This special episode is a roundtable discussion about the reality of being in our 30s put together by my three close friends and me.
The idea was born out of my curiosity about how today’s 30 year olds are really doing versus the expectations that come with turning 30. It’s an honest conversation where we share our aspirations and fears, triumphs and struggles, and the wisdom we’ve gained over the years about how to face life and ourselves.
If you’re currently in your 20s, this episode will give you a peek at what’s in store in your 30s and help you prepare ahead of time. If you’re already in your 30s, I hope this conversation will make you realize that you’re not alone in your struggles and give you new ideas on how to face the remainder of your 30s.
Now let me introduce you to my friends:
Nina – my boss lady friend who’s killing it at work as a senior manager in tech. I like to tell people that she has a master’s degree in efficiency because she can’t stand not putting her time to good use. Nina is a huge planner and a strategic thinker. She has a toddler son and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Sophia or Sophie – my artistic friend who values creativity and stability equally. Professionally, she’s a meticulous pharmacist, but her one big dream is to become a writer. She’s currently working on her 11th middle grade novel and trying to get her books published. She also has a toddler son. You can find her on Twitter at sophiexli
Yusur – my fearless friend who for our master of journalism’s thesis fought to go to Syria at the height of the Arab Spring. Yusur used to have no qualms about packing her life and getting on a plane to pursue her passions. Now in her early 30s, she has come to value her newfound stability. Yusur lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories with her dog Mila. You can find her on Twitter at yusuralbahrani
The four of us chatted about:
Turning 30: expectation vs. reality
The big surprises and struggles
Goals for this decade
Finding joy in our 30s
And what we’ve learned so far
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And here’s my takeaway from the roundtable
When we look at our lives, the days are long, but the years are short.
It’s scary how quickly a decade goes by. I was recently at a friend’s wedding. After I came home, it hit me that we were just kids 10 years ago, who didn’t know how to properly apply makeup or tie our own tie. In the blink of eye, most of us are now married with families of our own. So how would another 10 years change us?
When I try to answer the question of how I got to where I am today, the answer is always a combination of personal intentions and circumstances. During our roundtable, Sophie made a great point that we are the cumulation of all our past experiences. The decisions we made and the experiences we had were valid.
To get to where we want to go, we can only choose the paths we can see. There’s no point in wishing for a different now, or thinking if we’d only chosen differently back then. The truth is we made the best decision we could given our circumstances and what we knew at the time. The tendency to regret the older we get comes from the fact that we become wiser with age and now measure our past decisions with a new set of eyes.
Yusur made a spot-on observation during our roundtable that the biggest struggle of today’s 30-year-olds is our expectation and trying to live up to that expectation. When we constantly measure ourselves against other people who are further along in their journey than us, it’s hard not to feel bad about ourselves and to question our own past. Instead, she says we should stop worrying what other people are doing and focus on our own journey and meeting our personal goals.
One of the greatest perks of turning 30 is that we begin to care less about what other people think and start to define success and happiness for ourselves. We become more mature emotionally and have learned to accept the uncertainties in life. In my 20s, if you asked me what my 30s would look like, I would’ve confidently painted you a picture of where I saw myself. But experience has taught me that our lives almost never match our predictions, and trying to plan and gain some control over our future is just foolish and futile.
Now if you ask me what my 40s would look like, I won’t tell you a thing because I know that whatever I think now, it’ll definitely be something else when I get there. I think Nina’s approach to her 30s is very wise. For a person as planned as she is, she refuses to focus on a specific life goal. Instead, she approaches her life in three or five-year windows, and allows herself to pivot any time. Her rationale is that the world is constantly changing, and by fixating ourselves on one big goal, we become blind to the opportunities around us, which prevents us from making the best decision at any given time.
I mostly agree with her, which brings me back to my initial question: how would our 30s change us? The conclusion I draw is that it’s entirely up to us. Heeding to the wisdom of people who have been there and done that, it’s said that our 30s is actually the perfect time to start building the life we’ve always wanted for ourselves. We now have enough life experience under our belt, and know who we are and what we want out of life. Now is the ripe time to chase our dreams and lay the groundwork for success and fulfillment later on.
My personal goal for the remainder of my 30s is to approach each day mindfully like it really matters. What does turning 30 mean to you? How do you intend to approach your 30s? If you’ve already gone through your 30s, how did you find it? What advice would you like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.