How To Be Okay Not “Living Up” to your Thirties

At thirty-six years old, it’s been hard to look in the mirror at times when what stares back at me most closely resembles the character Lynn from the show Girlfriends, than any one of Joan, Maya, or Toni. More than that, I look nothing like the composite woman in my head made up of all three that thought I would be at this age.

This seems like a problem, I know. In any other universe besides my own, I could see how it would look that way. But in my universe, it’s okay not to be married, not to have children, not to have a house, and not to be into at least a ten-year career doing something related to the degrees I purchased. Excuse me, the degrees I earned.

I say this not because there’s anything wrong with having all or any of these things in my universe, but because somewhere in my DNA—ignoring my social programming of course—I’m coded not to consider any of those things as necessities. I haven’t always accepted that though, and as a result, I’ve spent a large portion of my life feeling like I was failing as a person, woman, and member of humanity—the segment living in the United States to be exact.

I wanted the marriage, children, house, and career, but it was because I was “supposed” to want them (i.e., social programming). At the same time, I’ve never felt strongly compelled to go after any of it.

This has been my internal conflict.

My internal dialogue going something like this:

Me: “None of that shit defines me.”

Also me: “But wait, I’m a loser. I’m still out here trying to find my purpose and figure out what I should be doing?”

Me again: “Look, it’s time to grow up and get some stability.”

Also me again: “Stability? What is that anyway? I don’t want to be in that box.”

Outside of my own head, while my friends are doing well, advancing in their careers and annual salaries, going on exotic vacations, and buying nice things, I’ve been stuck with too many ideas to count, too many dreams to keep up with, yet too many bad habits and undisciplined behavior for them mean much.

The truth is I’ve never been compelled to go after the conventional things because I’ve always been more concerned with figuring out who I am as an individual. Figuring out who I am have always seemed like the prerequisite for marriage, children, a house, and career having real meaning.

Finally, a few months ago a lot of this conflict started to dissolve because I did one key thing: I accepted what was true about me.

  • I only wanted the conventional things because society said that’s what I should want and because obtaining them would validate me.
  • I mostly want to discover the fullness of who I am, and at age 36 I’m still in the process.
  • I’ve been undisciplined and developed bad habits which have stood in the way of me even attempting to fulfill my dreams.
  • It’s okay to stop judging myself about these things.

This brings me to today. I’m coming off of sixty straight days of writing. As someone who calls herself a writer, before December 25th, 2018, I had done about as much writing as I had done exercising the last two years (not very much but I’m getting that together too).

I decided to engage in daily writing because I knew I had to build my writing muscle and develop real discipline. I had to build my confidence as a writer again after losing it in graduate school. I also had to dump some of the emotional baggage so that I could write from a place of giving (vulnerability) versus a place of need. I recently learned that you don’t get what you need; you get what you give. I want to be free. I want to be fully me. And I want to live my dream.

Writing is one part of my dream. Being a creator, educator, and someone who speaks to add value to people is the other part. This is why cubicles, daily rush hour traffic, and religiously thanking God it was Friday hasn’t worked for me. I’m not sure the working life works for anyone who feels like they’re taking just a little bit longer than everyone else to “get it together.” It’s usually a mix between figuring out how to turn our passion into the profit we need to do more of our passion, and developing the discipline and courage to take one step forward every single day until we manifest what we have inside.

I did three things in the last ten months that has changed my reality.

  • I paid $395 for help on my resume/cv to get into the education field as a college adjunct professor.
  • I hired a professional speaking coach.
  • I committed myself to write every day for sixty straight days.

The investments have manifested into me getting an adjunct position at a local university teaching writing, increased comfort and confidence speaking in front of people (I used to be terrified), and writing my very first blog post (you’re reading it right now in case you were wondering).

In my universe, where I’m at my best when doing what feels native to me, these accomplishments have been life-altering. Considering that I was working at a small retirement plan services company ten months ago, frustrated and confused as ever, now having the opportunity to impact the lives of young people and their ability to express themselves feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It just took getting clear, disciplined, courageous, and being willing to keep taking steps forward every day.

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