Balance is something I've been striving for in my thirties. In my twenties I wasn't concerned with finding harmony in my life, in fact it was exactly the opposite, I made extreme decisions and ran every which way as fast as I could. Now, I crave a slower, more focused pace, something I can maintain, and enjoy. A life I can reflect on down the road and know I put my best foot forward. Life passes by, whether we're paying attention or not, whether we're moving quickly from one thing to the other or taking our sweet time and enjoying the ride. We don't get a do-over, this is it.
I can feel the seasons of my life changing, just as Spring turns to Summer, then Autumn, and eventually the chill of Winter arrives. We can't stop the seasons from coming, just as we can't stop our lives from moving forward. As I watch the leaves transform from their deep forest green to a blend of beautiful gold, auburn and scarlet, I feel the breeze turn cool and know a shift is in the air.
Maybe it's because my life recently entered a new season when I married the man I love on September 3rd; maybe its because I turned thirty-five on September 30th; or, maybe its because in your thirties you see things differently; whatever the reason, I finally feel like I can dig my heels in. At this stage in life, you value people, relationships, family and friends more than you ever have. You finally feel you know yourself, what you believe in, and what your values are. You finally understand all the pieces of advice your parents tried to give you over the past three decades (sorry it took me so long mom and dad). You become confident in what you know, and stay humble by knowing you still have a lot to learn. Your sense of self is accompanied by the ability to speak your mind, and the awareness to know when to listen. You still love a party, but equally appreciate a Saturday night spent on the couch in sweats. You prioritize your morning coffee and weekend brunch dates; and you start getting more courageous with your fashion choices because it turns out being able to pull off hats is more about wearing it with confidence than it is about the shape of your head.
Although I still have the occasional flutter of panic when I think about all the things I haven't accomplished that I thought I would by now, I take a deep breath and remind myself, there's still time. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I have time. The concept of "its too late" or regretting things we haven't done are feelings I am well acquainted with. For some reason we believe the opening chapter of our lives, before we hit our thirties, is the only one we can follow our dreams in. I know I believed it; I still struggle to correct this stubborn, limiting thought. Recently I came the the verdict that this is nothing but an illusion. A barrier we put up inside our own minds to hold us back. From what? I don't know. But I know fear increases exponentially in your thirties. For some reason the walls start to feel like they're closing in. This imaginary scoreboard we have in our minds tells us we've failed. I haven't had kids yet, deduct a point. I'm not pursuing my dream career, deduct a point. I don't own a house, deduct a point. I haven't reached my potential, read enough books, travelled enough, paid off my student loans; deduct a point, deduct a point, deduct a point. We measure our success by all the things we haven't done and feel this debilitating weight of everything we have yet to do. Then after we've had our tenth panic attack of the day we sit back, have a glass of wine, and ask... when did I start wanting these things anyways??? Your thirties are wonderful, but they're also kind of a mess.
Perspective is something that frequently changes for me. It adapts and grows as I live, learn and love. It's constantly moving and every time I think I've finally nailed it down it shifts again with a new experience or conversation. I used to fight it, but now I embrace it. I think its healthy to stay un-stuck, and instead be open-minded to whatever comes at you. Not to say that having a foundation or being grounded isn't important - quite the opposite, I believe its crucial to know who you are, what you believe in, why you believe it, and stay true to those things. But, in my thirties, I've learned that I can stay grounded, keep my foundational truths, and also remain soft to new experiences, taking things in and challenging my own perspectives, to make sure I don't get frozen in a place without growth.
Balance isn't something you see a lot of in the world today. Not in North America anyways. The idea of a quiet life isn't sexy. People are career driven to the point of burnout. Having children isn't fulfilling and instead is seen as some sort of joyless sacrifice (to those who have never actually experienced having children anyway). We're spending so much time looking in the mirror that we forget the world still exists outside of ourselves. We have options now, options we didn't have a few years ago. Who would have anticipated having options would torment us the way it does? Suddenly nothing is good enough because something better might be just around the corner. But.. if we keep looking around the corner, will we ever find contentment in where we are today, or will we just keep running around the block? It's exhausting... don't you think? Pursuing dreams, goals, and aspirations are important. I for one would have a hard time getting up in the morning if I didn't have these things to drive me. But sometimes I get so lost in searching for them that I forget to live in the moment. To appreciate who I am and what I have, today. I don't want to look back on my life and only see the blurred sights I passed by while on the train to somewhere else. I want to have a full life, one that I can see clearly in the rearview mirror.
I've always been afraid, well... afraid isn't the right word... freaking terrified (that's more accurate), of settling down. I wanted to keep moving because I was so sure what I wanted was right around the corner and I was afraid that if I stopped moving, even for a second, I would never reach it. I still have these thoughts from time to time, but now instead of seeing where I am as something that's holding me back, I see it as a safe place for me to dream and pursue my passions. Settling down doesn't have to look a certain way, it can be anything I want it to be. I had put the idea of "settling down" in a box with the idea of "settling", but I've come to realize these two things couldn't be more different. In this season of finding balance in my life, I'm working on contentment within myself. To stop going into panic mode when I feel stuck and instead make the necessary changes to un...stuck... myself. When you have a life partner, a husband or wife, who supports you, encourages you and wants to truly "do life" with you, the door to whatever you want it to look like, is wide open. When you get into your thirties you look back and realize the fears you had in your twenties may still be there.. but you now know what your life looks like when you avoid them completely and "play it safe". Running was easy for me, it was the idea of stopping that made it hard to breathe. Now, here, in this moment I can feel my chest still tightening at the thought of it. The one thing I'm armed with now, that I wasn't before, is experience and a better understanding of who I am, and what I need to be me. I don't have to leave me behind on this journey ahead, instead... I need to find a balance between who I was and who I want to be. I need to change my perspective and perception of what "settling down" means to me. What do I want it to look like? What do I need to ensure I remain myself even though some of the things ahead seem foreign to who I always thought I needed to be?
Changing course and taking a new path has its challenges, but we don't need to lose ourselves in the process. Life can be whatever you want or need it to be. Personally, I want to make sure I'm proud of what I see in the rearview mirror. I want to look back and know I gave it my best shot, even if I fell down a few times along the way.