I just hit a milestone birthday and it’s already given me food for thought and started to provide a new perspective on life. But, just because I’m not necessarily on par with my peers, does that mean I have to worry?
With every milestone birthday comes a new way of thinking. That’s the theory, anyway. When you turn 18 you officially become an adult – or at least, it’s now legal to do things that you’ve probably already been doing for the past few years.
At 21 you become eligible to earn the full minimum wage and can be exposed to new job prospects or gain entry into certain venues that have an age cap. But then you’re left to learn life’s lessons throughout the rest of your 20s until you hit the big 3-0.
The latter just happened for me and it’s been a little overwhelming in more ways than one. Firstly, in the build-up to my birthday, numerous friends would ask me “What are you doing for your birthday? You’re turning 30, you’ve got to do something.”
This alone gave me slight anxiety. I’ve never been someone who goes all out to celebrate their birthday and very few of the previous 29 years’ celebrations actually stand out to me as being ones to remember. I’m happy to just go for a drink and some dinner, it doesn’t need to be anything over the top. So the very fact people had expectations of me was enough to make me think “I don’t want to turn 30 just yet, can I have one more year?”
After this, my mind was flooded with other thoughts and reasons as to why I didn’t want to turn 30. Essentially, I haven’t followed the timeline society places upon us. I’m (very) single, I don’t have my own house, I don’t have any savings and I haven’t seen too much of the world (I may have seen more than most, but I’m hardly what you would call ‘well-travelled’).
It’s not just me that has had these thoughts. As Colin Zhang says in an article published on Medium, “I was supposed to have my own home by now. I was supposed to travel half the world by now. I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”
It’s at least good to know I’m not alone.
Since turning 30, I do feel like I’ve become more aware of what I want and who I am in life. While the thought of spending three decades on this planet did spur these thoughts on, I wouldn’t say they were forced. I feel like I’ve naturally adopted a much more “I don’t give a f**k” attitude.
And, if this is the only thing I can take from turning 30, I’ll be one happy chappy. For a few years now, the thought of being single, not having any real savings, and not having a house has definitely gotten to me on numerous occasions. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had the thought “what am I doing with my life?”
But now I genuinely don’t care as much (I’m not just trying to convince myself). Sure, I’m the first to admit life would be great (or at least, more comfortable) if I had just one of those things, but I’ve accepted that this is my current situation and I’ve learned to be content with that. I’m just grateful to be healthy, to be able to live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world, to have a secure job (that could all be dependent on the number of views this article gets) and to have family and friends that appreciate me.
Since going to therapy within the past 18 months, I now know that just having inner confidence and fewer worries are the only true recipe for happiness.
It’s not just myself or even Colin that have had these worrying thoughts when turning 30. Blake Worrall-Thompson, a lifestyle and mindset coach for men, has also had similar worries. I spoke to Blake to ask him about his experiences and how he managed to navigate them.
Blake is 38 now but has spent the last 15 years working on himself and helping other men to work on themselves, too. He admits when he was younger, he gravitated more towards women as he felt he could have more meaningful and deeper conversations, compared to those he’d have with his male friends.
It was this, among other factors, that allowed him to realise that this was who he was as a person. While other people may go off on a quest to become what society deems as “perfect,” Blake just wanted to feel complete and sure of himself. He now makes it his job to help other men realise the benefits of being open and dealing with any past trauma.
Blake calls this the hedonic treadmill. “Most of society is on it and very few people will get off,” he explains.
“It’s essentially where you reach for a goal (a bigger paycheck, a job promotion, a new house, a car or a hotter partner) only you find once you get there, that you’re a little disappointed and underwhelmed by how you feel.”
“So you’ll find yourself thinking ‘well that didn’t quite hit the sweet spot, so I must need an even bigger pay rise, another job promotion, a faster/better car,’ and you start the chase of the ‘elusive carrot’ again.”
He expands upon the topic of the timeline society says we should follow, and how it’s not necessarily the right path for every single one of us to take: “Find YOUR truth, not the status quo… You go to school, get good grades, get a job, find a partner, buy a white picket fence with 2.5 kids and a dog, retire when you’re 65, die when you’re 75.”
“If that’s YOUR truth then go for it. Just be mindful, when you really sit in stillness and silence with yourself and by yourself, that you may find out this isn’t for you and that you’ve just bought into the ‘norm’ without really asking yourself, ‘what do YOU want?’”
This point certainly spoke to me. I definitely haven’t followed society’s ideal timeline, but am I unhappy about that? No. Instead of settling down with someone, buying a house etc, I’ve instead moved to Australia, made an incredible group of friends, experienced new ways of living and had some eye-opening conversations with people. I know full well I would have missed out on all these experiences and more, had I ‘bought into the system’, as Blake puts it.
Blake hits home that we should all be mindful of pressure. “Whether it’s self-inflicted or society inflicted, the majority have bought into the same narrative and may make judgements or ask questions of the path you are taking, ‘Oh, so you’re not going to university?’; ‘Oh, so you haven’t bought a house yet?’; ‘Oh, so you don’t have a partner?’…”
“If you don’t know what is really true for you, you may find that you beat yourself up for not following the common path and ‘conform’ because you think you should. Work out who you are and stay true to that.”
So, to answer the question put forward in the headline. I should just keep doing whatever the f**k I want. Yes, I think I’m allowed to worry but ultimately, I don’t. I’m going to continue learning to accept all the facets that make me, me and once I’m 100% happy and sure of myself, I can then start tackling other goals.