Some thoughts on turning 30

Birthdays are always a bit strange to me.

Some cultures don’t practice or have birthdays, some religions ban birthdays, some people love them, others’ hate them.

I have never been a huge fan of my own birthdays, mostly because I don’t like having forced attention on myself.

Turning 30 is kind of interesting, though – and the age of 30 brings with it some of its own baggage.

Milestone birthdays like hitting 18, 20, 30, 40, etc, have some expectations behind them and lend themselves to reflecting a lot more on what you’ve done with your life.  I didn’t think twice about turning 29, and frankly forgot I was 29 for most of the year.  I think I actually told someone I was 26 when I was asked.

I think for a majority of our forming years, we have very neat and orderly categories and clear expectations of what we should be doing. You go to pre-school, elementary school, high school, university, get a job. There’s a linear sort of progression there. That’s good, most of the time. We don’t all fit into those neat categories but if you do, you get herded into the next stage without too many problems.

My linear development looks pretty standard:

Go to school > go to more school > go to university > get a job > get another job > get married > buy a house > have goats*

*no kids yet, just goats.

Of course other things were happening during that time, but these life events help us frame our history and give meaning to what we do. Going to school in itself is not that important in my opinion, what you do while you are in school is far more crucial to your development.

Turning 30 is where things get a bit nebulous for me. Where did my easy linear plan go? I checked off my list and now what? Kids? More goats? Should our goats have kids??

When you turn 30 you also get a lot of existential questions popping up like “What have you done with your life?” and you start thinking a lot about the choices you’ve made and how you somehow ended up where you are.

As I was reflecting on all this, I realized that the culture I am in really values accomplishments over character. When I start thinking of “accomplishments” there is a tendency to lean toward possessions, equity, status, happiness, job titles, influence, and power. I’m not so sure those are good indicators.

Some of the most accomplished people I have ever met are in poverty, have very ordinary jobs, have no power, no status, and very little possessions.

So what do you measure? What metrics do you use to measure where you are and “examine” your life?

Here are some questions I made for myself to examine my life:

1. Are you doing something meaningful with your everyday life?
2. Are you loving and encouraging those around you in meaningful ways?
3. Are you contributing to your community and helping those around you?
4. Are you continuing to learn every day and challenging yourself to grow?
5. Are you influencing those around you in meaningful ways?

I have been 30 for about a week now, so I asked myself these questions again today. I can both see where I’ve grown in each area and at the same time see all of my inadequacies in each one of them.

Here’s to another 30 years to get better at each one.