There’s something strange happening around me lately… All of a sudden, I find myself talking with people who are looking for something, people who feel like they’ve lost something, people in search of meaning or in search of their identity. And I’m one of these people-without that meaning I talk to myself. Well, since I’m 31 and the people I hang with are around the same age, I can only assume we’re having our first life crisis.
With our careless student years well behind us, and a short yet eye opening (habanero) taste of what adulthood really is about under our belts, the challenge of being 30 has emerged before us. Little did we know it would be like this when we had our student party days… ehmm hard working days sponsored by our parents (or state if you chose carefully which country you were born in).
Those of you who have always known your true calling and went for it wholeheartedly or those of you who are already super successful and your lives are perfect by now, might as well stop reading. Congratulations! You’ve done so well! You’re awesome etc… You are dismissed and can go polish your trophies! Now the rest of us can take our maps, compasses, self help books, mom’s advice and horoscope readings and continue.
My fellow wonderers, lost boys and girls, I know your worries. I have them too. “Should I study something else? But then who’s gonna pay the bills?”, “Should I have a child? I’m not ready”, “Should I have another child? I barely have time to brush my teeth”, “If I study something else when am I going to be a mother?”, “Who am I? I don’t recognize myself anymore”, “I used to be fun and now fun’s a word on the coasters that keep my living room table clean”, “How do other people manage? They seem to know what they’re doing”, “I don’t have time anymore for those I love, I don’t have time for anything!”
I tried to find answers to these questions. I read articles, blog entries and watched countless Ted talks on the meaning of life, purpose, success and being an adult. I found some good advice like “try meditating every day”- which by the way might not help you find your purpose but will definitely help you sleep- and some advice less appealing like “fake it til you make it” or “be aggressive” and “learn how to sell yourself”- no thanks I’m mine!
On top of that, the people giving the advice usually accompany their names with a title as long as Xie Qiuping’s hair (which is 5,627m long by the way), something like “Founder of the Female Bubble-ology association, entrepreneur, blogger, and passionate bubbles lover”. The people talking on those videos, describing their hardships on their way to making it or finding themselves are already bathing in the sweet light of success and glory, therefore making it difficult for me to relate to them. Not to mention spotlights, are usually occupied by people at their best moments in their lives and not when they have just broken up or when they have food poisoning, yet somehow we’re lead to believe that we should be like that 24/7!
Well, my fellow pyjama wearers please rest assured; you can relate to me. I have definitely not succeeded or figured things out but I do think I’m on to something. You see I remember once, an awesome teacher at school told us that when we get a test in our hands we should not focus on what’s difficult but instead start from the easy questions. We should do our best with them, and then move on to the rest of the questions and just do our best again. And the advice worked. I never did perfect at tests but I did well enough and I was happy with it. You see where I’m going with this? I’m going to elaborate on it anyway cause if I didn’t this would have been a pretty damn long prologue for a one sentence advice!
Think about it: is it better to face the difficult questions when you’ve already answered 60% of the test or when you haven’t even started and your mind’s flooded by thoughts like “ I have no idea how to answer this one”, “I won’t have enough time to finish this test”. And even if you don’t get a perfect score isn’t a 70% better than a 0%?
Why not apply the same principle to life? Start with what comes easy for you, whether that’s making awesome food, knitting sweaters, planning parties or fixing stuff. Do your best at it, challenge yourself, enjoy it, build your identity and meaning on it, and grow with it. Be proud of it, share it with the world, it’s what you bring to the table. Then take this confidence and push yourself a little. Chose something more difficult that you want to do or accomplish and go for it. Be aware that this is a challenge for you, just do your best. Repeat the process. The choices on the 30’s menu are overwhelmingly many and it doesn’t really matter if you’re having the dessert as an appetizer or the other way around.
Focus on the things that you have accomplished rather than pining over what you haven’t figured out yet. Take your mind off it, take a break, go for an easy question again, return to this tuff one later- wouldn’t you do that with a test? And if at the end you don’t get everything right is it really so bad? How well is an adult supposed to do and who defines what doing well is? Who corrects the test of your life? And last but not least: please check the name on this test and make sure it’s yours. We people like to struggle solving our neighbour’s test, our siblings’ or our parents’ tests or even the Nobel prize winners’ tests when we could have aced our very own tests. Oh Dear (with a British accent)! I got philosophical now so I should probably wrap this up.
Fellow dreamers and achievers, you who wonder, question things and sometimes worry too much: in my eyes you’re amazing for doing just that as I come to realize that having all the answers might not be a part of the game. What you do, when you do it, or the order you do things in, is of such a small importance at the end of the day. Success (cliché alert!!!) is being yourself (and your new self and your new self) and liking it and managing to live yourlife as yourself and nothing but yourself so help me bubbles!
I’m not sure you found any useful advice here but if you at least found a smile, it’s a good enough score for me.
Eleni Riga-Johansen… Founder and CEO of the “Unicorns and bubbles are friends” foundation, author of the weekly column “Find the Unicorn in your inner bubble!” and of course entrepreneur!