How to Approach 30

Come out of the confusion and deep identity formation that characterized your mid-20s with a stable personality, non-angular beliefs, and amorphous ideals. Experience at different moments, according to the situation, the range of emotions one can traditionally feel – joy, sadness, calm, excitement, nervousness, empathy, compassion, detachment, worry, triviality – but experience them somewhat from a distance, as in, experience your experience of them while at the same time experiencing them at the immediate degree. Understand your general emotional climate in terms of a line graph – it just looks like a low level wave, rather than successive J-curves, or something – and, ultimately, feel that your life is destined to be OK, but ultimately mundane. Actually, you haven’t concluded on that; your life might actually be destined to be mundane, but ultimately OK.

Regardless, feel troubled by all that; very troubled. Contrast this understanding with your very stable sense of comfort, acceptance of reality, and your perceived ‘limits’ of reality. Visualize your perception/ mindset as within a balloon inside your head. Beyond the balloon is an unattainable, incomprehensible set of beliefs capable of making you a better person that if attained would absolutely enable you to experience unmitigated feelings of both pain and pleasure, which is somehow your idea of ‘what it means to really be alive.’ Inside the balloon is the comfort and secure ‘you,’ which is somehow your idea of ‘what it means to be a normal, healthy individual.’ Feel attracted to both life inside the balloon and life outside the balloon; the former because, as told, it’s comfortable, stable, and safe; the latter because it’s wild and free and intense.

When you were mid-20s, you realized the extent to which ideals and theories could take you, so as you approach 30, understand reality’s limits to be unfortunate. You can not experience maximum pleasure without opening yourself up to maximum pain; ‘dreams’ are theoretical and therefore impossible to realize fully; your ‘dream girl’ cannot exist, and that is why she is your ‘dream girl’; there is in essence a ‘boring’ or non-fantastic side to all people, places, and things; personal narratives tend to be factually inaccurate and cliche; concepts such as ‘greatness’ and ‘satisfaction’ do not and can not exist in any sort of complete state. The way people perceive the world is flawed, and so feel unable to buy into any of the fantastic concepts that permeate culture, especially ‘uninhibited joy,’ ‘being happy for the rest of one’s life,’ ‘being depressed,’ and etc. Ultimately, just hardly believe in any pure concept because there are way too many qualifiers involved.

As for the beliefs that you actually believe in, don’t believe in them entirely. Be ready to drop any of them if there’s a certain amount of contextual discomfort involved. Feel like your life is invariably broken for this, but if you want to approach 30 in any satisfactory sense, still think you’re smart, and that your intelligence will eventually bring you to a completely undefined salvation/ redemption scenario which will without a doubt never occur in physical reality. Think you’re highly logical; that you’re better than everyone else. At the same time, maintain a contradictory fear – which makes its presence known as both really intense flashes in which you experience very self-disparaging revelations and as a sort of low level albeit ‘deafening’ feeling of being not worthy to say hardly anything in group settings or to certain individuals – that you’re basically just a complete fool, an idiot no better than anyone else, nothing special, nothing major, nothing, really.

And so generally, approaching 30, you should view your life as problematic but acceptable. Acceptable but problematic. Be happy about your life, but be really worried about your life. Understand yourself to a high degree, but don’t really understand yourself at all. Give up at understanding yourself, then glean unusual clarities by whatever situational occurrence. Have a functional worldview and set of behaviors while at the same time having no control over mini-phases of happiness and ‘feeling down,’ mini-phases of love for your partner and dismissal of your partner, mini-phases of intellectual interest and intellectual apathy, mini-phases of contentment and anxiety. Find yourself one day unexplainably really happy – but not extremely happy, and find yourself one day unexplainably really fucking depressed, but not that fucking depressed. In turn, just find everything completely predictable and safe – nothing can happen outside the structure you’ve come to understand, and let this depress you greatly, and let it be the source of your motivation and happiness. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • 27

    I am not a snowflake.

  • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

    i was feeling this: 'Give up at understanding yourself, then glean unusual clarities by whatever situational occurrence. '

    i always felt neruda's lines: 'Yo no creo en la edad. Todos los viejos llevan en los ojos un nino, y los ninos
    a veces nos observan como ancianos profundos.'

    i'm on the 'other side of' 30. seems like you just have to stretch more.

  • http://twitter.com/bsdf BEN ENGLISCH

    u old

  • Carolyn Givens

    I've observed that self-actualization and enlightenment evolve by degrees, depending on the effort we make to incorporate the values and mindsets into our way of living. Our experience and appreciation of life events, others and ourselves deepens and expands the further we move along though life. I find the less pleasant aspects of life, people and myself much easier to accept when I have perspective on the bigger picture. While I might have an immediate emotional response to things, that perspective provides a degree of objectivity allowing me to move on quickly as well as maintain focus on the long term goals. I seriously appreciate your insight as well as the sentiment.

  • aa

    I like this a lot.

  • SousChefGerard

    “Acceptable but problematic.”

    26 and already resigned to that fact. What am I supposed to do for the next four years?

    • Brandon

      yea i'm with you dude, i'm 27. perhaps we can move on to new levels of enlightenment.

    • Nico

      Exactly.

  • Arthur

    Shouldn't this be “How to Approach 18?”

    • Brandon

      nice 'burn'

  • http://twitter.com/adamhump adamhump

    :) well done, well put

  • http://twitter.com/Erikhaspresence Erik Stinson

    i believe the last paragraph to be dickensian

  • http://www.calvinmarkus.com GQ

    im 21. glad i read this. still find myself fantasizing about reaching some sort of “greatness”…

  • http://popserial.tumblr.com stephen

    I liked this. Nice, Brandon

  • Peterswersey

    Good, great. I feel you.

  • Lou Lou

    this makes me sad. I am 27. That is what makes me sad, really.

  • mark

    well, i guess this is growing up

  • http://pleasureiseasy.info math

    best lately

  • xmkdz

    i'm 25 and i think by 30 i will have arranged a rotating schedule of drug use in which each day of the week is allotted to a specific genre of drug to allow each drug's tolerance to wane by the time its allotted day comes up next week. so on weekends i get stoned, on monday i will go on the nod (then it wont suck so much), on tuesday i will have a whiskey sour and xanax for dessert, on wednesday i will eat a whole pizza or perhaps some uppers, &c. but i will probably suicide by 40 anyway or i will not want to suicide by 40 when i turn 30 nor will i need to use drugs to get by but i REALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLY doubt both of those things

    “Give up at understanding yourself, then glean unusual clarities by whatever situational occurrence. Have a functional worldview and set of behaviors while at the same time having no control over mini-phases of happiness and ‘feeling down,’ mini-phases of love for your partner and dismissal of your partner, mini-phases of intellectual interest and intellectual apathy, mini-phases of contentment and anxiety.”

    ^
    haha
    oh, man.

  • Marisa

    I like this and I'm sad.

  • Jenna

    approaching 30: finding a polite way to express disappointment. cloaking shame in niceties. feeling silly about past exclusions. writing with cliches, sending birthday cards. fitter, stronger, happier…

blog comments powered by Disqus