jeans. But that’s just nostalgia, a longing for something that will never return.
And then I look at those years with a magnifying glass. Those several difficult years and remember how lost and confused I was. I have to say, my early to mid twenties were probably some of the worst times in my life.
When I revisit my past and compare it to where I am nowadays- physically, mentally, financially- I conclude that the past is exactly where it ought to be. There is no going back in life and that’s a good thing. It’s a blessing, sometimes in disguise.
I embrace my 30’s. I am truly infatuated with this time of my life, almost in love. This is my time. This is my prime.