How Turning 30 Taught Me That I Already Have My Shit Together

Mark Buchanan
Mark Buchanan

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk centered on the idea of having one’s shit together. If people aren’t advising you how to get your shit together, they’re indicating that it’s okay not to have your shit together, and so on. I read an article whose author had recently turned 30 and used the entrance into a new decade as a launching point to reflect on his own metaphorical shit. I vowed that, once I turned 30, I’d do the same.

Well, Happy Birthday to me.

January 3, 2016, marked my 30th birthday, a year to which I had no emotional tie.

That is, until that day.

It seems to be that, once you turn 30, people you know who have already hit that milestone are no longer hesitant to tell you how terrible it’s going to be. It’s like you suddenly gained membership to a club you didn’t remember paying dues for, and the photo on your ID card is merely a hologram of your “former” life–whatever that is.

“You’re officially old,” they say. “It’s all downhill from here.”

How encouraging.

Given my predisposition to generalized anxiety, I can fret about most anything, but I never fret about time. Perhaps that is because it is the one thing over which I have no control and never will.

The original piece on which this one is based talks about breaking life into thirds and, if that’s the case, your first 30 years are meant to prepare you for the greatness of your next 60 years.

I would like to respectfully disagree.

The truth is there is no telling how much time any of us has here. And that is something that can either be very frightening or very comforting. I choose to go with the latter.

I was faced with the mortality of my own father at a very young age. How did I respond? By spending the next 15 years of my life worrying about exactly how this big blue marble was going to continue to spin without him spinning with it. He looked at me one day and said, “You’ve spent all this time worrying about me, and now what? What has it gotten you?”

My answer? Nothing.

Well, that may not be entirely true. It has given me perspective.

I can understand people who feel pressure to be somewhere at a certain point in their lives, but my wondering is always the same. Who’s to say where you should be? Who’s to say when you should arrive there?

In all honesty, there is no handbook. There is no road map. You could be the greatest, most detailed of planners, and, at some point, you’re still making it up as you go along.

What no one ever tells you, though, is that it’s okay.

There is a myth that life really begins after you settle down, plant your roots, “get your shit together.” This is a pitfall and a tragic one at that. If I lived by that general rule, I’d be so preoccupied with figuring out how to get my metaphorical shit together that I’d miss out on all of the other grand experiences–good and bad–that life has had to offer me.

But, I really tried to put myself into a hot panic. I did. I thought, “Okay, if I did have my shit together, what would that even look like?”

Then, the answer.

My 20s were filled with an unbelievable number of learning opportunities. I stopped focusing on finding love and turned my own capacity for affection inward. I learned that the greatest love I could ever find was the love that I had struggled for years to find for myself. I let go of people who weren’t meant for me. I took advantage of every creative opportunity that was given to me. I published. I photographed. I wrote. I traveled. I read. I ran. I swam. I slept. I breathed.

And after all that, I came to the startling conclusion that I’m not preparing myself for some next phase in my life, the next chapter, the next 60 years.

This wonderful, magnificent, unplanned journey is my life.

If I had ever allowed myself to get wrapped up in anyone’s perception of what my life should look like and where my shit should be, I would be missing out on everything that this wild ride is meant to teach me. None of us is living unless we’re learning, and that learning doesn’t happen the same way for everyone.

Turning 30 happened quietly and with little fanfare. I didn’t feel like there was some grand work I was yet to begin. Instead, I felt like there was some grand work I was destined to continue for as long as I am able. However many years this life has in store for me, I will live each day knowing that I have followed my heart, bowed to the teachings of the universe, and didn’t give time a second thought.

After my artificial panic, there was only one conclusion that made sense to me.

I’m 30.

I already have my shit together. TC mark

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