Are Our Early 30s the New Early 20s?
When I think about where I thought I would be at 33, here is what I pictured: a house, two children, a backyard, a flourishing career, money in the bank, a healthy marriage. What 33 really looks like: being fired from a job I hated any way, renting an apartment, a healthy marriage, a career on the back burner, two cats, living paycheck to paycheck most months. We all are told our twenties are for exploration and finding stability. The standard American formula is you graduate college, find a solid job usually in what you studied, meet a spouse, buy a house. Many of my high school peers have excelled at this formula. I completed half of it: the college and spouse part. Though technically I got married at age 30 but I am still counting it.In my twenties, I was in New York, auditioning, performing, drinking, changing jobs when I found something better, going to Broadway openings and wine tastings and wandering the historical, magical, garbage lined, rat parade streets of Manhattan. I wasn’t searching for anything; I was there in it with everyone else and we weren’t scared yet. Our biological clocks were silent and we were literally living our best life. No hangovers, no weight gain, able to function on four hours of sleep, burgers and pizza four times a week. That $200 I had in my savings fluctuated more than Times Square billboards. Now I sit at 33, a depressed runaway. I left New York because I was anxious over the formula. I didn’t own anything more valuable than my engagement ring and the city was pushing all the wrong buttons. I thought I would pursue the formula. I would go back to my home state and suddenly everything would fall into place. I would find ‘my thing’ and succeed. Buy a house, have some kids, be settled, stable, the apple of my parents eye. The universe had other plans. I trust in the universe. I believe in signs and Tarot cards and astrology. The universe was saying that the formula is not for me. My decision to pursue a creative life means that I don’t get the cookie cutter lifestyle. I struggle, I crawl, I fight and fail because the life that I want is worth it. It is a different world for us 1980s babies than it was for our parents. Wages are low and rents are impossibly high. Turnover is insane at any job and most of us are pursuing being our own bosses because the ones we currently have are lacking. We are not spoiled or naive. We are not lazy or selfish. Many of us are trying so hard our fingernails are bleeding as we climb every ladder set before us. We wait to get married because it is outlandishly expensive. We question having children because of the expense and the world is actually on fire. Not to mention if we have it so hard, how are our children going to survive? If we work 60-70 hours a week at a job that fires us without cause (I am very familiar with this scenario), how can we ever be stable to give even our cats the life they deserve? I’ve spoken to several peers since my forced absence from the workforce and it’s oddly comforting to know I am not alone in my soul searching. I grew up wanting to be in a certain place by this age and I’m not. I am questioning why I am not and though I regret not asking this five years ago, I wasn’t ready then. But since I am ready now, I have been travelling back to when I was young and the whole world opened up before me and was exciting and new. What did I want? It seemed so clear then. I wanted to live in New York City and be an actor. I went and did that for many years. But then, I fell victim to the formula calling from the back of the room. Oh, god, I am 30, working a job that is tolerable but I am not acting like I thought I would be. I’m still renting, I have no money, where is my house and kids and sweet heavens my ovaries are all dried up and I will never know what a 401k actually is!I stopped listening to my instincts. I panicked. I fled. I’m glad I did because I was shaken and stirred and eaten and spit out and now see much clearer. I stripped everything I wanted away and was left with a person I didn’t know. It got dark, real dark for me. I didn’t realize until I was let go from my job how much of myself I had lost. And it made me angry I was just realizing this now, at this age where I am supposed to be successful and settled. Then I got angry that I was engineered to feel this way. Why can’t we explore in our thirties? What’s the deal? We’re supposed to know exactly what we want at age 18 and then pursue it until the day we die? Are we not allowed to change our minds? People are married for 30 years and then get divorced. Can’t we divorce our career path? What is so wrong with feeling a little lost past your third decade?There’s that great meme that goes around every once in awhile with a list of successful people and what age they gained traction. Many are over the age of 30 and several over the age of 40. I think for a creative heart, it takes a lot of trial and error to come to what you are made for. I finally whittled mine down in the past few weeks to wanting to tell stories. There are a zillion ways I can achieve this and I am exploring each one because I was given this gift of utter humiliation and embarrassment that said ‘Hey, you hate this. What don’t you hate? Let’s head towards that doorway and get the hell out of here’. If you are here with me, don’t feel guilty or angry. You are not alone. Sometimes it takes quitting or being fired or a divorce or death of a loved one or a set back that stops you in your tracks and forces you to look around. Maybe you need to take a day off and just sit and listen to yourself. Read a self help book which I have been doing and let me tell you, they actually help when you find the right voice to guide you. I could feel the tentacles wrapping around me, pulling me down. I’d look at old pictures and mourn who I once was until I now see, she isn’t gone. I just packed her away because I thought I needed to be someone else because that’s what I was conditioned to think. I expire after age 30 and if I don’t have my shit together, I need to conform. Screw that. If a picket fence isn’t for you, GOOD. It is for someone else and they will take it. I can feel I am on the brink of something and I haven’t a clue what it is. Will I find another job? Yes. Will I like that job? Debatable. Will I go back to my roots? Absolutely. Because I’ve spent the past week taking off layer by layer and getting down to my core, I am back to where I started. Just a girl with a dream and a big great world opening up to let her in.I think it is time we take the shame of being lost in your thirties or any age. The beauty at the center of human beings are the possibilities of what we can all do. We discover new things everyday, about ourselves, this planet, the universe. Why are we all out of exploring those new things because our society says we should be? Who cares about should. I am more focused on could. I could do anything.I could be a storyteller. I can be. I will be. I am.