“Struggling to Define Success in your Thirties? Maybe You Don’t Have To"
Updated: Oct 19, 2019
I’m where everyone strives to be: 30, single, living alone and attempting, (in my mind failing), to conquer adulthood. Which is how I ended up here in the first place. My FOMO (fear of missing out) morphed into an anxiety I could no longer conquer alone, and I literally feared I would miss out on life if I didn’t start gaining control. The “missing out” is what I was having a hard time understanding. Internally, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I was in a city I loved and focusing on a career that allowed me to be financially independent while escaping a hometown that I had outgrown.
So why did I have this sinking feeling that something was missing? Why was everyone else confirming this feeling? Why did I feel like the only person on earth who had strived to be where I was? The former white noise of questions turned into a constant loop of doubt I began playing on repeat. Why aren’t you dating anyone? Aren’t you worried about having kids? Why are you so focused on your career? I became a master of making excuses for a life that I genuinely enjoyed just to fit the box others wanted to put me in. I used to think that there were only two options for me: get married, have kids, and retreat to the suburbs, or be completely focused on success and a life consumed by my career. I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with either of those options. However, I was setting myself up for feelings of failure when I wasn’t executing either of those to perfection. Any small hiccup in this wildly general life plan sent me into a complete tailspin of self-doubt and disappointment.
When I brought this dilemma to my therapist, she finally asked me “what is success to you?” I had no answer. Rendering me speechless is success within itself, so I grew more and more frustrated that I didn’t know. So naturally, I did what any grown adult would do when they don’t know the answer, I called my mom. And when she didn’t pick up I called my dad. And then when he didn’t pick up, I called my brother (obviously my parents must have been together with no cell service because there is no other reason they wouldn’t immediately pick up to assist with a problem I clearly needed to solve myself). Since that session, I make it a point to ask that question whenever possible. I ask myself daily, I ask my friends, my family, my coworkers, and each person always has a different answer. Full disclosure, I started doing this for selfish reasons to make myself feel better that I didn’t have all the answers, and in case you were wondering, when my parents finally regained service, they didn’t have the answer either.