28 and Doing Great: The Overdue Birthday Post
I wasn't sure what to title this post, and if we're being honest I'm afraid it ended up a bit too naively positive for my realist taste… but ‘28’ and ‘great’ sounded so good together that I had to go with it. Maybe we can think of it with a bit of a sarcastic spin, like when someone asks you how you are doing at 8:00 am after you hit snooze 5 times and threw some dry shampoo in and didn't have time to grab a coffee: "DOING GREAT!"… but I have to admit, there is some truth to the title as well.
Because 28 is shaping up to be a great year.
Growing up, 28 was what Sex and the City would call my "scary age". In the show, everyone's scary age was in their 40s, because they were in New York and not the South. And as long as you are not in the South, it’s generally ok to acknowledge that life isn’t meant to be entirely lived before the age of 30. But that is a discussion for another day… and another post.
Whether we can blame it on the Southern influence or some other combination of factors, the material point is that I grew up with an age in mind by which I wanted to have my life together.
My ideal age to have the job I wanted, the maximum educational attainment I intended to pursue either completed or at least in progress, and the big, lifelong romantic relationship started… was 28.
So I guess one could argue that 28 was always great to me. Maybe more of a great and terrible looming deadline than a great age to celebrate, but still… great.
So how am I doing at the “scary age” of 28?
The Overdue Birthday Post
Every year, I write a birthday entry in my personal journal, summarizing all the things I’m worrying about, focused on and pursuing at that point and discussing my high-level goals for where I’d like to be by the next birthday. I also generally like to share a birthday blog post either on or around my birthday each year, for posterity's sake. Sounds like a great plan, with one tiny problem…
I turned 28 in May.
Since it's now November, I probably don't need to provide much explanation about whether or not I have my life together at this point (that would be a no).
Jokes aside, I am somewhat glad I never got around to writing this birthday post in the spring or summer, since I just completely blew up my life… and life destruction makes for much more exciting content, wouldn't you agree?
Killing Those Life Deadlines
Here's the quick high-level rundown on how those life deadlines are going at age 28 and a half (perfect job, perfect degree, perfect relationship): I spent my twenties doing what I was supposed to do to get the right job. And I did arguably get that job, right out of college: Fortune 100, good 401K match, benefits. I transferred from that company to another arguably good job about two and a half years ago. I also applied to get my master's degree at an age that would have put me either in or through that degree program by 28.
But I was rejected from my dream school.
As for whether or not we'll be hearing wedding bells anytime soon… I really don't have much of an explanation for my ambivalence towards romantic relationships, except that it is difficult to quit your job with no plan and go to Europe solo for 6 weeks on less than 2 weeks notice if there is someone else in the picture who also has a job to consider. Or maybe it's really not, who knows.
In a nutshell, I was 1 for 3.
Until I quit my job without another job offer finalized in October… and went to travel.
So, 0 for 3.
What I'm Learning at 28
Okay, so 28 doesn't look anything like my 8 year old self expected it to look. If there's one thing that is consistent in my life so far, it's that nothing ever ends up looking the way I planned.
The cool thing about 28 is I'm not that worried about it.
I'm finally starting to take a step back from trying to plan everything.
A tiny step… but still.
I've been abroad for almost three weeks at this point, and the primary lesson I've learned so far is that even when things go wrong… they tend to work themselves out.
I'm probably never going to be a person who just buys a one-way ticket somewhere and hopes for the best. I have a lot of years of risk analysis and risk management working against that level of spontaneity. But this trip is teaching me that I can’t control everything… and that in more cases than I would have thought, I don’t actually need to.
It is possible that this time off work will prevent me from getting another job in finance, and I'll have to do something else. It's also possible I won't want to go directly back into finance when this six week sabbatical comes to an end.
In summary, I have no idea what's next for me at this point.
But I'm excited to find out.
At the end of the birthday post, I generally try to share some wisdom, insight, or something I've learned or am learning. So I'll leave this here, in case you're finding yourself at a crossroads like the one I've spent most of my 28th year hanging out in.
A Friendly Reminder for 20-Somethings
I know too many millennials, particularly millennial women, who are compromising their hopes, dreams, goals, ambitions, relationships, health and happiness on a daily basis right now because they are afraid of living up to the bad reputation that our generation seems to have with the media and older generations.
In a nutshell, they don't want to be called entitled for choosing to prioritize anything over work… even temporarily.
I know, because I spent the majority of my twenties compromising virtually everything in my life in favor of work.
But here's the thing: it's not your job to single-handedly defend our generation by being the most hardworking, the least ‘entitled’, the last to leave the office, the one who never complains, the best employee, the most successful, the one who is careful to blend in, the one who doesn’t ruffle any feathers, or the toughest, strongest, or smartest.
Because it's not your job to compromise your life to make anyone feel better about the way they chose to live theirs.
Trying to be the best millennial ever all the time is a quick road to burnout.
And like it or not, we have a long way to go on this hamster wheel before retirement.
We also happen to have the privilege of living and working in a time when there are more options available than ever to make a living… while also having a life.
Forget “scary ages”, self-imposed deadlines, and the things people may say if you choose a different path than they did.
This is your life.
So build one for yourself that you want to live…. no matter how long it takes.
Because that is something you’re entitled to.