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Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to be in my 20’s again. Maybe it was glorious for you, but for me, it was a phase I’m both grateful I had and more so grateful I’m absolutely finished with.
I am now 31, and am all the things my 21 year old self would have thought was totally lame or scary. I still file my taxes as a single person, I own a home, have had my first gray hairs, and have learned how poorly I metabolize alcohol despite how cool I’d like to appear. I have even given up on shoes that hurt and make me look clumsy as everyday footwear. You win shoes. FREEDOM.
So, what’s there to love about being over 30? Turns out lots of stuff. Let me count the ways that I have personally given my 20’s a solid “meh.”
You Can Finally Be Free Of Boys Who Shame Attachment
I don’t know why my 20’s were strung together by a series of young lads who always seemed to think attachment was a form of weakness and that vulnerability was a liability. Perhaps it’s the conditioning that women should hold out on sex as long as possible, and men should restrict their feelings for as long as they are able – or even forever. It’s weird that the two are intertwined (at least should be) but are socialized to be completely at odds with one another. Why did it take me so long to recognize that this is bonkers?
The bulk of my 20’s was spent in the socialized norm that being a woman with feelings was the most unattractive thing ever – because clearly – men were in control of their feelings and women were not, especially where attachment and sex were involved.
To desire commitment meant that you weren’t independent, complete, confident. The idea that when a man DOES allow himself to feel, you must be his one true, most perfect forever love is also complete b.s. No, his mask just slipped. That gendered nonsense is a bunch of crap that gets both men and women in trouble. Serotonin and dopamine are a harsh mistress (or master?), yo.
I don’t know when it happened, but I suddenly realized that neither gender has it figured out and our 20’s are just a circus of stupidity, flinging out expectations and fears on the other person, and telling ourselves it’s all of them, not us.
At this stage in life, admitting your feelings, all of them, even the un-shiny, completely unflattering ones, are empowering.
I’m done seeing vulnerability as a liability, and I care to spend my time with others who embrace the heart on their sleeves.
I appreciate people who are transparent, mainly because I have realized the ones who say they’re above it, over it, impervious to it, unaffected by it, are completely lying. Or sociopaths.
You feel things. Shocker, I know. There is peace in accepting the light and the dark of your feelings and power in allowing yourself to feel them.
Men are socialized to deny how they feel and women are told that if they feel things too early, they must be clingers. We put a lot of pressure on both genders to adhere to the rules for a prize that isn’t even real. Sayonara to that silliness.
You can be independent, a feminist, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and also admit that you feel lonely, sometimes need a good snuggle, and allow yourself to let your hair down without being a single modicum less of anything.
Allow Yourself To See The Beauty In Being Average
The 20’s were full of pressure to be the next…something. There is something sexy about selling a 4 Hour Workweek, being super Instagram famous, earning six figures being an online influencer, and rejecting the 9-5, especially with the jet fuel reserves of ambition that are present in your 20’s.
There’s something seductive about being a digital nomad/entrepreneur/bucking tradition from the bandwidth of your mobile hotspot because sex sells. It’s intentional.
If you’re one of those darned millennials like myself, you’ve probably heard that you’re not living a fulfilled life unless you’ve bucked tradition and become a suitcase entrepreneur in a tiny house with nothing but wifi and a launch plan for the next big thing detailed in your Asana task list.
Except, I started to realize that most people who make six figures online are only making six figures online because they’re talking about – and creating – products to tell others how to make six figures online. Womp.
I know they’re out there, but you see a lot less folks making six figures selling hand dipped candles on Etsy or starting their own non-profit. You also don’t see the anxiety, insecurity, and fruitless pursuits of the ideas that didn’t work out so phenomenally well they became a New York Times bestseller.
If you want to make money online, you need to talk about making money online, and it’s sort of a pyramid scheme.
You don’t make the big bucks until you recruit 6-10 others to chase the same dream and sell it down line.
Create an insecurity, sell the cure. It’s profitable. In my 20’s I was so insecure about my place in the world, I always thought my personal meaning would be found in one of those personal development books or online courses.
My Partner and I recently spoke about my desire not to have children. “But what if they’re amazing?” he said, as if I was denying myself the chance to birth the next Nobel Prize winner.
Surely, OUR kid would be more likely to be the next Steve Jobs or Lady Gaga, than absolutely normal like us, our parents, and grandparents.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
Why can’t we just be excited to have kids that are not serial killers and instead just decent, average people? Like, is it because we’re secretly disappointed that we weren’t just stunningly amazing so we kick the can down the road genetically so it’s not US, it’s HOPE?
I had to put it out there….“But what if they’re average?” I countered. “Average would be an absolute blessing. How many parents, when they realize the odds they face, simply pray for average and are absolutely ecstatic when their kids are simply normal? Healthy? Being average is a gift.”
Then, I realized what love I was lacking for myself. I wouldn’t expect my future (maybe?) kids to live up to being an undetermined definition of AMAZING by some crappy standards that only existed in my head. Why do I put those on myself? Released.
In Your 30’s You Can Choose Your Filters Wisely
I wish someone had told me sooner that you don’t have to surround yourself with triggering baloney. I think though, after a few years of social media, as we’ve all sort of come up in the Facebook age, we had to eventually learn to curate our own feeds.
The idea of “triggers,” is a new concept, and it’s not one I fully embrace – but in my 30’s, I’ve come to see the subtle power of stimulus. Sights, smells, sounds – they can all make you feel, and impact your mood and outlook. We are now surrounded with the most intensely personal, visually stimulating, and digitally complex stimulus on social media – yet we let it batter us in the face and take us along for a ride.
Somewhere after age 27, I started to realize my Instagram feed made me feel like crap.
Not that they were crappy people – they had beautifully curated homes with marble counter tops and waists suitable for crop tops, and it made me feel like utter shit simply because it wasn’t the kind of beauty that made me inspired. Instead, it made me shrivel.
I guess at that time, I also had to learn to stop apologizing for how things made me feel and embrace that I simply, felt. In meditation, you learn to observe emotions without labeling them as good or bad, they’re just there, and they pass. Deny them and they get meaner, more intense.
I guess I also learned to start meditating. Sometimes.
Long story short, you get to curate what’s in your life. People, accounts to follow, even what you queue up your Netflix with impacts how you feel. If you feel weird, you get to control the stimulus and you don’t have to apologize for tuning in our tuning out. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.
Your Body Is A Glorious Gift. Also, You’re Stuck In It.
I remember being 10 and learning that when girls hit puberty, they would grow into their “figures,” and I remember learning that hourglass was the best type. I remember wishing that I would somehow transform into something else by some miraculous second puberty until I was about 29. I tried this with diets, fashion styles, and really unhealthy thinking.
Then, I was stretching during yoga, looking at my toes and feeling how unreasonably unstretchy I am, and realized that this is it. This is fucking it, y’all. This is what I got. I’m literally stuck in this body, and while I can do things to really, truly feel and enjoy it, this is my body.
So no, I’ll never escape my body shape. I’ll always have a gut. I may struggle to touch my toes and have terrible hip flexors. I have dark circles under my eyes that get better with makeup. But, I can also stretch and run and put hot pink tips in my hair and paint my nails. If I so chose, I might even be able to create a human being from inside myself. (Not that I want to, but it’s kind of insane to think about).
I have the blessing of being composed of different, interesting traits and it’s my job to figure out what those are. This isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. Besides, I can’t change the fact that I’m getting older and in terms of ability, there’s always a chance I’ll have less of it.
It feels damn good to appreciate the confines of what I’ve been given in this body, and get to discover it unfolding as I age.