Forever Young – What’s Up with the 30 Somethings of Today?

30.jpegI 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!

 

 

 

 

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6 comments

  1. I think happiness is over rated. Fulfillment might be a better word for me to use, because you might sometimes be disappointed or depressed but as long as you’re doing something with a purpose, you can come back to that to remind you it’s not all for naught.

    I wholeheartedly agree that it’s not all about being in a relationship or having kids, as we’ve already talked about. Coming back to purpose: when I feel my life has a direction and I’m focused on my goals, I don’t even think about being lonely or if I should have kids. I’m not knocking people who choose the family route, but it’s not for me. My wife will be my business and my children will be the people I teach to help me run it. I have trained people for other companies in the past and get a lot of enjoyment from seeing people I’ve trained go on to succeed. Good workplace training doesn’t just help you on the job, it teaches you life lessons.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting. I agree that happiness is overrated, I think contentment is much more realistic. Purpose to me comes from doing tasks that mean something. I guess I’m only figuring now what they are for me. I certainly know what lack of purpose feels like.

      In a way I think that a career has a potential to be more of a driving force in life than a relationship. The reason is simple: even if someone just works 9-5, they still spend more time at their job than with their family. Which is why I can see why you’d say what you’re saying.
      I think that a lot of people aspire to have it all these days (me included, sighs): family and career. Something will always suffer to some extent and there are no perfect solutions. I still hope there’s some contentment for me to be found while juggling these things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure there will be contentment aplenty, we’re just different people. I’ve no interest in children; being around my sister’s kids is more than enough for me! As we’ve discussed before, it’s possible I’ll meet a woman and fall in love one day but if I don’t, I’ll still be happy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s more than most people can say for themselves. After all, happiness, contentment and the sense of achievement are all subjective. Which is a statement that I think a 30 something person would believe as opposed to the generation or two before that seemed to have preferred prescribed ideas about such notions 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So I’ve just finished Yuval Harari’s 3rd book and one of things that stuck with me is that basically we are this generation that cannot follow in our parents footsteps. He says it would be foolish to even try. Basically, circumstances for them were very different. He says in the past humans spent the first part of their lives learning which would then secure them a stable job which would then help them create a nest egg for retirement. But the way the world is now things aren’t so simple. Firstly, people spend longer studying. In many countries, more and more people go to university and study longer (not sure if this is a good thing – if they are in fact just lowering standards to push more ppl through as university becomes another money making scheme). There is no such thing as a job for life anymore. It seems we need to keep upskilling ourselves if you want to keep pace with the changing job market. A lot of jobs that exist now didn’t exist when we were kids – I don’t think any child of our generation said they wanted to be an SEO specialist or cyber security expert when they were. What I find is a lot of the little vocational courses I need to do now are less academic and stimulating than my degrees, however no-one really cares about your random arts degree after a certain point. Sigh.

    As for happiness, I don’t know very many people that get that from their jobs. The ones that seem happiest are either the ones earning shit tonnes or they love their jobs so much that they are basically married to them, which has implications for the other parts of their lives. I certainly could be happier in my job but then again I’ve done enough jobs in my life by now that everything gets monotonous after a point. At the end of the day, there is a reciprocal relationship with our employer – we have to deliver good quality stuff to them and in return they pay us a market rate…sure, the market rate is often low but that’s the way life is…you need to upskill to be better than the competition.

    I don’t think everyone in our generation is entitled – this is just a good way to dismiss us all as disappointments and failures. But there are men people that rinse the system – sick leave, maternity leave, this sabbatical that sabbatical, blah blah blah…there are many people that play the system. I suppose this is the way they get even with a system that they doesn’t pay them enough. But that doesn’t say much for integrity though.

    Finally, I think we will all work with what we have and develop whatever skills we need to survive – whether that means upskilling yourself to be better than a colleague, rinsing your employer, having a million kids and getting the government to pay benefits – those are all survival mechanisms of sorts. Sadly, it isn’t a level playing field. It never has been though. And it likely won’t be anytime soon. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and they are still not happy and other people have to hustle any which way they can.

    Happy B’day. (I’m saying it now so if I forget on the day you can’t block me on Whatsapp – another highly dramatic trait of our generation!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes a lot of sense, actually. If you look at the older generation they’re pretty stubborn with their unwillingness to upskill. My mom has basically rejected a good additional stream of income that fell on her lap, because it required to do a course she felt she had no need to do with her experience. In writing/editing industry I know lots of people who refuse to learn digital. Our parents’ generation doesn’t seem to mind not being competitive, while with us it’s more like a sport.
      I guess jobs like lawyers or doctors are still closest to “jobs for life” but today they still require learning. To me the best example of what the previous generation stands for is my doctor who had millions of titles but gave me a script for medication that didn’t exist for years.

      I don’t mind upskilling and I mostly enjoy it but sometimes I find the requirement for certificates almost obsessive in employers. If you have a tech-savvy individual with a number of certificates required by the industry but you dismiss them because they don’t have a basic knowledge of Photoshop you could teach them on day 1, it’s a bit insane. It’s a different story to complain about the fact that a degree is required and you didn’t get hired because you don’t have one and yet another to dismiss people with experience based expertise in a small area, if they don’t have a small “3-hours to obtain” certificate.

      I guess that I don’t know that many people who are happy in general, not only in their jobs but also with the rest of their lives. It doesn’t prevent me (or them) from aspiring to more. This is both s good and a terrible tendency.

      I think your perspective is from working in a smaller company, where there’s some proper treatment for hard-working/senior staff. I’m a goody two-shoes so when I was working for big corporates I rarely even used my sick leave when I was actually sick but I didn’t see anything wrong with such rinsers after seeing how companies, to which you’re just a number, treat people. Or why some people decide to become yoga teachers after being abused by them for years…

      Thanks, LOL 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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