I dedicate this blog to all those who are in their 30’s or standing at the brink of it, looking to the future with hope and anticipation, not knowing what to expect from the years that lie ahead. You’re no longer a 20-something who can be frivolous. You’re a young adult. You’ve paid off your student loans, you’re thinking about buying a house, thinking about settling down, about starting a family. You’re no longer doing a job just to pay the bills and be able to party; you’re planning a career now, setting personal goals and creating a plan to achieve them. It’s not that a switch flips when you turn thirty and suddenly you are a different person. But the society puts so much emphasis on this milestone that you feel this overbearing expectation to fit into a certain ideal mold, even if you have to uncomfortably contort yourself in doing so.
I turned 30 last fall and this blog was my way of commemorating the milestone. Despite the hype surrounding the event, when the big day finally arrived, it was rather anticlimactic. I didn’t quite fit into that ideal mold just then but I was sure I’d get there eventually. Then things suddenly started changing. One after another, I was losing everything that I had, and moving further and further away from the mold I was supposed to fit into.
Standing midway through the first year of this fourth decade of my life, I am as far away from that ideal as one can be. I have a job, not a career, I have some money but nearly not enough to buy a house, I have few failed relationships in the books but nothing meaningful, and I haven’t got a clue where I’m headed in life! But through these months I’ve learned some very valuable lessons that I now want to share with everyone who is trying to be the perfect 30-year old.
Lesson 1: Learn to make your own rules
Throughout your younger years, you were always told what you ought to do and be. And it was all good really because without that kind of discipline you wouldn’t be where you are today. You had to study when you would’ve rather been out with friends, you had to be at practice when you would’ve rather watched TV, you had to watch your language and mind your manners, you had to think about college and what you wanted to be… You can complete this list for yourself. And it doesn’t end with college. You had to get a job and start making payments towards your student loan when you would’ve rather taken a year off and traveled the world.
Well, now that you’ve done everything that was expected of you, it’s time you took a break. Being 30 has made me realize that for the first time, I am truly the one in charge of my life. I don’t depend on anyone else for anything. Things may not have gone as planned but once you’re an adult no one can tell you what you ought to do. So allow yourself to break free of that mold and make your own rules. I have decided I want to write, and I will stay single for as long as I want to. What do you want? What will be your rules of living life?
Lesson 2: Learn to love yourself first
It may seem very basic but I’m surprised to find out just how many people stay in dead-end relationships just because they are afraid to be alone. Take it from me, there is nothing more suffocating than being with the wrong person. I was in such a relationship many years ago, for 5 years. We are still friends but we did not bring out the best in each other. I hated who I was when I was in that relationship.
You’re a grown up now and unless your financial situation mandates it, there is no reason why you should be living with a roommate who isn’t your partner or significant other. Give yourself the chance to live independently. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle of life. But when you live alone, you learn to spend time with yourself and discover your own strengths and weaknesses. You do things that make you happy. You don’t really know yourself in your twenties, there are too many constraints. But once you’re free of those obligations, and before you take on any new ones, build a lasting relationship with yourself first.
Lesson 3: Learn to enjoy single life
If you’re in a happy l, successful relationship, feel free to skip over. If not, then read on.
Listen carefully, “You complete me” is horseshit that looks good on a Valentine’s Day card. You are a complete person, not a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece. This is why lesson# 2 is so important. In order for you to see yourself as a complete individual, you must first learn to love yourself and be happy with yourself. People hide behind relationships so that they don’t have to deal with themselves. That was ok when you were 20 and had a million insecurities. But you’re an adult now, you should be proud of how far you’ve come. You don’t deserve a piece, you deserve another complete individual whose purpose is not to make you happy but to share and enhance the happiness you already have. And until such a person comes along, you can enjoy being single because you love yourself and have no room for any more pieces. Don’t force yourself into a relationship just because you’re 30 and are expected to- it doesn’t have to be your rule (lesson# 1)!
Going back to the previous lesson- if you’re living with a romantic partner, stop and ask yourself why you’re with this person. Is (s)he just a piece you’ve been carrying, or is (s)he a complete person who is just as happy with his/her life as you are with yours? A relationship shouldn’t just mean ‘us‘; it’s ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘us’, with equal time for all. For whatever reason if you’re not getting any alone time, maybe you’re both just using this relationship to avoid facing respective yourselves. Going into your 30’s, please don’t carry any toxic relationships with you. It might be painful, but do the right thing.
Lesson 4: Learn to take responsibility
We’ve all done it, avoid certain people or topics because we have a guilty conscience. Again, it was ok in the 20’s, not anymore. Part of learning to love yourself is to come face to face with your own conscience. People sometimes avoid being alone because they don’t want to acknowledge their own thoughts. When it’s quiet outside, the tiny voice inside becomes obnoxiously loud. Don’t drown the voice of your conscience, heed it. You can’t shut it out forever. In the long run, you’ll see that your conscience is your best friend.
Whatever you did in the past, sometimes it might be too late to make amends. But whenever you can, take responsibility for your actions and apologize. If you want to be a grown up, realize that it takes a lot of courage to ask for forgiveness. And asking is all you can do, whether the other person gives it or not is up to them. Maybe you didn’t hurt anyone else but you were hurting yourself, with bad habits or keeping questionable company.
You know when your conscience isn’t clear. Instead of avoiding confrontation, face the facts and make the changes that you have already known for a while that you have to. There’s no doubt you’ll make more mistakes in the coming years, but don’t carry the baggage of your childish mistakes into your adulthood. Learn from these mistakes and promise never to repeat them. When faced with a dilemma in future, consult your inside voice before making a decision instead of after making a mistake. And when something does go wrong, don’t pin the blame on someone or something else, or avoid dealing with it altogether. Take ownership of what you did and fix things.
These are some of the most important things that I have learned. But there is a lot more. My learning process has been accelerated at an alarming rate over the last few months and I have experienced so many emotions that one might not even experience them all in a single lifetime. I’ll share them one at a time, but as long as you follow the above, you can handle everything else on your own.
Happy growing up!