Audio at the bottom.
In about a month I’ll be 30. (One month!) Where I come from, i.e., the South, 30 means you’re married with a child or two and own a house. That is decidedly not my reality; in fact, I’m at the complete opposite end of the spectrum – single, childless, and not even an apartment, much less a house. This is not what I anticipated my life looking like. This is not what I expected for myself.
In October, a friend of mine turned 30 and when I voiced my own apprehensions about turning the big 3-0, she said, “Is life really so bad? Don’t you think you’ve lived well? Aren’t you pleased with the choices you’ve made?” I wouldn’t say I’m pleased, but I would say I think I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve been given.
It’s painful to grieve for the future that could have been, the Ghost of Christmas Future, if you will, but while I don’t have the house, the kids, or the partner, I still count myself blessed. I’m well-read, well-traveled, and well-loved. By that I mean I am loved by many near and far. I belong to several communities and each of those communities is filled with loving, generous people, for which I’m grateful. Their kindness has brought me to tears over and over again.
I also think about something another friend of mine said to me in college. When I told her someone called me nontraditional, she said, “According to whose traditions?” I love that because she’s right. Whose traditions am I adopting here? Whose expectations am I foisting upon myself? Is anyone except for me judging and criticizing my life for not looking a certain way? To be honest, I think most people are too consumed with living their lives to judge mine.
I also think about a passage that has resonance for me: “[M]y serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations … the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.” I’ve had many expectations for my life, how it will go, what I expect will happen, and all it has accomplished is to make me sad or frustrated. Perhaps it’s time to discard the expectations and instead trust that as someone said to me a decade ago, I’m nontraditional, and that means I get to make my own traditions.
This post is all about me turning 30, but I hope you find some relevance for your own life. Things rarely work out the way we expect or plan and when that happens, I hope you’ll join me in yelling, “Plot twist!” After all, what great adventure doesn’t have a few surprises?
I dream of a world where we discard our expectations and make our own traditions. A world where we realize our lives may not follow the path we had planned, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. A world where we accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.