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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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I’m something you don’t see every day: A person under 80 who walks around with oxygen everywhere she goes. I have Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder which, with the help of my stubborn refusal to go to the doctor, caused some pretty deep damage to my lungs. My lack of breath slowed me down for a while, but I'm back to adventuring - just with Gus, my little oxygen tank, in tow. This year's goal is to complete the 52 Hike Challenge and get myself into a healthier state of being. Join me on my quest to become oxygen free!

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