Usually, that date doesn’t mean much to me. It’s just another random day in September. But, this year, it has a whole new meaning.
It marks the six-month countdown until my 30th birthday.
During my college years I worked at my local ski mountain teaching ski lessons and volunteering on the ski patrol. I remember vividly one of my friends, who are the time was around 28, joking that he wouldn’t make it to 30 years old.
There is something about the big 3-0 that sets a lot of people off.
And, I’m one of those people.
There is this underlining societal pressure that one should have their shit together by time 30 rolls around. For most, that means a good career, marriage, kids, and a house. After all, that’s the American dream, right?
Some people are excellent at brushing any sort of societal norm aside. I mean, what’s normal these days? But, I, on the other hand, fall victim every time.
I feel torn between wanting to travel and be a full-time freelancer and settling down with a regular 9-5 job and a family. As a chronic insomniac, you have no idea how many countless nights I have stared blankly at the ceiling trying to figure out which direction I should take. Damn you Robert Frost for telling me to take the one less traveled. Can’t I have both?
Ever since my recent trip back home, the anxiety and pressure have escalated to the point I just want to pack up my bags and give up. But, then I start to worry that I won’t find a job back home and I’ll live in my dad’s basement forever working a minimal wage job at the mall.
I know my anxiety and fear is all self-induced. I have an uncanny ability to work myself up over absolutely nothing. It’s really quite the talent.
At nearly 30, my friends and acquiescences all fall into two categories: a shiny ring, a snotty-nosed kid, and/or a house with furniture from Ikea that may or may not fall apart if you sit on it, or single with a left ring finger tired of swiping left and spending way too much money at happy hour drinking to our student loan debt. Thankfully all my close friends fall in the latter category with me. Did someone say happy hour?
But, I can’t go onto Facebook or Instagram anymore without anyone posting a photo of their new bling, Pinterest-inspired pregnancy announcement or photos from their wedding that probably set them back about $20,000. While I’m truly happy for everyone, there are certainly moments when I question what the fuck is wrong with me.I mean, I’m college educated. Heck, I have a graduate degree. I have a growing retirement account. I run my own business, which actually does make some money. You know, enough to feed me and pay off my monthly student loan bills. I’m nice. I’m smart. And, I’m even potty trained. What more could a decent guy want?
Oh, maybe a girl that doesn’t want to run off to a foreign country every chance she gets?
After nearly nine months abroad, I’ve come to realize that the long-term travel lifestyle is not conceivable for me. I will, and always will, love to travel. Discovering new countries, cities, and cultures will always be a priority for me, but I’m also a homebody. I like having a space and routine to call my own. Not to mention, the freelance life is stressful. Clients can leave you at a moment’s notice and you’re left scrambling to find new ones so you can eat the next day. Plus, the constant rejection is a total mood killer.
As the countdown to 30 continues at a rapid pace, I’ve felt that I’ve unconsciously added new pressure to myself. I need to get my shit together. And soon! To most people, I probably look like I have my shit together. To some, I even have a life to be envious of. Who doesn’t want to travel the world?
But, internally, I feel like I’m walking on Legos. And, you know what that is like.
I had a career in Portland. But, I hated my job. I was basically a glorified secretary with no ability to move up the career ladder. I felt trapped and my talent was being wasted. But, I liked the steady paycheck that allowed me to save thousands of dollars so I could finally leave on my “Great Escape.” It’s the only reason I put on a smile every morning before I walked into the door and sat at my desk.
If you asked me eight years ago when I graduated college where I would be at 30, I would have told you a good job with the potential for growth. Maybe with a husband and possibly a kid. It’s funny how naïve we are when we first leave the comforts of college life. Real life has no problem sending a punch straight to your gut when you least expect it.
I’m incredibly blessed that I could afford a college education. I’m blessed that my parents were always supportive and still are today, even when I told my Dad I’m moving half way around the world to Australia. I’m blessed that I have the means and a passport that allows me to move freely throughout the world at any given time.
I wouldn’t trade those things for anything.
I’m not a religious person, despite the fact I went to Catholic school, but I do believe that things happen for a reason. Call it serendipity. While I hated my last job, it taught me a lot of things and gave me the means to live the life that I’m currently living.
The life that I’m currently living is also setting me up for the next stage in my life. Cue the “Circle of life” song. Seeing and experiencing the world as I have over the past nine months has put many things in perspective. Tangible items aren’t as important as the intangible ones. Life is short. Enjoy the people around you. Get up early and watch the sunrise. Stay up late and laugh until your belly hurts. Trust strangers. Don’t swim in waterholes with crocodiles.
Those are lessons I wouldn’t have learned if I was back home living the “American Dream.”
I’m sure I will continue to experience anxiety over turning 30 until I do on March 8th. I know the day with be just another day. I’m not even sure where I’ll be celebrating it. Perhaps in Australia. Maybe back in Maine. Or perhaps on a forgotten beach somewhere in Asia.
No matter where I spent my 30th, I know it’s just the symbolic beginning of my adult life. Thirty is the new 20, right?