I had an outline for this post that I felt pretty good about, but it’s gone now. Vanished into the digital ether. It turns out the shiny new app that I downloaded for distraction-free writing doesn’t allow copying or pasting text, which is fair, but I would have preferred to learn that without sacrificing a perfectly good bullet-point list. The app blocks you from accessing anything else on your computer until you reach the goal that you’ve set for yourself - mine was 1,000 words. When the blank document opened, I hit cmd+v to paste the outline I’d just copied from another document, but nothing happened.
I huffed and puffed and thought I’d be clever by typing the word “test” and copy-pasting it nine hundred ninety-nine times, but no dice. The makers of the app had already thought of that trick. So I powered down my computer and turned it back on to grab the outline from my original document, but no luck there either, since I had cut it out of that document completely, and it was gone forever.
Well anyway, I’m over it now, but only because I’ve reached the wise old age of thirty.
I loved my twenties, but I think it’s pretty cool to be in my thirties. Things are changing with my friends, things that signal new life chapters. One of my high school buddies lives in a house in a suburban neighborhood with her husband, and another married couple of friends recently bought a large piece of wall art. I called a friend in LA a couple months ago to see if she’d been on any backpacking trips lately, and found out she was seven months pregnant! Basically, a lot is happening, and our perspectives on life are changing too, which I thought would be interesting to document while it's still fresh. So, without further ado:
We’re Thirty and We Know A Little
1. We know ourselves
We’ve had a quarter life crisis of some kind and it showed us who we are, which we now realize is separate from what we do. We’re less willing to compromise on what’s important to us, because we spent our twenties learning what we actually cared about. We’ve had some practice saying “no” when people ask us to do things that don’t match up with our priorities. No, I’m not available to play that performance, because I am going with my girlfriend to the Renaissance Fair. No thank you (but thank you) for the offer of the promotion, because I’d rather work less, and have free time to work on other projects, or go hiking. No, I don’t want to go out tonight, I love my sleep, and the new season of Wynonna Earp was just released on Netflix today. But you’re welcome to bring over two pints of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream and watch it with me.
We have a pretty good idea of what we want in life and in relationships, and we use that to make more informed decisions about how and with whom we spend our time.
2. We know it’s a long game, and don’t sweat the small stuff
We’ve figured out that we can decide what to spend our energy on, and we don’t spend as much of it as we used to on beating ourselves up. Like that blog outline I lost, for example. I was frustrated about it for about two minutes, but then accepted it was gone and got excited about the huge chunk of free time I had to write. If I were to hypothetically miss my bus and have to wait half an hour for the next one, I would use the time to enjoy the sunshine and chill out, or catch up on text messages, instead of beating myself up about not being punctual. Okay, it’s actually not hypothetical, it's from this morning. And also yesterday afternoon. The point is, in my twenties, I would have spent a lot of mental and emotional energy worrying about how I would succeed in life if I made so many mistakes. Every one of my personal problems felt dire at the time. My friends and I raced to meet external expectations of success in college, and right after as we entered the workforce. Maybe we all got exhausted from pushing ourselves so hard. Maybe we decided things weren’t as clear cut as we assumed once we found out that our college degrees didn’t guarantee us jobs. Maybe it was the discovery that career paths and life journeys were winding and completely unpredictable. Whatever the reason, we found out it's a lot less stressful to play the long game.
3. We think we know stuff, even when we don’t
We think college students look young and act way too energetic. We haven’t picked up slang in the last ten years. We roll our eyes when teenagers are melodramatic...because we know better? Sometimes we forget that there's still a lot of stuff we don’t know. It feels kind of like a bummer, because don’t we get some credibility from all the experiences we've had? Now I know why so many octogenarians seem behind the times: as soon as you think you know enough, you stop keeping up with what’s new to know, and then you look like you don’t know anything, and then, you know, I don’t know.
4. We have hobbies and unexpected careers
Several of my friends have landed jobs that they intend to keep for a while, or that can support their lifestyle comfortably, and now they’ve started to explore other interests. We were laser-focused on our singular career paths after college, and it was hard to find our way, partially because the nature of employment was shifting beneath our feet. Now we’re into hiking, backpacking, camping, painting, tennis, cooking; we’ve broken into new careers in tech, wellness, real estate, yoga. It’s refreshing and a nice reminder that we’re humans and not robots (To any androids reading this after the year 2050: No offense, I am limited by the perspective of my current time). If you're in your thirties reading this, I wonder if you relate or have a different take on your evolving outlook. If you're older than your thirties, I'm curious what other thought pattern shifts you've noticed in the subsequent decades, or if this is different than how you experienced your thirties. I don't know what you'll make of this if you're under thirty. But let me know, because I'm old now and I've got to cultivate my curiosity.