Life begins at 30
February 20, 2017 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm coming up on 30 and my life is... not what I'd like it to be. I need real life motivation to keep going through shitty times with no obvious reasons to believe things will get better, please share examples of how things can turn around after 30.

Especially interested in any of the following: people who never had a place that felt like "home," geographically or society, and found one. People who found something fulfilling to do with their life, not necessarily a job. Anyone who has a severely debilitating chronic illness and still found a way to live a life you consider awesome. People who are autistic/neurodiverse and/or mentally ill, and found or built a great life. People who are Queer.

Any stories of "pretty much everything was hard and painful till at least 30 but it's awesome now" helpful, though.
posted by bizarrenacle to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I met my partner of (now ten fantastic years), whom I love dearly and whom had I met in my 20's, I would have not had a successful relationship with because I had no strong idea of my personal boundaries / emotional maturity / what a healthy (for both parties) relationship even looked like.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:48 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

As for neurodiverse - this is a list of successful people with ADHD and this is a list of famous (and famously dyslexic) people
posted by Faintdreams at 4:53 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

33, and still figuring this stuff out.

A few things I've done recently that might help you:
  • I didn't come out to myself as bisexual until 28, which is still pretty late, and have been trying to more openly embrace my queer identity since. Moreso now because of the political climate.
  • I got formally diagnosed with ADHD and started medication last year, at age 32. Game changing.
  • I figured out, not necessarily my calling, but the world I want to be in professionally—performing arts. (I now do email marketing for the Met Opera.)
You got this. Life is not a race.
posted by SansPoint at 8:51 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to pop in here and say something. Not exactly what you asked, but just a little advice:

I am in the same boat and I am 38. I would try to envision or write down what you want out of life. These can be things like a career or even things like more friends. After that I'd do whatever it takes to achieve them. Focus on those things above all else. I was so consumed with work and other things that I neglected the things that I really cared about. Those things are harder to do when older.

I made friends through Meetups over the last year. Got a better job and finally found something that helped my lifelong depression. I am a super cynical glass is half empty person, but there is definitely hope.
posted by kbbbo at 8:58 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

44 - when I was "forced" (in a positive, productive way) to really figure out what I wanted/what I truly cared about in life. And from there I figured out I had to pay close, close attention to 2 things. No exaggeration -- my life did a 180 for the better when I consciously took responsibility for the only 2 things in life anybody really has any control over -- your time and your money. I stopped spending money on things I didn't really need because I knew I could use that money for the specific things I identified as really wanting (not material things, experiences) and I stopped giving my time to people who I didn't really like and instead made more time for the people I really care about. If you want more specifics you can memail me. Good Luck! Don't get discouraged, everybody has to find their own way, in their own time.
posted by pjsky at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yes, I went through this myself. I think it's somewhat common to go through this. There is a great documentary series called The Up Series, which visits a group of people every seven years, and if you watch the films in order, you'll notice that all of them go through some kind of big life upheaval around 28 Up and 35 Up. Lots of divorces, lots of changes. I remember watching that and really feeling a sense of connection to that- this idea of putting your train back on a track.

Myself, yes, I went through this. Something clicked around this age, maybe a combination of the number 30 itself, but also a switching-on of my biological clock, which all of a sudden had gone into hyper "babies, babies, must have a baby" mode (despite my distaste for such cliches as a queer butch feminist). All of a sudden, I knew I wanted a kid, and I knew I didn't want to have a kid with my then-wife. My marriage was a bad one, and I was in a rut. I started working on a divorce, and I started pushing myself to get out of my rut, out of my comfort zone. I made immediate changes like losing weight and taking on a new, more femme appearance (I grew out my hair for the first time in my whole life), but it went further than that.

I could admit to myself that I wanted to have a stable family eventually, but I had a few other thoughts. For one, there were things I wanted to do first to take advantage of my youth and freedom before getting "tied down with a family" (as the cliche goes). And further, I wanted to build myself a life that I loved, that would give me enough pleasure that if that stable family didn't happen, I could be okay with that. I wanted to be okay if the relationship didn't materialize and I didn't have kids (adoptive or bio).

I picked up a creative hobby (photography) and started getting myself out of the house, taking early-morning hikes for nature photos. I started traveling on my own, pushing myself towards the long solo road trips that I'd always dreamed I'd get to take. I went to photo groups where everyone was 30+ years older- I learned a lot and socialized without pressure, broke myself out of my shell. I volunteered for events and groups. I explored. I did things I'd never done before, things I'd always wanted to do. I had mishaps with online dating, but I started my own Meetup group which eventually jelled into the an awesome circle of single, childfree, 30-something nerds that became my best friends. Eventually through this IRL group, I met a nice guy, started dating him, married him, and we had a baby.

