I turned thirty this month. I was lucky to be surrounded by my family on a relaxing trip out of town. It is a difficult age to turn. Thirty is the bridge between the dreams of youth, and the middle aged responsibility of life. It is still a very young age, and yet feels very old. It may be inevitable that every decade starting at 30, we look inward at our own sense of accomplishment and compare that with what we see others in our age group accomplishing, both the people we know and the celebrities we unconsciously compare ourselves to. Thirty is the first numeric milestone without society explicitly telling us what we should be doing. At ten we are too young to truly understand our own mortality, and at twenty there is college life and the struggle for independence from parental control and for most of us the long wait to 21 to start really living. By thirty we have mostly realized that the lines society fed us from a young age are mostly BS, and the only measure we have anymore is how well we match up to our idealistic youth projections. Did we turn out like we expected, or is the child within us disappointed at what we have become?
My evolution from a feverish dream chaser to a family oriented man was gradual and yet pointed. I realize how good I actually have it at my Big Corporate Job – a set schedule, regular good sized pay checks, decent paid vacation, and other perks. I have good health, a wonderful wife, and an amazing and healthy family. It isn’t everything I ideally want in life, but it’s pretty incredible. Being thankful for what I have is a healthier state of mind than scorning it and looking at the stars for guidance. In that at least, I am progressing.
After several months of making finding my life purpose my life purpose, I believe I have hit on something, not fully fleshed out yet, but enough to get me started. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that by thirty I should have started on my life’s work, though I am not yet sure what my life’s work actually is. Perhaps it will be obvious in retrospect, like the biographies I read where it seems success is inevitable, and the small coincidences critical to eventual success are clearly laid out. For now, life seems open and variable. As I grow older, I have less and less time to pursue personal dreams and work – starting a successful software company seems further and further out of reach.
My father is a lawyer and runs his own law practice. I sometimes wonder how he had the courage to start it. He once told me about the critical moment in his life where his path was determined. He was a young man, recently passed the bar exam, and having just married my mother. They were in their 20’s, without much money at all, and barely scraping by. He was recruited by a prestigious firm to work on contract and corporate law, and he was given a generous offer. When he was driving out to the office for a final discussion, he decided not to take the job, came back home, and started his own litigation practice, where he struggled to make ends meet and make a name for himself for years before becoming a successful small practice. I got the impression that if he had taken the job, he didn’t think he would have ever gone out on his own, as the pressure for regular pay checks only grows stronger as you grow older. Sometimes I wonder if I have missed my opportunity to risk it all the way my father did, or if I am just a coward giving myself excuses for taking the easy way and staying at a good job.
Either way, my life is pretty good, and I am thankful for that every day.