Thursday, August 3, 2017

Joe Omundson

Entering my 30s

The rational part of me knows that the division of a lifespan into numbered years is an arbitrary human idea, but I still get hung up on things like birthdays and new years sometimes because they make me think about the past and compare it to my ideas for the future. It's Thursday night, and on Saturday I turn 30. Technically, it's not a big deal. I've been alive for almost 11,000 days and if I'm lucky I'll get 22,000 more. But something about it does feel significant.

Growing up, you start as an infant; you're a toddler, a child, a middle schooler, an adolescent, a teenager, a high schooler. Your life stage classification progresses rapidly. Then you're stuck as a "twenty-something" for 10 long years. It's the decade where you're expected to find yourself and become an established adult, to learn about yourself and the world, and you have some leeway in how you do that. In your thirties, you're still likely to have good health and energy, but you're also expected to have some established base, some sense of direction, a greater maturity. It's the time when many important life questions must be answered, and serious work begun. It seems that your 30s is about finding an ease that comes with knowing how to meet your own needs, and a relaxed confidence in how you're choosing to spend your life.

So, what have I learned in my twenties? Did I figure anything out? Did I grow as a person?
I know the expectations are artificial, and nothing will magically change when I turn 30, but the mere existence of these ideas leads me to introspection about how I've lived my life and what I want to do next.

It's interesting to think back to where I was 10 years ago, when I turned 20. My life has changed since then in so many ways that I'd never have expected. A lot happened -- marriage, divorce, leaving religion, heart cathetizations and infections, engineering degree and career, leaving that career, and a new lifestyle of minimalism, mobility, and frugality. Learning from yoga, meditation, backpacking, and sometimes psychedelics.

By a lot of people's standards it might seem like I failed. I'm 30, divorced, sleeping in a minivan, and I don't have a job. I went through some hard times in my 20s, but I have to say I'm happy with the way things have gone, overall. My heart problem has always taught me about the significance of experiencing the moments we find ourselves in every day; someday, my dying day will be today, my last breath will be this moment. I can't see anything in life being more important than the way we spend our time experiencing life and because of this I have prioritized exploring my curiosities rather than following expectations. I'm happy I don't feel the need to live up to anyone's ideas about my life, how I should interact with money, where I should sleep and live, what my relationships should look like, or what I should do with my time. It is nice to have somewhat found my niche and customized my lifestyle to my individual needs.

I know I've grown a lot in the last decade, but I'm not sure where this is all leading. I've learned how to learn, how to grow and overcome and accomplish my goals. And I'm still at a very flexible point where I have a lot of freedom to do whatever I choose. So I am prepared to start on a great journey, but I have to choose a direction, and it's hard because there are a lot of different things I'm interested in working on. But I think that's a great problem to have.

If I'm still alive in another 10 years, and I write a similar essay looking back on my 30s, I have no idea what it will say. My life could still go anywhere at this point. But there are a few things I hope I will learn. I hope that when I know the best choice for my own well being, I will choose it even when I'm tempted not to. I hope I will learn to love people selflessly and lavishly, always staying aware of the finite moments we share and how trivial the differences we perceive between us are. And I hope I will gain more control over my obsessive, overthinking mind, and finally learn how to get off the internet and go to bed on time.

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