As my 29th birthday approaches in three days, I am forced to reflect upon not only the past year of my life, but my life as a whole. It is hard to stop and just appreciate all that we’ve done in our lives, when we always feel pressured to be doing more. As young adults, we are made to believe that by 30 years old we should have accomplished a great deal. So, when you reach 29 and you look at what you planned to accomplish and what you have accomplished, it is hard to not feel disappointed in yourself.
We are our toughest judges though, and I bet that if you made a list of all the things you have accomplished, people would be impressed. You will never feel accomplished if you set unrealistic goals and don’t take into account the way life shapes your path. I had many goals that were altered by the direction my life took. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t accomplish anything, it just means I accomplished different things that I didn’t plan for. Life would be boring if it all went according to plan.
Every time I made a plan for my life, it decided to take a different course. I really wanted to go to Portland State University. I didn’t get accepted. It wasn’t the end of the world. I went to Oregon State University and it shaped a lot of aspects of my life that altered my path forever. Good or bad, things happen for a reason and we have to be proud of even the small accomplishments like surviving tough times and pulling ourselves back up again. I may not have a set career yet, own a home, or have children, but after making my list, I feel very accomplished.
We shouldn’t set such arbitrary timelines for ourselves. It is good to aim for certain goals, but don’t put a time cap on it. Two years ago, I put so much pressure on myself to find the one. I thought, if I’m still single by 30, then I should just throw in the towel. I tried to force all my ex boyfriends to be the one, instead of waiting for the actual one to come along. None of them would comply with my plans, so I was left even more frustrated. When I finally gave up trying, I actually met the one and I’m not even 30 yet. That kind of pressure is unhealthy. We can’t compare ourselves to others and we can’t tell ourselves that we must have xy and z done by a certain age. We are just setting ourselves up for disappointment. We need to just live, be happy, and accept that everyone has a unique path and it doesn’t follow any of our arbitrary societal rules.
So here is my list, but I suggest writing down your list of accomplishments and not comparing it to mine or anyone else’s. We need to learn to be proud of ourselves and not torture ourselves to keep up with everyone else.
- I graduated from high school in 2005.
- I got accepted to Emerson College in Boston.
- I studied abroad in the Netherlands at a Castle.
- I graduated from Emerson College in 2009 with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing.
- I traveled to Israel on Birthright and got an article published in Philadelphia Inquirer about my trip.
- I backpacked Europe alone for four months after graduation.
- I was accepted to Graduate school in 2010 and moved to Oregon.
- I completed research in Ecuador for my master’s thesis.
- I graduated from OSU in 2012 with an MA in Applied Anthropology.
- I served in AmeriCorps for one year in Portland as a literacy and math tutor in 2012.
- I traveled to Australia, Bali, Singapore, Cambodia, and Thailand with my sister for 7 months in 2013-2014.
- I authored my first book in 2014, about my trip with my sister, and self published it.
- I was hired for my first real job at Sunshine Division as the Volunteer and Development Coordinator in January 2015.
- I got engaged July 4, 2016.
Now, looking back at my list I feel better about turning 29. I know that I have a lot to be proud of. I have a Master’s Degree. I have served my community through AmeriCorps and other nonprofit work. I’ve written a book. I’ve traveled to 25 countries. No matter how long or short your list is, you should be proud of all the accomplishments you have made and not worry about those you haven’t yet. Of course, I think to myself often that I haven’t gotten my PhD or used my MA in Anthropology to complete more research. I’m not working at a high paying job. I’m not married yet. I’m still in debt. I can’t even imagine being a parent yet, because I haven’t learned how to financially support myself. We can’t get caught up in these details. We need to pat ourselves on the back, and if you write your list and you truly feel disappointed use it to motivate yourself and remind yourself of the goals you set and go out and accomplish those things.
Here’s to my 29th year!! I’m not scared anymore. I’m happy! Getting older is hard, but it also gives you a lot more perspective on life. You start to realize what is truly important and what is not worth worrying so much about. I’m super excited for this year, because I get to marry the love of my life and start a new journey together. I’m happy though that I spent my last 29 years working on bettering myself and enhancing my own life, so that I could be ready for this huge step of sharing my life with someone else.
Be proud and never diminish your accomplishments. You rock!