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Does life end at age 30? I’m legitimately wondering because all around me it seems like it. The do it while you’re young and free phrase has been repeated, whether directly or indirectly several times.
Last week I turned 22. I went to work, people sang happy birthday and I ate a bunch of macarons instead of a birthday cake. Taylor Swift’s newfound rite of passage pop song ’22’ got played on repeat. It was awesome.
It got me thinking about the elusive milestone of turning 30 years old. Turning 30 is seen as this big, life changing thing and the benchmark age for “getting your life together”. What does getting your life together even mean?
What should you “have done” by age 30? Does it mean owning a house? Does it mean already gotten started on having 2-3 kids?
Society and expectations are tricky things to understand. The common things associated with turning 30 and getting your life together include: owning a house, being married, having kids, and working a respectable job.
Just like an infomercial for a useless product, but wait, there’s more! It’s not enough to have a house, you have to have a big house. You know, one that has a fancy master bathroom suit and two living rooms. A house that is big and modern looking with cool appliances.
Being married and “settled down” is expected when turning 30. Buying anything other than a robust engagement ring is considered odd. Not getting married with an expected timeline or not wanting to get married is considered odd.
So you’re considered odd if you’re 30 years and not married with a mortgage and kids. This has given way to celebrating your twenties and living it up while the fun lasts. Instant gratification starts to surface.
People are frustrated. They feel they have to be working a dream job, have discovered and done something amazing, own a home, and/or be married and having kids by the time they are 30 years old. They blow money on unimportant things and don’t plan for the future. They thing they need to get all of their adventurous things out of the way by the time they are 30.
It makes sense in some ways. Why put off doing something when you can do it today? If you have a yearning to start something or do something, make steps towards it starting today.
However, instant gratification works in negative ways. When you’re in your twenties and constantly hearing about friends getting married, having kids, and buying houses, it starts to wear you down. Even when you hear about people doing their dream travels or working a fabulous job, it wears you down as well. You want for your life. You want it now.
There was recently Saturday Night Live sketch about a frazzled millennial who came to her boss, asking for a promotion.
Boss: How long have you been here?
Millennial: Three days
It leads me to the first point…
Crappy jobs teach us lessons
Nobody likes having a bad boss, dealing with office politics, doing mind-numbing work, working long hours, having a long commute, or even the horrendous act of someone stealing our sandwich from the office fridge :). But these jobs usually teach us lessons in some way.
Crappy jobs motivate us for change. They put you in a tenacious mindset of pursuing something better. You develop a thick skin and staying calm when dealing with nightmare situations and bad co-workers.
The coveted “dream job” is touted a lot. It lead to instant gratification problems of people wanting to quickly find an occupation that leaves them satisfied and fulfilled. But dream jobs, no matter how great they are, still require work. Having a fulfilling job takes time and experimentation, and realizations about what matters most to you.
Don’t get hung up on not being able to travel
Ah, ladies and gentlemen, we are in the “quit your job and travel the world” era. You ever see those people on Instagram who have lots of followers and they’re always traveling and posting pictures of beaches and you aren’t really sure exactly what they do but their photos do spark your wanderlust vibe?
The importance of travel has become more prominent in recent years. It often goes hand in hand with the saying of travel while you’re young!
Does travel suddenly end when you’re 30? I don’t think so. Travel is more about mindset than hitting destinations.
As you get older, your living costs will increase. Mortgage’s and kids might come into play. Why does that have to stop you though? If being adventurous and discovering new places is important to you, then make a plan for continuing it in some way, even after you hit 30.
Traveling, no matter if your 22, 30, or 80, is going to be a great experience. Don’t get so hung up if you can’t do it right this second.
People achieve success at a later age
From young dudes wearing hoodies who start social media companies, to teen authors, to young activists, it can seem like if you don’t reach some big milestone by age 30, you are a failure. No.
Plenty of people have achieved greatness at a later age. Things will work out.
Your twenties are a time to live it up and experiment with things but don’t let the thought of having to follow a certain life syllabus hold you down. From what I’ve seen, life doesn’t seen to magically become unadventurous and incapable of trying new things once you hit 30.
Be patient, be intentional, and be active (both in the physical and intellectual sense, I have a feeling your 50 year old knees will thank you). As Parks and Recreation can show you, you’re never too late to do something new.