I’m turning 29 in less than a month, but I already feel like I’ve been 29 for the past three years.
This is what happens when we fixate and obsess over something—we become it.
I’ve been so worried about approaching 30 that I’ve spent the past three years attempting to do all the things I should by 30 and feeling like a failure when I didn’t achieve everything “I should.”
I should be in a longterm relationship. I should have a stable career. I should not have gotten that art degree. I should be more practical and less rooted in emotion. These are the “shoulds,” the negative thoughts, that for so long have occupied my mind.
Why do so many of us live within the confines of a self-imposed time frame? Why do we think we must do X by 16 or Y by 40?
Instead, why don’t we just live our lives moment to moment, emptying ourselves of “I want this” and “I need that” and trust that if we breath and let go, breathe and open our hearts, that we will hear the whispers of how to be in each moment, and be?
And I think, why is it difficult for me to be content with who I am right now?
Just being present in every moment of life, and not dreaming about the future or thinking about the past (and all of our wants, needs and lacks in between) makes sense and sounds peaceful.
Yet, so many of us set lofty expectations of who we want to be; and when that shiny, new person does not arrive we feel disheartened and angry for failing to accomplish (this very fictional) better version of Us.
The most challenging, yet most liberating, thing we can do is accept ourself right here, right now for who we are and forget who we might become.
I don’t have to be a perfect version of myself by any age, in fact, perfection is just a myth. It does not exist. Yet, I tend to (at times) forget this and be quite the perfectionist (which means—cue the tiny violin—that I often feel like a failure.)
I love you. I love you. I repeat to myself. And some days I feel this self-love. But other days society’s critical, nagging voice (the voice that says, “You should only love yourself if you are X, Y and Z. That says, “At your age, you should be at X place in your life.”) plays on repeat, to the tune of some horrid elevator music, in my brain.
But I must accept that my life is not a finely tuned bus schedule—I must.
There are no buses ready to take me to any specific destination.
I know all of this, but living this knowledge is a different matter altogether. I know we must stop attempting to steer our lives down a rigid, unbending course; stop waiting for a bus to take us to a better place and in turn realize that we are, if we choose to see our lives this way, most of the time, already at this better place.
I know that if we let go of fixed desires and aspirations and live from our true self, from a wordless space beyond “should” and “want,” that we will end up exactly where we need to be in each moment.
But this is easier said than done. And sometimes it is done. Sometimes I do achieve some semblance of living within this space of just being.
And other times I revert back to seeing things (like I did earlier today) through the lens of, “I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to by 29. I should have been so much more.”
So how do we quite these voices? How do we live each moment from an unscheduled, timeless place in a world where we must make that meeting by 8, or have that baby before we hit menopause?
I don’t think most of us can live in this kind of space entirely. In certain situations, time matters. We live in a world where certain things must be done within a certain time frame.
And I’m not saying that time is never of the essence, or that we shouldn’t listen to what we truly want in life and move towards it.
I’m simply asking all of us (including myself) to attempt to live each moment from a more intuitive space—to trust in life and let her unfold before us; to do instead of want to do; to act instead of dreaming of action.
And most importantly, to accept that if we move from this intuitive space we still may not get everything our heart desires, and that we must make try to make peace with the imperfect nature of this life.
So, on that note, here are the five things I plan to do this year before I turn 30 (& here are the five things you can do, too):
It’s that easy and that difficult (for me).
And I’m not saying it will be perfect, or that I won’t slip up. I will most certainly have days this year, and most likely forever, when the “shoulds” rush in and attempt to drown me.
But I am saying that from this moment on, I’m done making lists of what “I should be” and I challenge all of us to be done with these lists as well.
I challenge all of us to love the now and not dream of the later (or future?).
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Editor: Bryonie Wise