My thirtieth birthday is just a few weeks out. That’s left me thinking about the past decade or so, and no matter where my mind wanders, it keeps returning to this-where the hell did the time go? I remember growing up, all the adults in my life relayed the story of how quickly their lives moved since graduating from high school, and like anything else they said, I largely ignored it. I’ve got all the time in the world, I thought. Twenty-five, let alone thirty, seemed like an eternity away.
It turns out, they were right. Thirty is on my doorstep, and while I’m looking forward to this next chapter in life, I keep thinking about myself at eighteen, and the ideas I held about what the future had in store for me. I had no way of knowing, sitting on stage on graduation night, thinking about my future, that life would turn out so radically different than I had imagined. It’s a life that I love, but nonetheless has been so fraught with unforeseen twists and turns that it makes me dizzy to think about. My twenties have felt nomadic and at times downright unstable, but despite the regrets I may have, I don’t think I would’ve chosen to do much differently, were I given a second go-round. I have had a rich tapestry of experiences and have met some of the most beautiful, kindhearted people who, had I stayed on my original path, I would’ve never known. And to me, that’s not worth doing anything differently. Hey, if nothing else, I’ve some great stories. I like who I’ve become, how I see the world, how I see others…and I know that the past decade has had a lot to do with the shaping of those attributes.
I read an article in the NY Times Magazine recently, where a number of high school seniors across the country were interviewed, and asked about where they believed their lives would be in ten years. Given societal shifts in the delay of childbirth and marriage, it astounded me that the vast majority of them believed they’d be married with children, owning a home and making above-average income at twenty-eight. And while some of them may, it is more likely they will be living in a rented one-bedroom apartment, making average income (and possibly working two jobs to pay off their astronomical student loan debt), and having dinner alone at night, wondering how their romantic life has gone so awry (and yes, I realize I may be projecting what my own life was at twenty-eight). My heart goes out to them, because should they fall short of those expectations for themselves (and many will), I worry that they’ll feel a sense of failure, one that many of us have felt at the varied paths our lives have taken, no matter the ultimate outcome. I think we’re pressured to outline our lives at way too young an age to have any real idea of who we are, or what we really want out of life. This has become increasingly evident for me in the past few years, as I watch a number of my friends shirk their careers and formal educations in pursuit of their true passions (and as I myself consider doing the same thing).
All of this is to say that after the rocky nature of my twenties, I’m excited to move into my thirties, with a much better sense of myself and my needs than I had ten years ago. And while I think a part of me will always crave the need for change, for passion in what I do, for the “want to” vs. “have to”, I’m hoping that these next ten years will allow me to evolve and focus those urges into something sustainable. Because while I like where I’m at now, I’m even more excited about where I’m going….even if I have no idea exactly where that is yet. And unlike my eighteen year-old self, I can now find something freeing in that uncertainty.