I have a crisis. My bday is coming. Now, I don’t know how seriously you take your bday, Dear Rinser, but for me it’s a pretty serious matter. Every birthday I try to look at my life and see how much I’ve achieved and my answer is always: not enough.
Sure, gratitude and appreciation are important for the general well-being, I try to live in the moment, smell the flowers, enjoy the little things etc. But NOT around my birthday. Around my birthday I always think about the Big Picture and that makes me feel pretty small. However, when I look around I see I’m not the only person who doesn’t want to be where she is in her life. In fact, almost all I see around me are people in the 30-40 bracket trying to navigate this thing called life, often postponing the big life decisions. So what’s up with the 30 somethings of today?
Disclaimer: this post is a series of my observations not a PhD thesis 😉
1. It’s Not About Having a Partner
When you’re single you think that your discontentment will end when you meet a suitable partner. It can surely serve as an anchor in life, but being a team often means that you’re just a team who keeps seeking whatever it is that you’re looking for.
You don’t even have to think about fabulous travelling couples on Instagram to notice that. I have plenty of friends who keep changing countries and moving around well in their thirties and past that.
2. It’s Not About Having Kids
My mom never fails to remind me that she had a child at 27 and the doctor told her it was her LAST CHANCE. I’m almost 32 and no intention of having biological kids, but this isn’t why I’m sort of all over the place.
Sure, you get these women who’ll tell you that if only you got a kid, you would forget about all these silly issues you’re preoccupied with such as life satisfaction, career, general well-being and animal welfare.
I don’t listen to these women. Instead I listen to women who’ve had kids and STILL feel unfulfilled. With a kid under their belt they struggle even more to have a career and a side business, trying to make sense of their lives. Do you know how many women with kids I know who have a child or children who quit their job to have a go at having their own business/study/upskill? Lots and lots.
A woman of my mother’s generation would have never done it. It’s almost like “finding fulfillment” wasn’t a thing back then. Or maybe they saw more sense in life than we do?
3. It Could be About a Lack of Direction
My parents always told me to study law because it was practical. Studying law was my parents’ answer to all the world problems. I didn’t study law and they were upset. Today – 8 years after my graduation – my father refuses to talk to my teenage sister (from another…mother) for deciding not to study law. I think anyone would agree that there’s no one solution for everyone and that such beliefs are insane.
However, the problem with me was that I not only didn’t want to study law but to be practical in general. I always looked up to these people who managed to succeed against the odds, who found their feet without formal education. I decided to study what I was interested in and find my way professionally. In other words, I was taken with the idea of “doing what I’m meant to do”.
I wanted more than they had and I wanted to be me. There is no happy ending, though because at almost 32 I still haven’t found what I’ve been looking for professionally. I haven’t exactly spent my life painting graffitis but the lack of a specific direction, even with skills in high-demand, took me where I am in my life right now. I don’t know what job I want, I don’t know whether I want to stay in the country I live in, I don’t know when I want to have kids… I’m in in a bumfuck nowhere. But hey, so many people I know are here with me!
4. Obsession with Happiness
I just want to be happy! How often do you hear that from someone? When I look around I see this obsessive pursuit of happiness. People taking coaching courses, studying psychology, becoming yoga gurus, working on yachts and as air-hostesses, getting with friends to create start-ups…
Isn’t it all escapism, though? I’ve seen people completing these courses and doing these jobs. In the beginning, with slightly maniacal smile they’d tell you how everything made sense. Only that I don’t see it lasting. This tour guide job they studied so hard for? Turns out it keeps them away from their family more than it doesn’t and that it gets boring with time. The air-hostess career? Hard to keep a boyfriend. Yoga teaching? It’s pretty competitive and pays little!
Such undertakings shake things up but usually they still don’t bring us what we want. This isn’t to say that no one manages to eventually find life satisfaction in such a way but that these “successful” people are in minority.
5. We’re Not Lazy or Entitled
I don’t agree that my generation doesn’t work hard as some people like to point out to us. I guess that we just don’t want to work stupidly. The requirement to appear to work hard is just a source of frustration. The 30 somethings want to be productive at 100% but refuse to stay past 6 just because it looks good.
In our 20s we just wanted to go out and play but now I just see people taking courses and upskilling, working on side projects or businesses. Is it just that the regular 9-5 has become irrelevant and the frustration is coming from the fact that the market didn’t catch up?
Equally, I don’t know many people who are actually entitled. Do they require a fair salary for their qualifications and experience as well as to be paid for overtime? Sure, but that’s not entitlement. That’s knowing your rights.
6. So What’s Up With Us, Really? More Importantly, What Do We Do to Unf*ck Ourselves?
I don’t know. My feeling is that we want to be happy but we don’t know what happy means to us so we just keep chasing something hoping that the elusive sense of purpose and fulfillment will catch up, eventually.
Dear Rinsers, please feel free to help me figure it out!