For the past few weeks I’ve been talking about the idea that we are never too old or too young to do anything. Not to get too Goldilocks on you, but I think we should also look at what we consider, ‘Just right’. What are the expectations that we have for our thirties, and where did they come from?
Talking with other thirty-somethings I hear a lot of ‘Shoulds‘:
“I feel like I should be further in my career,”
“I should have made more money by now,” or
“I should have started a family already.”
Besides our biological clocks, there are tons of other pressure pushers out there from our parents, siblings and friends to, of course, television and magazines.
Questions about marriage, kids and career are not horrible questions in and of themselves, but they are the heavy burden of the thirty-something who is trying to develop all areas at once. What’s more is that these topics come up in conversation as seemingly light chit chat. Personally, I find that parents are especially skilled at making conversation about things that make you feel like pulling your hair out. If you hear the words “mortgage rate” one more time…
So how do we quiet the noise and listen to our own inner voice telling us what we truly want to be doing?
The first step is to embrace that it’s not going to be easy. Try to forgive those around you by remembering that they’re only trying to know what you’re up to. When I feel like I’m being grilled, I force a smile and do my best to accompany it with a positive and vague line like, “It’s great. I’m really enjoying learning about mortgage rates (urgg..) and I think we’ve made a decision.” Most of the time people will leave it at that since it seems you’re not looking to share exactly what that decision is.
Secondly, if the outside pressure to start a family, get married or the like starts to build, you might consider taking a step back from the social scene for a while. After a few two many inquisitions into our ‘pitter patter’ status, my husband and I avoided certain family gatherings for a while – no showers or engagement parties where we thought we’d be cornered. After a while, people either got the hint or had started to prey on my younger relatives. It can seem drastic to miss important events just to dodge a few ‘baby’ bullets, but sometimes people just don’t get that not everybody is as prompt as Kate and William!
As far as the pressure we put on ourselves, that’s a tough one. Basically we have to be okay with making mistakes until we get it ‘Just right’. We have to have faith in our own abilities and timing. And, most importantly, we must shake the negative thoughts that rear their ugly heads every time we get a baby shower invite or see someone’s career or relationship status change.
So, the moral of the story is that there’s no perfect age for anything, so go easy on yourself. Hold yourself to a high standard but no beating yourself up because of what you think you ‘should’ be. At the end of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks runs back to her mother, never to wander off alone again. The idea isn’t that you give up and never try again. It’s that you absolutely try again and again, as long as it takes, until you get it ‘Just right’ for you.