Oh no! The big 3-oh!

Featured image: My amazing family threw me a surprise 30th birthday party. 

This is so not where I expected myself to be when I turned 30.

I had all kinds of plans. They were great plans, too. At this point I should be a hot-shot reporter preparing to go to grad school. And then I would become a teacher and show the next generation how it’s done. I was rather stuck on myself, no?

Then the wheels fell off, my graduation got delayed. Then delayed again. I eventually finished, but never found a job in journalism. I went back to working in banking, which I hated for every day of the 10 years I did it. Basically, if I compared my life now to where I planned it out to being, I’m a complete and utter failure.

So why do I feel happier and more fulfilled than I ever have before?

I spent a good bit of time pondering this. Clearly I still spend entirely too much time thinking about myself, but I was curious. I have a decent job now, still nothing to do with what I paid tens of thousands of dollars to do, but I’m happy. Then one day, it hit me: I simply do not care anymore. I’ll elaborate.

I’m not putting a crazy amount of pressure on myself to achieve. I’m not worried about getting a certain job title, or pay grade or place to live or car to drive. I’m not worried about what others think about where I am in life. It’s a fabulously liberating feeling not to have to deal with self-imposed pressures all the time.

I don’t know exactly when the switch flipped and I stopped worrying about five and ten year plans, retirement and accomplishments. It started before I got sick, but getting diagnosed with a lung disease definitely clinched the attitude adjustment.

I never expected to be in a place where I was actually satisfied with my life. And I don’t mean satisfied as in complacent – I’m definitely still pushing myself. I’m quite sure I’ll push myself right into the grave one day, but I’m sure whatever does it will be a great story to tell in the afterlife. When I say satisfied, I mean in a position where I don’t feel like a failure, or compelled to do something because it’s what people do.

If 30-year-old me could go back and catch my 21-year-old self before I started college, I’d tell myself to slow down and enjoy life a bit more. I’d suggest exploring more, traveling more and not worrying so much about what others expect from me. And 21-year-old me would probably listen intently, thank me, and then go back to working a full time job, an internship and taking a full course load.

These days, the only accomplishment I’m thinking about is a long distance hike. The only five-year plan I’m thinking about is how to live off the grid (so my student loan servicers can’t find me). The only career goals I have are to earn enough money to travel and then share my adventures with you.

I’ve never been happier.

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