(1) The cousin who has been “little” your entire life — who’s looked up to you, who you’ve given advice to, etc. — is now in high school, applying for colleges, and probably having sex.
(2) You don’t care about going to concerts anymore. You especially don’t care about getting to the front row of concerts anymore. The front row is just not important at all anymore.
(3) You’re way past the stage of thinking/ status updating “OMG I’M ALL GROWN UP AND ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GETTING MARRIED AND HAVING BABIES.” That has long been a reality for you. If you’re still not married, now it’s just billed as like, a life choice.
(4) You’re beginning to read self-help books. You never thought you would, but you are. Business, confidence, inner peace, Zen Buddhism, dieting… You’re even beginning to seek out the “best” self-help books. Somehow there is like a group of people who are always reading the best self-help books. You don’t know how they find these awesome self-help books but you really want to get in on it. It’s weird.
(5) You’re starting to wonder what to do with your money, now that you’re not really hitting rock bottom every pay period anymore. You are looking into things like IRAs and mutual funds. People explain these things to you — people who somehow know all this stuff — with jargon that you have to be experienced to understand. You have to stop them mid-sentence. “Wait – what do you mean by ‘dividend’? Is that… what I will make if… ??”
(6) The amount of times things haven’t worked out the way you’ve wanted them to has left you battle-hardened and not expecting life to be 100% awesome all the time. You used to feel entitled to an awesome life. You are beginning to see that you have to work for it.
(7) Not that you were ever expecting to make it into professional sports, but there’s little-to-no chance of you ever making it at this point. And if you somehow made it in now, people would consider you “past your prime” and “old.” This doesn’t feel very OK.
(8) If you’re a woman, 21-year-old dudes are starting to call you a MILF or a cougar. If you’re a dude, 21-year-old girls are starting to think you’re “old.” If they date you, they’re dating an “older man/woman.”
(9) You’re starting to think about your purchases differently. Where purchases used to just be impulses when you were younger, now there is a question before every time you buy something. “Am I going to have this for a year, five years, ten years? Is it going to last that long? Am I going to to have this for the rest of my life?”
(10) Physically, 30 doesn’t feel any different than 29, but regardless, the cliche imposes a change on you. Crossing the the boundary that everyone makes such a big deal of — the threshold into your 30s — makes you feel older than everyone on the other side of that line. And you begin to look at things differently as a result.
(11) You are beginning to feel like you’re running on autopilot a lot — going through the motions of your morning routine, your job, and after work… and it’s worrying. You not only see it happening, but you see that it’s a struggle not to let the autopilot program play itself out. The universe wants you to do the same comfortable thing every day. It wants you to drink instead of think. It wants you to avoid change. But you know you have to keep progressing. And there isn’t an easy solution for it. You’re at the age where making changes is sort of an ordeal. You’re getting set in your ways, and there are pretty powerful forces trying to keep you in the same place.
(12) You are starting to to realize that you once thought your parents, your successful friends, the guy next to you — that they had clear goals and priorities. In other words, you once thought they knew what they were doing. But you slowly find out that no one knows what the hell they are doing. There are no rules. Are you doing the right thing? Are you at your job because you wanted to be, or because someone told you to be? What are you doing? What should you be doing? There’s no right answer. You have to make it up yourself.
(13) It’s starting to feel like doors are closing in every direction. Dating, relationships, career paths. If you’re in a relationship — it feels the single life is over. If you’re not in a relationship, it feels like the door’s closing for you to get an attractive mate. If you’re well-entrenched in a career, it feels like you’ve passed up the opportunity to do the thing you’ve always truly loved. Whichever way you put it, it feels like doors are slowly shutting all around you.
(14) “Fitting in” isn’t really a “thing” like it used to be. You were desperate to fit in, to be a part of something bigger, when you were younger. Now you’re more like “Meh, whatever.”
(15) You’ve sort of been around long enough to know what you’re bad at and not-so-bad at. But it doesn’t make your decisions any less existentially fraught. If anything, your day-to-day is even more plagued with worries like “You know you only have one life, right? And this is how you’re living it? You’re living your life by staying up till 3 a.m. on a weeknight watching Netflix for no apparent reason, despite the fact that you’ll be sleepy and unproductive tomorrow as a result?”
(16) You know the expression “age is just a number” — the belief that it doesn’t matter how old you are, that one can be “wise beyond their years” — is pretty much crap. But you can see how that would have been a convenient perspective a few years ago. The truth is that experience does change you, and that experience often comes with age. As a result, you are starting to become a lot more sympathetic, a lot more forgiving, and a lot less judgmental when you see younger people doing stupid shit.
(17) Speaking of empathy for — even celebrating — naiveté, you are also beginning to let go of the shame and distaste you carried about the times you acted like an asshole, or an idiot, when you were younger. You are starting to dislike your former self less, and watching it transform into something like joy and forgiveness.