I'm going to be 40 at the end of this year. I look back on the life changes that I made at age 30 and I remember that they were so hard at the time. I pushed myself so much. And it was all worth it. That was the beginning of the best years of my life. The friends, the creativity, the exploration, the fun... my 30s were so much better than my 20s. In fact, I'd actually met my now-husband when we were both in our early 20s, and we flirted but didn't date. I'm glad we didn't date then, because I feel like I needed that journey to get me where I am now, happy to be with him, content, satisfied. I've seen what is out there and I know what feels right now. I'm glad I listened to myself then and made those changes that put me on the path to where I am now.

(And my ex-wife is happily remarried, too.)
posted by aabbbiee at 9:52 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Turning 30 was a great motivator for me to finally get my life in order — this included a hard reboot of my career with an internship that started the day before my 30th birthday.

I'm glad I overcame my deep ambivalence about starting from scratch at 30. Once I realized that the only thing worse than wasting time was wasting MORE time, things started looking up.
posted by thejoshu at 11:17 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I went through my most major life transformations since turning 30 (I'm 35). I mean, my sexuality exploded/awakened... right alongside getting married and having a kid. Which has been tricky but also awesome. Because I have it all now :) Like I am becoming more ME/more of myself, but I'm also committed to real people, and my real adult life.

I'm holding space for both those things to exist. I don't want to settle, but I also want a family, partner, and stability. I'm learning to trust myself and my needs/wants much more.

I'm going back to graduate school this year to finally get going on a career I've been exploring, but also putting on hold for like 10 years while I've been trying different things out. I am SO EXCITED because now I really "know". I feel like I'm still very much in the process of becoming, too, but it's ... less chaotic. My 20's were about finding some solid ground under my feet and working through depression plus lots of other baggage... (I still have some of it, but also have healed a lot, and just more at ease with the rough patches) but my 30's are about really delving into my life, my relationships, my sexuality, my desires, my family, with more security and trust in myself.

I don't know, it's not perfect, it's still messy, I'm still in therapy after 10 years (but I'm also becoming a therapist, so I just kind of love it and value it). So there's still a lot of questions, but the questions become more exciting, integrated, sexy, and rich, rather than a whirlwind of self-doubt and deprecation. I don't know if this answers your question, but the I think you start learning your own rhythms in your 30's, and that is awesome.
posted by Rocket26 at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My twenties were not great, and 29 was especially rough for me: my dad died, I moved halfway across the country, and my antidepressant decided to stop working. On top of that - and this is going to sound super weird when I write it out - as a teenager I was half-convinced that I just wouldn't make it to 30, because I was somehow constitutionally incapable of being a functioning adult. Right before my 29th birthday I remembered that I used to think that, and even though I didn't really believe it, it still spooked me. So turning 30 was weirdly loaded for me.

My thirties have been pretty good. I got a new therapist and a new antidepressant that year, and both helped me a ton. I stopped worrying about a lot of the things that occupied my twenties (e.g. my appearance). I got a cat. I got out of debt. I got in the best shape of my life, at least for a little while. I got a job that is reasonably career-y - it's not a passion, but it's something I generally like. It took a few years, but the place where I moved is the place where I'm happily settling down.

The greater the distance between where you are and where you want to be, the greater the pressure is to make up the difference in some dramatic fashion: reinvent yourself from scratch, pull all your shit together, come up with a bullet-pointed plan to overhaul every unsatisfying part of your life and never fuck up again. Some people do well with that sort of approach, but it can just as easily intimidate and discourage you. I'm not a reinventer; the progress I've made in my thirties has been gradual. Maybe the first step is a new hobby or a new friend group, or a change in the way you manage your health. Once you've got one good thing going, it becomes easier to gather other good things.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm 35, have nearly doubled my income in the last year due to a major career change over last summer to finally do the thing I really like doing. (Well, I don't like sitting around waiting for my build pipeline instead of going home, but at least there's Metafilter for afternoons like this.) I have ADD and anxiety but have been managing both reasonably well, considering the general state of the world. My life still isn't very settled yet--I don't know how long I'm going to be living in this city, but I don't intend to settle here long-term--but I'm feeling pretty good about that. I just met a nice girl, or rather figured out a nice girl I've known for a very long time Likes Me, and that's pretty amazing. So, yeah. Pretty okay with where my 30s are headed right now.
posted by Sequence at 3:36 PM on February 20, 2017

Best answer: I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday. I'm bisexual, fairly asexual, am disabled due to debilitating chronic illnesses (plural), have multiple psych diagnoses, live with my best friend and his family - they are my sole financial support, gave up custody of my children to my parents, twice divorced, and have recently taken control and made my life get better.

