This past weekend, your writer here reached a new milestone, stepping over a new century in his life. That’s right, he turned 30. For those who haven’t reached it yet, it’s the first birthday you will ever experience that people will constantly remind you what age you have just entered. I must have heard “Happy 30th Birthday!” from everyone I saw over the past week, as they drew out the number as if it was a curse.
Maybe they thought I would forget, after all I’m now 30. And I don’t know if that happens at 40 or 50, but my guess is it’s the only other time in your life that it will occur. The other statement, or I should say question, that people asked was “How does it feel to be 30?” And that’s a weird thought, since, really it’s only a minute later from 29, and it’s not like lasers were suddenly going to shoot out of my eyes, while I struggled to remember where I had put the keys. Nothing had changed.
Of course, they were really just kidding and poking fun at my impending middle-agedness. But it does get you thinking about your past and your future. And when I began to think about it, it became clear that people’s fear of 30 was not only unfounded, but misguided. This is because of the belief that at 30 your childhood is officially over, you’re an adult and the best days of your life are behind you. But let’s just evaluate the “best years of your life:”
- 0-6: You don’t remember a thing. I’m sure they were great, sitting around, playing with friends, pooping your pants and relying on the parents for everything, but you probably remember zero to little of this time. You weren’t old enough to know anything, so you were just soaking it all up. Sounds fantastic, but who knows? All I remember is getting bit by a goose when I was four. I can’t include these among the greatest years of my life because I have no idea if they were.
- 7-13: Great times. You probably had very few responsibilities, other than like cleaning the cat litter (one of mine) or taking out the trash. But most of your time was spent playing little league, hanging out with friends and learning to dress yourself. You remember these, and they were a blast. These can be included in the greatest years.
- 14-17: You were in high school, stuck in your parent’s house, often unable to do the things you wanted to do. Some people hate high-school (I was more on this front), some people love it. But no matter what, there was clearly a lot more structure in place that prevented you from doing what you felt you really wanted to do, whether it was travel, experience new people or whatever. And most (including me) are not aware that there are ways around the structure. I needed time to learn this, so I dreamed instead. These should not be included in the greatest years.
- 18-22: College. Enough said for many. These were the years where many of us first truly learned independence and began to pursue interests that intrigued us, without any prompting. We got out of our comfort zone and began adapting the world for our own purposes. We met new people and our beliefs were challenged. All good things; these can be included in the greatest years.
- 23-29: While many of us were ready to take over the world in college, we soon learned the truth when we stepped out for our first real job. We discovered that the world wasn’t there to just give us our riches, fame and whatever else we desired. These are the years where probably many of us discovered we had to earn it, by providing value. It’s also a time where many of us were broke and still trying to figure out where we wanted to go with our future. For me, these may have been the most important years of my life, but were not the greatest years due to the limited finances, anxiety about the future and the perceived limitation of my own skills.
So basically, my greatest years were supposed to boil down to 10 years where I did what I wanted, asked for very little and had a blast doing it. That’s a poor percentage. And, of course, the years above are generalizations, and many great things happened to me during this time. But in my opinion the next 30 years holds that much more potential. And there are a few reasons for this.
- While I’ve always sought for large goals, I’ve also always used means that didn’t suit my personality to reach those goals. I’m learning to stop doing this, and realizing there’s more potential in pursuits that match my personality, and I can still reach the goals I wish to pursue this way
- I’m finally at an age (more appropriately a point in my career) where I can start building some sort of nest. While I don’t plan to rely on the nest for many, many years, it’s comforting to know this
- I’m able to travel because my girlfriend and I say we can travel. For too long, I held back because I didn’t have XX dollars or I had a 9-5 job. But that’s gone, giving us more opportunity. We want to increase that opportunity further, and we know it can be accomplished
- I’m more confident in my skills than I’ve ever have been. By focusing on talents that I have, improving them and trying (although never actually) perfecting them, I’ve become more confident in what I can offer others
- A disbelief that more responsibility, like kids, obligations, etc, will prevent me from pursuing the things I really want to do. At 30, I’m learning Spanish (I speak zero languages other than English), the banjo (I play no musical instruments) and soon graphic design. So if I’m an old dog, I can still learn some tricks. And these really provide the outlets, besides the written word, to allow me to continue to grow as a person
So, yeah, it feels great turning 30, and it’s not something I fear. Hopefully, I can say something similar when I turn 60. But that’s the point. There’s no guarantee that I will reach 60, just like everyone else. There’s no written contract that I’ll retire and get an opportunity to travel or learn the banjo then. So I don’t see the point of commiserating over turning 30, even if you did a better job than I during your first 30 years. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to turn it into the greatest years of my life.
If you liked this and want free tips (read not spam!) delivered to your email, sign up for my newsletter here.
Also, if you found this useful, please share with your friends, family or coworkers by clicking one of those shiny social media feed buttons below!