A lot of people I know turned 30 this year or late last year and frequently what I hear expressed by them is, “I haven’t accomplished anything.”
I’m turning 30 on April 30th. That’s right. It’s my golden birthday. I’m not sure what I have accomplished. Honestly, I’ve more thoroughly considered which Jeffree Star or Melt lipstick I should buy with gifted birthday money. (I count it as nothing short of a birthday miracle that so many cruelty-free makeup brands are re-stocking this month.) Of course it’s worthwhile to consider choices you’ve made. It’s also worthwhile to add some color in your life where possible. Purple lipstick war paint does that nicely.
To my friends who, in their late twenties and early 30’s lament over “not accomplishing anything”, I have this consolation to offer — most people don’t accomplish anything really fascinating that early and even if they have they probably can’t recognize what it is that they’ve done or why they’ve done it. The people who do truly remarkable things early in life usually just end up burning out and screwing up later. Like child actors and poorly made fireworks. Occasionally there’s the freak who manages to have the longevity of the tortoise without actually being one — maybe an elephant? — but it’s not useful to compare yourselves to those people.
Just like comparing yourself to a friend that comes from a really wealthy family who therefore goes on a lot of exciting trips. He or she did not “accomplish” touring Italy for the summer. He or she did not “accomplish” having no student debt and thus being able to take an indefinite internship at an organic farm in New Hampshire. Your friend might be a hard-working, generous, compassionate person, but they are not better than you just because they have a more superficially exciting Instagram.
Your life, like mine, is probably composed mostly of small things. Beautiful, small things. I bet you have done a lot more than you give yourself credit for because those successes were not glamorous.
Maybe for years you took tiny measures to keep your mother or father out of jail and out of a coffin. Had to figure out at 17 or 18 how to be a mother while still trying to figure out what you want. Worked full-time while going to school full-time. Lost your home and had to come to terms with how impermanent such an important structure and symbol can be. Divorced and had to really learn what it means to be independent.
Maybe you learned how to love other people. Decided to have boundaries, but not barriers. Made it a point to be a better listener. Started a garden. Shared affection without expectation or guilt. Gave a gift. Received a gift. Read a book about an unfamiliar subject. Spent an afternoon in a museum. Walked on an unfamiliar trail. Completely changed your career path. Decided to stay instead of leave. Decided to leave instead of stay. Spoke up because you had something to say. Allowed silence because it felt right.
Living is necessarily a vulnerable state of being. More than likely, you have accomplished some living. And that’s quite a thing. The shiny and exciting part is you’re not done yet.