My 20's sucked. Full stop. I divorced my first husband, dated a guy with a fetish of licking elbows, dated a guy who wouldn't give me a hug unless I performed fellatio first, dated a guy who almost got me killed at work, married my second husband, dealt with my second husband's psycho first wife (think throwing toddlers across a room, coming after you with a pair of scissors because you wanted to go to the grocery store alone, accusing you of neglecting the kids - both hers and mine, making false police and CPS reports weekly, full. out. crazy.), had two completely surprise kids (I'd been told I'd never be able to have any), SAHMed for six kids under the age of six, moved 3 times, separated, moved across the country into my grandmother's attic, sharing a room with the two kids (who were one and four), moved out into my own house, dealt with an insane joint custody arrangement until my ex said he couldn't take the kids, agreed when my parents offered to take the kids during my ex's six months, got promoted at work, moved out of the house I owned into an apartment I didn't, worked 90 hour weeks for a year, had my first nervous breakdown, started the process to give my parents custody of the kids because my health was getting interesting, quit working for that franchise and moved in with a friend across the state to work for another one while I took care of her kids - including homeschooling and voice lessons, completed giving my parents custody of my kids, moved three more times.... I tried counting up all the jobs I had in my 20's and couldn't. It was somewhere more than 15. Do you feel better about your 20's yet?

The first step for me in making my life better was acknowledging my current authentic life. Exactly what's going on. I made a huge list of "I am..." statements. I am morbidly obese. I am a person with bipolar disorder. I am a mother. I am seeing 23 doctors. I am a perfectionist. I am a procrastinator. I sing very well. I am a good friend. You get the idea. Don't let self-confidence issues or depression or whatever cloud your authenticity. (I recently read an article about a man who only has the use of his eyes and mouth; he's otherwise completely paralyzed. But he travels the world and has sucked more marrow out of his life than you would ever think possible. One thing he said hit me so hard that I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it to my monitor: This is my life now. What's next?)

Then I did the same thing as if I was living my dream life. I am the owner of a mastiff named Beauregard. I am a healthy weight. I am able to walk 5 miles. I am financially secure. I am the mother of five adopted and two biological children. I am able to swim 500 yards. I am successful in my direct sales career - and went into great detail on what that looked like. The more specific you can get, the better. Really paint the picture in your mind.

Now compare your two lists. And ask yourself, what one thing can I do today to move towards my dream life. Just one. A little thing. Life doesn't just get better; you have to make it better.

Six months ago, I spent the vast majority of my time in bed, watching Netflix. Crime drama, police procedurals, and supernatural shows were my favorites. I'd binge watch 20, 25 episodes a day. After the election, my anxiety and profound fear of the future prompted me to make an appointment with my therapist. Her recommendations were that I stop watching all the bad, evil, frightening things on Netflix all the time, and that I embark upon a creative pursuit with a tangible output. I mostly watch more positive things on Netflix now (every once in a while, I'll watch an episode of NCIS, but only one at a time. Unless there's a cliffhanger. I hate cliffhangers.). And my creative pursuits could fill a book. I'm quilting, knitting, crocheting, weaving baskets out of newspapers, cross stitching, and doing numerous paper crafts.

Making those two changes has made an enormous different in my life. Now that I'm not constantly bombarding myself with bad, evil, scary, and am instead focusing on making beautiful things, I feel like a whole new person. I've even started writing and composing again - I hadn't done either since college - and am considering creating a YouTube channel to showcase my singing. I've been paid for two articles I've written over this past weekend. Just started advertising myself as a writer on Friday, and I've already earned more than $25 for about two hours of writing. I'm planning to open an Etsy shop for all the crafts I'm going to be making, so they can go somewhere they'll be appreciated, and I can earn a little extra cash. I also started working in my direct sales business again.

Ninety percent of my life is lived in this 90 square foot room. I've got a recliner to sleep in, because I can't sleep lying down, a mini fridge and microwave, so I don't have to bother my friends too often for food or drink, and a bedside commode, because I can't get to the bathroom by myself. When I do leave the house, my friend has to help me shower and dress. Then he drags my desk chair, with me in it, out to the door. He has to help me a lot to get down the stairs to the car. Then we're off to whichever doctor I'm seeing that day. That's the only reason I leave the house. But I'm living an incredibly fulfilling life in my 90 square feet.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 4:33 PM on February 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Huge thank you to everyone who replied. I marked best on the answers that resonated most with me personally but am very grateful to everyone who took the time to write.

I know intellectually that things can change and, yes, sometimes even improve. It still really helps to hear it.
posted by bizarrenacle at 6:29 AM on February 23, 2017

Response by poster: I realized my AskMeFi history is a tale of woe so I wanted to come back and update. Things are so much better now. My problems are still my problems but I feel a lot better about life, I've made some good connections with people, and moved to a better location. I'm quietly optimistic. Thank you all again for sharing your experiences and for your encouragement. I can't tell you what a light in the dark this site has been for me.
posted by bizarrenacle at 9:10 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

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