Things I've learned at 30
Time for a lighthearted post! I celebrated my 30th birthday earlier this month, and had some thoughts about it. These are things I've come to realize at this stage in my life. Some are unique to my experience, but others I think everyone has hit upon at some point.
Things I’ve learned at 30, part 1
1) The party has just begun
On the morning of my birthday, my best friend, who is a year older than me, greeted me with this: "the party's over!". As much as I love her, she is plain wrong on this one. My party has only begun!
When I was in my teens and twenties, I had fun, but I wasn't partying, I was barely dating. I was doing intense caregiving, and living in what I realized now was a slow panic and constant, low-level anxiety. It's only as I've gotten older that I realize how intense that was. In some ways, I did not begin until my mother passed and a great deal of that work ended. That's not an easy statement to think of, let alone publish on the internet. But it’s true.
When your life is dedicated to helping someone who is chronically/terminally ill, especially if that’s a very close family member, and you do not have a good support network, your life becomes that person. Your needs and desires automatically become second to their needs. It’s the nature of caregiving, and it’s very easy to take for granted, especially for women, as we are taught to sacrifice our selves for others. Sometimes sacrifice is noble, but you simply have to balance the care with your own self-care. No one else will ever do that for you. I wish I knew that then.
But as it turned out, I didn’t have the typical young-life experience. Now, instead of this feeling of closure, of despair, I feel optimistic and happy. Sure, I’m an adult “for reals”, but I feel like I have all the fun aspects of adulthood (job, nice car, sex, money, experience) with all the zest and energy of a 21 year old. I’m not nearly as worried about impressing people, or what the other “kids” are doing, or anything like that. I have my own ideas, needs, desires, and tastes, and I’m old enough to own them. This beats early-20s angst hands-down!
2) I don't have time for that - but I will make time for this
There’s a phrase that’s been knocking around my head for a while: learn to steal time. I last said this to someone trying to balance grad school, work, and home life. He was feeling the strain that many of us feel - there’s not enough hours in the day, or days in the week. Higher ed also places unique demands on your free (unpaid) time, so it’s natural to feel burned out. He asked me what to do and I told him to steal time.
Seriously, when the choice is between an A and an A+, and you know your work is good, but you haven’t seen your girlfriend all week, skimp on that last draft, just a little. Your GPA is important, but it’s not what’s going to sustain you throughout the years. I fully believe that no one ever made it to their deathbead and said “if only I had added more citations to that paper 40 years ago”!