There Are No Road Maps. And That’s Okay

There Are No Road Maps. And That_s Okay

By Kate Kole

I experienced my fair share of self-inflicted anxiety over turning 30 last year. That milestone marker into my next decade of life brought all the feels. The age itself didn’t seem old. I just didn’t think I had done or accomplished enough to show for it. I saw former classmates becoming what they’d set out to become – doctors and lawyers, professors and business owners – and I felt measly in comparison. I saw other writers being published on bigger platforms. I saw other yoga instructors traveling and teaching in exotic places. I saw, with decided eyes, what I’d set out to see: other people succeeding, while I struggled to keep pace. Everyone around me knowing exactly what they wanted out of life, while I wondered if I’d ever have a clue. And though I reminded myself often that “comparison is the thief of joy,” it seemed I couldn’t help but get lost in the land of where and how I measured.

As the big 3-0 approached, I felt increasingly overwhelmed – almost panicky – at the thought of it. Like I was on the cusp of some 1/3 life crisis. And then, my birthday came. And then…nothing happened. I felt unremarkably the same as I’d felt at 29. It was the most anticlimactic response to the most dramatic buildup. I’d internally Chris Harrison style narrated my way to some highly anticipated, jaw dropping, explosive season finale of my 20s, while the impending result was more like a mediocre mid-season group date.

And, I mean that in the best way possible. Once I woke up and realized that the world wasn’t waiting on me to have my entire life figured out, and that I was okay, despite not having my entire life figured out, 30 became what it is: a number.

I think it’s normal to believe that we’ll have experienced certain things by a certain time. Because we went through puberty at 13, got our license at 16, graduated high school at 18, and (*legally*) started drinking at 21, it feels like life should continue to follow suit. Meet soul mate by 26. Get married by 30. Have dream career by 32. Add in kids and homes, feeling settled and saving up.

My reality hasn’t looked like that. It’s been a lot less linear and a lot more like a mud run. The kind you sign up for because your best friend promises “it’ll be fun”, but by the time you both get to the start line and see the obstacles ahead of you, you stare at each other with matching “WTF did we just get ourselves into” expressions and hesitantly start jogging.

It’s messy. And sometimes you laugh. And sometimes you cry. And sometimes you do a weird hybrid of the two because you don’t know how to feel and all the emotions start morphing into one.

It’s exhilarating and exhausting. One minute you resist going to bed because you don’t want to miss a moment of what’s happening, and the next, all you want is to take the marathon nap of all naps because you’re so freaking tired and worn out.

It’s a lot of trial and error in the form of “cross your fingers”, and “say a prayers”, and, “flip a coin” and, “let’s see how this goes”. Because as it turns out, there isn’t a map, despite what all the how-to lists and expert advice on the internet would tell you.

It’s going to look different for me than it will for you. And it’ll probably look different than either of us anticipated. Life will throw us our own unique curve balls, joys, crises, miracles, can’t make this shit up, and magical moments. What we need far more than mile markers and measuring sticks are grace and space for ourselves and others.

If I’ve learned anything from this 30th year, it’s that life’s not a race to run or score to tally, after all. We’re each – doctors and lawyers, professors and business owners, writers and yoga teachers – sprinting and slogging through, alongside each other. And sharing the ups and downs of the journey feels better than comparing and competing in it ever could.


{featured image via pexels}

2 thoughts on “There Are No Road Maps. And That’s Okay

  1. Kaitlin Bain says:

    I LOVE this. I’m about to have the first birthday in a long slew of ones where nothing happens and I’m feeling kind of weird about it because I’m not where I thought I’d be.
    Also, your bachelor analogy is golden.

    Like

  2. Hayley McManus says:

    I love this post so much. Had me giggling at this part:
    “My reality hasn’t looked like that. It’s been a lot less linear and a lot more like a mud run. The kind you sign up for because your best friend promises “it’ll be fun”, but by the time you both get to the start line and see the obstacles ahead of you, you stare at each other with matching “WTF did we just get ourselves into” expressions and hesitantly start jogging.”

    Like

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