The Secret to Happiness in Your 30s.
By Catie Joyce.
Wait until you’re done with school and out on your own.
I met this girl the other night while having dinner with a group of friends – mid-20s, med student, exuding self-confidence, so much so that I was really struck by the contrasts between her and myself. I couldn’t help but to think, “Yeah, but wait until you’re done school and out on your own.”
I wondered how she would appear to me at that stage of her life instead of this one.
It got me thinking about my own stage in life. Just when I thought I was really rockin’ the 20s, totally on, exuding self-confidence, all of a sudden I realized that I was in my 30s and things started to feel a little different. When I was in my late 20s I thought, “This is it, the peak, where I’ll stay. I finally have all that adolescent, teenage crap over with. I’m an adult now –smooth sailing from here on out.”
Right… I hit 32, and found myself back in that valley of my questioning adolescent self.
The odd in between phase.
Driving home from dinner that night, I saw clearly my lifeline as a sine wave. Rather than one of those lines on a graph with a steady trend upwards, life rolls along through many peaks and valleys. Right now I’m in an odd in-between phase. I’m not single, but I’m not married with a family. I’m not in school. I’ve settled into a career and I don’t really identify with any slice of our society.
When I got home, I typed “being 30-something” into the ever-knowing Google Search, to see if I could find some answers. I discovered I’m not alone in this feeling. Your 30s are like the adolescence of adulthood. There is a little bit of floundering, of figuring out your identity – again.
One writer even used the word “thrisis” to describe this angsty, sometimes panicky feeling.
This reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a friend, also in her 30s. We both confessed that we had been wondering if we were perhaps in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Weren’t we a little young for that though?
Apparently, we are the perfect age for a thrisis.
But back to life as a wave… the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. There was some relief in this idea – that it can’t be all downhill after 29. There must be other things to learn and other things to see in the valley between ascents.
It feels like a time of introspection.
I had some grand adventures in my 20s. My 30s are for assimilating, and refining. I am going out less, but I am writing more. I took a yoga teacher training at 28, but at 32 I am discovering what it is to be a teacher. I think before I make a move. There is a lot to be said for this slowing down, and taking my time at life.
I can see out across my sine wave to many more peaks and valleys. I see now that life will continue to evolve. There will never be a point where I am all done, all grown up. Just when I’ve mastered one phase, a new one will come along – parenthood, empty-nester-ness, senior citizenship, and I’m sure many more I’m not even aware of.
But isn’t that the beauty of it all?
Those valleys are pretty amazing places – looking up and all around me from the bottom of the Grand Canyon or Death Valley, in all of its splendor. Or those notches between the East Coast mountains, where huge boulders, waterfalls, and hidden springs are found. The valley is rife with possibilities for exploration.
Wouldn’t the rest of our life be pretty boring if, as we thought at the end of our 20s, we did have it all figured out?
Rilke writes, “live the questions.” That’s what your 30s are for. In your 20s you had a lot of answers. Then you discover there are, of course, still, many more questions.
“I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and books written in a foreign language. Experience everything. At present you need to live the questions.
Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answers on some distant day. Perhaps you are indeed carrying within yourself the potential to visualize, to design, and to create for yourself an utterly satisfying, joyful, and pure lifestyle.
Discipline yourself to attain it, but accept that which comes to you with deep trust, and as long as it comes from your own will, from your own inner need, accept it, and do not hate anything.”— Rilke
The 30s are a time of cultivating grace. I don’t hate that 20-something who has all the answers to her life. But more importantly, I don’t hate my 30-something self who still holds questions. It takes grace to live with these questions. Grace and faith. Grace, to be able to move amongst the questions, to navigate both in and around those huge boulders, and sometimes just be still with them.
It takes faith (that “deep trust”) to release the answers, faith that the questions may someday be answered. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps someday I will discover yet more questions.
Life is so much fuller, richer, vaster than a mere mountain to climb.
And thank goodness for it.
So the key to happiness in your 30s? Let go of your ego, and let grace and faith ripen there instead.
I accept this new, less glamorous, but no less rewarding, phase of my life. I can be okay with having career responsibilities (i.e. being in bed before 10 p.m. seven nights a week, then discovering, in fact, I am a morning person). I can be okay with not having a family yet (letting that biological clock tick a little longer). I can enjoy the glorious space I am in right now. I will never get the opportunity to go back.
So, for all of us in this undefined new territory, let’s focus not on others’ summits before and behind, but enjoy the beauty of the valley. Just be here, where we are, turning our gaze to the life that’s growing all around us.
Catie Joyce lives, plays, and writes in the valley near the mountains of Western Maine. She is a certified teacher of Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan. Drawn to Kundalini Yoga for its holistic approach, she carries this over into her teaching, through classes with a focus on calming the mind, in order to uplift and elevate. Find her blogging about yoga, meditation, and inspired living at www.theapproximateyogi.com. Connect with Catie on Facebook or Twitter.