A friend once told me “Enjoy yourself. That’s what your 20’s are for. Your 30’s are to learn the lessons. Your 40’s are to pay for the drinks.”
Okay, admittedly this “friend” is Carrie Bradshaw and I’m quoting a Sex and the City movie. But as I was pondering over my own life as an adult it seemed to become a more relevant quote.
A number of years ago I made a realization that contrary to my youthful narcissism, I didn’t know everything there was to know. Nor were my defining character traits so firmly set in stone as I had thought.
Shocking, I know.
Life is an ever evolving journey and you’re never limited to strictly defining yourself because who you are isn’t static but rather a sum of your continuing experiences. As long as you don’t shut life out you will continue to learn some valuable lessons about yourself and the world around you.
As a single person in my early 30’s, who happens to be an overachiever, a lot of my focus naturally shifts towards work. It isn’t really all that surprising as I lean towards finding fulfillment in what I know I can do well to take the edge off of the lack of fulfillment in things that I am not so good at. And what I’m not so good at is solidifying relationships with others beyond a platonic level.
Hence one of the lessons I’ve learned is that I need a better work/life balance. It’s definitely a challenge. Sometimes despite all my confidence and success in my professional life, it’s hard not to let myself doubt my ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship with another person. There’s that part of my brain that vocalizes these doubts internally, telling myself that at 32 I won’t find these things because I’m so set in my ways, or that I am too old to re-enter the dating scene.
As such, it’s okay to still be reconciling personal needs against professional ones. Negotiating your life’s goals and realigning your expectations is something that can come at any juncture in your life and should be met with open arms. It is what allows us to continually evolve into a better version of ourselves.
In my past there were a lot of times that I thought I was ready to tackle a committed relationship. Try as I might, I failed miserably on more than one occasion. I was faced with changing my expectations. As I finally learned to adapt and accept more blame in those experiences than I had initially afforded myself, I came to the discovery that I invested too much of myself into another person. I had desperately hoped this investment would provide me with a sense of fulfillment and happiness, but I couldn’t be more wrong. I realized my goals could never be met with the expectations that I had set for my significant other.
In other words, I allowed control of my happiness to be an external factor rather than an internal one.
While it’s so much easier to sink into misanthropy than to face the realization that I had more control over my happiness than anyone else, I had to force myself to realize that I cannot blame others for any lack thereof. Once I took ownership and made the shift in behaviour to focus on myself and accept more responsibility, I started to realize just how damaging it was to not confront it head on.
Now that I’ve spent the past few years being more introspective I’ve come to see the things that I truly have to offer another person and that has allowed me to gain confidence in how I connect with others and to accept a level of ownership over the outcome of these connections.
So while I may have been so willing to condemn myself to a life of solitude just because I was still single at 32, I think that I’ve finally accepted that I’m still learning – and always will learn – how to navigate my adult life. More importantly, I’ve accepted that this is more than okay.
It’s okay to not have everything figured out. There may be one or two – or several – things I’m still challenged with, I have to reflect and realize that there are countless other things that I have sorted out over the years. I’m not simply stagnant in my growth as an individual. There is still time to learn and make adjustments along the way to better my chances at leading a more fulfilled life.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life thus far is this:
Life is always in progress.
You, and you alone, are in the driver’s seat and you need to be actively engaged in your life but that doesn’t mean it all needs to be figured out right away. If you managed to figure it all out so soon you’d be stripping your life of the simple joys of discovering and learning to better yourself.
There’s no specific deadline to accomplish certain milestones in life. It’s whatever you and your experiences make of life that is most important.
As another “friend” once said, “I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”
Slowing down to recognize that it’s okay that I’m still figuring it out has allowed me to take stock in what I do have – professional fulfillment, remarkable friendships, and an open mind towards the future.