Turning 30

I’ll be turning 30 soon – very soon. I’ve never had an issue with getting older, but this year seems different. I didn’t have a quarter life crisis that came with turning 25 – maybe it’s the pandemic, or living in lockdown.

As I tried to reconcile with this angst, I realise that maybe I’m not actually being pushed to where I don’t want to go; rather, I’m being pulled to where I’m exactly meant to be.

Career

At the start of my 20’s I was a fresh graduate, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, naïve even. Scrambling, hustling, pulling in long hours, doing what I thought I needed to get the job done. I was treading water, even drowning at points.

And when I reached my career dream, I thought that this was the reward for my years of hard work. I finally had my foot in the door, I finally had a seat at the table I dreamt of for so long. But something wasn’t quite right.

Then the pandemic hit. In hindsight, I was running with blinders for years. And as Keira Knightley’s character in the film Misbehaviour said: “the seat at the table turned out to be a high chair.”

I was really lost, I finally had what I wanted for so long – but why wasn’t I happy? After pausing and reflecting, I summed up the courage to leave something that was no longer serving me. And then all the weight lifted.

I hope in my 30’s I learn to:

  • pause and reflect more frequently, a job, job title, or career are not my only identity;
  • be softer on myself, I’m only human;
  • learn to take a break before I’m at my breaking point, there are no rewards for suffering the most/ longest;
  • accept that dreams can change over time, not everything in life is constant;
  • continue going where I’m celebrated, and not just where I’m tolerated. Something shiny and sparkly that seems too good to be true may be just that, it can be hard to distinguish what’s gold and what’s only gold-plated.

Tolerance

Speaking of tolerance, I had a lot of that, and a lot of patience too in my 20’s. A slacking co-worker, a gossiping friend, a super loud neighbour – all these I put up with, along with a forced smile. These days I have much less patience.

The ability to sit still, silently through gritted teeth, allowing others to take and take. My thoughts and feelings festering, growing and growing, until everything explodes. I’m usually the person in the group project that does most of the work but never gets the credit.

And I was exhausted picking up the slack from everyone else – you can’t consistently bring your A-game every single day without bleeding on those who didn’t cut you. I finally realised that other people don’t think the way I think. I also realised that people tend to put themselves first. I realised that I can put myself first too, and that’s ok.

The realisation of dwindling time knee-jerked me into no longer giving up my time for people who disrespected me, no longer accepting excuses from people who repeatedly don’t pull their weight, no longer people pleasing to placate others or diffuse situations (this one I am still working on).

I hope in my 30’s I learn to:

  • say no more often, setting and raising boundaries protects your mental health and prevents others from taking advantage of you and your time;
  • speak up for myself more, if you don’t ask you don’t get and sometimes some people can only hear you if you ask with a megaphone;
  • believe that I deserve more than what I’m getting, and then walk away if it’s a one way street or if the conclusion of a cost-benefit analysis means you’ll be in debt forever;
  • be aware that tolerances and thresholds can change over time and communication is key so others remain aware of those thresholds;
  • take more and give less, you don’t always have the strength to carry someone else’s pain too and you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you give too much of yourself to others then there’s nothing left to give and you can’t bring your best and most authentic self to the world.

Awareness

Awareness is an interesting thing: at the start of my 20’s I had literally no idea about wellbeing or mental health. In time I’ve learnt so much. Through my own experiences, through reading, watching, friends, families, work, almost every aspect of my life.

Tolerance and saying no is one thing, but awareness and knowing when you’re at your threshold to say no is another thing. One of the other things I’ve appreciated most from awareness is knowing now that what people do or say is more a reflection of them than of you. And it’s become enlightening.

Initially this awareness pushed me towards Pandora’s box. Figuring out or finding out the why behind why someone was using you as an emotional punch bag made me sympathetic, almost excusing the hurtful behaviour. Intentional or not, someone else not being able to emotionally regulate themselves (for whatever reason) does not invalidate my own thoughts and feelings.

I then realised this awareness was pulling me somewhere else. This growing awareness and understanding allowed me to acknowledge my own thoughts and feelings, as well as take a step back (seeing the wood for the trees) and acknowledge the source of the issue. When I realise the source is not me, i.e. something I cannot control or change, I’m more able to accept it and make peace with it.

I hope in my 30’s I learn to:

  • truly accept things and people for what or who they are;
  • accept that people can only change if they themselves want to change;
  • judge others less;
  • accept that people know what they’re doing, and if they don’t, it’s not my job to teach them;
  • continue growing awareness.

Conversations

In my early 20’s the conversations I had were external and surface level. The previous week’s event, the current TV show everyone is watching, or the latest annoying client. These conversations are still happening now, but these days I dive a little deeper.

Conversations became more internal, abstract, and academic. Hopes, dreams, aspirations, future business plans, worries, anxieties, fears, random philosophical scenarios thrown in for good measure. Really getting to the root of what makes us human. I realise, though, that not everyone can swim the deep waters with me.

I hope in my 30’s I learn to:

  • continue having deep conversations;
  • better accept that not everyone is comfortable swimming the deep waters with me;
  • be ok with silent lulls in conversations;
  • improve my active listening skills: speak less and listen more.

Entertainment

I feel how I consume entertainment has changed a lot. My decreased patience shows when I can no longer watch 1 hour long dramas or 3 hour long films – the thought of watching a 1.5 hour long Korean drama episode actually fills me with dread, and I used to be obsessed with K-dramas!

These days 20/ 30 minute comedies or cartoon animations are more my thing, a quick form of escapism that will leave me in heart-warmed stitches. I absolutely adore Schitt’s Creek, Modern Family, and Bob’s Burgers – the characters left an imprint on my heart.

I still watch rom-coms of course and Marvel-related action packed films. These days I’m more open to character-driven films or films with an agenda. Recently I really enjoyed watching Nomadland, Dig, and Misbehaviour. I feel I can’t sustain an emotional series with 20 episodes but if it’s a 2 hour long film I can manage the emotional turmoil.

I used to be an avid reader, writing poetry every month – and then I stopped. For a long while. Now, slowly, I’m reading again and I’m writing again. Not exactly poetry, but I’m still creating.

I hope in my 30’s I learn to:

  • continue writing and creating;
  • continue finding heart-warming comedic gems;
  • continue watching films with agendas;
  • see more plays or musicals, attend more immersive in-person forms of entertainment.

Conclusion

In a couple of days I’ll be joining the 30 Club. I was filled with dread and angst, and I suppose the backdrop of a pandemic hasn’t helped. I feel writing this down has been cathartic for me.

I’ve seen a lot of posts about diamonds forming under pressure and grapes being crushed to make wine etc. But bread dough rises from rest. I hope in my 30’s I learn to rest more and accept that this rest isn’t complacency, lethargy, or laziness.

I hope in my 30’s I learn to accept that I am still forging my own path, that speed doesn’t matter; rather, direction is more important. And pivoting and changing my mind is ok. I hope that my career flourishes, my awareness grows, and my conversations get deeper. And about the other two – I’m ok with them for now.

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