I’ve done all I can to avoid the gratuitous moments of self-reflection that are popping up as I march toward the milestone that is my 30th birthday, but it’s been a losing battle. Every 20-something has a list of things – written or mentally logged – that they expect to check off before the clock hits 30. And I’m thankful to say that I hit all of those when I was 28. I became a homeowner. I took on a great job. I drive a nice car, and I have the only friendships I’ll truly ever need. Right now, it feels like I’ve hit a homerun and I’m marching slowly toward 1st base, admiring the shot and soaking it all in.
And dare I say it, I think I’m maturing internally, too (owning a home and having a good job only look like maturity).
Here’s what I’ve learned. Your 20s are a time for accumulation. You’re on a quest – and you’re supposed to be – to get an education, to make good career-oriented decisions, to invest in relationships and to gain experience at all costs, both personally and professionally.
At some point, though, you reach a threshold that says “everything from here on out isn’t new; it’s just more of something I already have.” For me, getting my own place and paying every month to maintain my life, with zero help from anyone else, was that threshold. And similarly, in my personal life, I gained what I know to be some of the most valuable relationships I’ll ever have. Can I get a nicer car? More friends? Sure. But I already have everything, and everyone, that I “need.”
So what now? Well, that’s your 30s. And as I walk toward that milestone, I’m starting to realize that accumulation is a big burden to carry. But it’s not just about getting more “stuff” and other things that can be perceived as “good.” Accumulation in your 20s is also about carrying a lot of baggage.Well, in my 30s, I’m letting go of it. You should, too.
I for one have felt a tremendous obligation, for the longest time, to keep some form of contact with virtually anyone I’ve ever called a friend.
Turns out, it’s okay to have friendships that fall by the wayside. You can’t be friends with everyone at all times, and if you are, then you’re doing a poor job of being a great friend to your great friends. So let go. You’ll always appreciate a multitude of people in your life, and it’s okay if you go months or even years without talking. That feeling of gratitude will still remain.
And similarly, you can let go of the need to explain yourself and your actions. You’re human. You’ll make mistakes; errors in judgment. If you remain accountable to yourself and others, then you’re free to let go of the burden of your mistakes. I read a quote once that said “Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.” Let the past be the past and that’s it.
And let go of expectations. If you’re not where you thought you’d be professionally, or relationally, guess what? It doesn’t matter. There is no timeline and there is no standard. Your job doesn’t define you. Let it go. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancee/husband/wife/lackthereof is an outlier; a circumstance that surrounds you but is not you. Let that go, too.
Whatever it is that you can become has zero to do with what happened yesterday. And if you believe otherwise, then you’re holding on to something that is nothing more than an obstacle in your way. There is literally nothing you can’t do. You just have to let go.