In 4 days, I’m turning 30. This brings with it a whole host of thoughts and questions, and I am compelled to return to the almighty Blank Page to start processing. I’ve been in denial about being an adult for roughly 12 years now, and it’s a hard pill to swallow that at 30, I can no longer deny it. I am an adult. I have a husband, and a house and a dog. My life is pretty swell. Nevertheless, I’ve always worried about being ordinary, and just going with the flow, and I feel like that’s exactly what I end up doing. Every morning, I get up and do essentially the same thing. One of the perks of working from home is that I could, in theory, decide to take a morning and go on an epic hike in some park I’ve never been to. Or go find a new coffee shop. Hell, I could just decide to paint. If I was really craving a break, I could pack an overnight bag and drive out a different state for a couple of days. But do I do any of these things? No. Just because it’s not part of the routine. If our house was carpeted, there would be a path worn in from my bedroom to my computer. I am an odd duck that loves adventure but is tied to routine. I think it’s important to stop, every once in a while, and take stock. Look at your life and ask yourself – is this intentional? Is it on purpose? Or am I (fill in the blank here) just because of habit?
One of my biggest fears has always been that I will “come to”, as if out of a coma, most of the way through my life, only to find that not only do I not know who I am, but I haven’t lived the way I had wanted to, and it’s too late to do anything differently. That I’ll find myself, at 60, with kids I didn’t really want, in a house I can’t afford, with a lifetime of memories of meaningless days spent at a desk. I know, pretty bleak, and of course in reality it’s never that black and white. But the point is, if I’m going to spend the day, say, sitting at my computer in a coffee shop writing blog posts, I want to do it on purpose, intentionally, not just because “that’s what people do”.
30 is still quite young. Unless I meet some unfortunate end, I have the bulk of my life still ahead of me. But it is a milestone, for sure. A division bell, as it were (thanks pink floyd). You have to start asking yourself some serious questions. Where do you want to live? How do you want to spend your days? What makes you feel full and alive, and what makes you feel empty and dead? What can you do to have more of the former and less of the latter? And even straightforward things like – what about kids?
I’ve been thinking over these things off and on for years, but especially, diligently, overwhelmingly, this past month. First, I noticed rather poignantly, that I had a very hard time finding time to even think about it. And boy, that says something about my current life that is just not set up for mental and spiritual health. When, to really take stock of myself and my life, I have to sneak in moments of contemplation between work, housework, visitations, exercises, and all manner of busy-ness. It took most of the month for me to figure out what my questions were, never mind finding out the answers. Here are some thoughts, in as concise a manner as I can manage at the moment.
– Where do I want to live? Well, there are just too many answers. One of the things that makes me sad, thinking about the finite-ness of life, is that I can’t possibly live everywhere. Or even, every type of place. I can’t live in a small town on the mediterranean, in a cabin in maine, in africa and europe and alaska and also san jose and colorado. There aren’t enough years, and I don’t want to spend my life moving around. But what I do think is that I need to be somewhere quiet but friendly. A place where I can breathe deeply of fresh air and be surrounded by trees and fields and flowers and dirt, and yet friends can come visit without too much effort. A home base, from which to bounce out into the world on many adventures, but always to come back to. Maybe the Santa Cruz mountains. Maybe Colorado. Maybe Maine or Alaska, but certainly not all of these places at once. The thought of moving from the Bay Area is terrifying, but I don’t want to stay just because I’m scared to leave.
-How do I want to spend my days? Mainly, not in the same way every day. Diversity is key. I want to take photos, create art, write and read, spend lots of time outdoors, and be active. I want to see new places, meet new people, and have reasonable amounts of time to sit on the porch and drink tea and ponder about things. I don’t mind editing photos or watching movies or chatting online, but I don’t want this to be the bulk, the focus of my life.
– What makes me feel alive? Traveling, being outside, being active, meeting new people, reading books, writing things, creating something beautiful, connecting with friends, communicating. What makes me feel dead? Doing the same thing, day in and day out. Uninterrupted hours in front of a screen, interacting with demanding people, doing things out of obligation, not creating anything new, being busy.
-And the hardest – what can I change to have more of the former and less of the latter? So many things come to mind. Firstly, some things I’ve already been working on – trying to wake up early, and do some healthy tasks before getting to work. Play with the dog, do some gardening, read the Bible, journal, a bit of yoga. Secondly – set aside time for art and exploration. It feels “unproductive” so it’s usually the first thing to go. And man, that can kill my soul over time. Be intentional and set aside the time. Travel. Do random things just because I can. Go to new places. Hike, camp, bike. Watch less TV. Create limits for when I’m on social media or working. Limits for work! Such a crazy idea, but so necessary.
– Finally, kids. The biggest question without an answer. I don’t want them, have no real desire for them. But I’m scared of regretting not having them, or of deciding I want them after it’s too late. I’m scared of being alone in my later years – being disconnected and lonely floating through the world waiting to die. I do worry about that. And the ticking clock – that I have about 5, at most 10 years to change my mind – terrifying. Above all, inevitability terrifies me. Each passing year seems to cross off opportunities for life – things I could have done that are no longer practical to do. I can still learn to dance, but I’ll never be a ballerina. I can travel, but I can’t give summer camp another try. It’s a daily challenge – to focus on all of the options I have instead of the ones that are gone. But even that can sometimes be overwhelming – I put so much pressure on myself to make the right choice all the time, and feel so disappointed in myself when I don’t. A little more peace, a little more grace with myself, while not giving up entirely to laziness – this balance I continually have to seek.