Afraid to turn 30? Feeling blah? Quarter-Life Crisis?
It was a simple joke, but I remember tearing up that night as I fell asleep. “Almost Thirty” the birthday cake had read in pink frosting, my husband smiling as the family laughed. At twenty-nine, though, the prospect of turning thirty induced an increased heart rate, sleepless nights, and terror.
There are a lot of reasons I think I was so afraid of turning thirty. Part of it was probably because of the movie Thirteen Going on Thirty, where thirty was the magical age that was the end of the line. It was the age where you were supposed to not only have your shit together but be thriving, too.
At at twenty-nine, I really didn’t feel like I was set to thrive in my thirties–although you wouldn’t know it from the outside looking in.
From the outside, everything was “normal” in my life, maybe even a little magical. I was married to my junior high sweetheart, and we had a house with a dog. I was teaching, my dream since I was a little girl, and I’d even had a few novels published. I hit the USA Today Bestseller’s list and was also teaching at a college one night a week.
But the thing is, I was terrified to turn thirty–and I think it’s because even then, I think I’d realized something so many of us face, especially in modern society: adult life isn’t magical. In fact, a big part of growing up feels like letting the magic behind. And that terrified me.
Are you struggling to find joy?
At thirty-five, I’d like to tell you my tears about the new decade were unfounded. I’d like to tell you I cruised right through the decade of terrors. But that would be a lie.
The truth is, the beginning of my thirties sort of sucked. Some of it was specific, external events, such as my husband losing his job and my mastiff, my soul dog, dying. Some if it was also because of the dreaded 2020 year and all that ensued from that. But to be honest, I think a lot of it was just internal. It was me realizing that even though I had everything I was supposed to want, I was walking through life like a zombie. I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. I wasn’t joy-filled. I was, most days, just trying to survive. There was a meme I saw around this time about a vending machine with a sign that said: The light’s still on but actually dead. And that meme, which was supposed to be funny, was exactly how I felt.
But over the past years, as I’ve tried to sort through that feeling, tried to re-discover joy, wonder, and adventure, I’ve come to learn this: I’m not the only one.
That’s the thing, dear reader. I think so many of us, especially women, walk around with the perfect smile on to convince others we’re all good. We post on social media, we use our manners, and we tell ourselves we have to be grateful. We convince ourselves that it’s selfish to want anything more. But more and more I’m understanding that for so many of us, the thirties bring about a shift for so many of us–a shift from chasing that dream we thought we wanted to the reality setting in that maybe that wasn’t what we wanted at all.
For some of us, it also brings about that dreaded question: Is this all? Is this really all there is?
Five years in, I can tell you that I don’t have a magic potion or a quick solve or a simple change to make it all click for you. It’s work. It’s a whole lot of steps forward and steps back. However, I am here to tell you this: It IS possible to find that spark again. It IS possible to enjoy your life more, to feel more fulfilled, and to get excited again. It’s possible to find the magic, in short.
Which brings me to my first tip for rediscovering the magic: You have to face the fact that you’re not happy. I think we live in a society where women are encouraged to hide emotions that could be “ugly.” We’re told to plaster the word “blessed” on bracelets, throw pillows, and posters. We’re told to be grateful for what we have. And I’m all about gratitude. I’m all about appreciating the small things and what you’ve got.
But I don’t think it should come at a cost of masking your true heart. I don’t think it means we should walk around with a smile on when our life is making us miserable. I don’t think we should pretend to glow when our soul is dying.
So the first thing I hope you do today is to ask yourself: Am I walking around feeling dead inside? Am I struggling to find joy in my everyday life? Am I miserable more than I’m happy?
It’s not an easy set of questions to face, especially when you feel like you’ve followed the prescribed path to success and done it all right. It’s not easy to wake up one day and realize your dream might no longer be your dream, or that you might have to make changes.
Still, five years later, I can tell you it’s worth it. I see people in the grocery store who say I just look happier. I see myself in the mirror and I no longer see a woman who is cracking as she tries to smile wider and convince everyone, including herself, that life is perfect. I see a woman who feels a spark again.
Come Back on Mondays For Specific Tips
Over the next few Mondays, I’m going to be digging deeper into this topic and sharing with you tried and true tips that worked for me to pull me out of my rut, to put me in a better headspace, and to set myself up to thrive, not just survive, in my thirties–and beyond.
If you’re someone who has struggled with feeling blah, with feeling like the spark is gone, I hope you’ll join me on Facebook www.facebook.com/ladetwiler or on my blog www.ladetwiler.com. I’m really hoping that by coming together to talk about the struggles of identity, fulfillment, and rediscovering joy, we can uplift each other and encourage each other to take the road less traveled by–the road to true fulfillment, which is sometimes more difficult than cruising along but worth it.
If you’re struggling to find your passion or to find happiness; If you’re unsure of your career or wanting to chase a big dream but are scared; If you’re not feeling like yourself; If you’re feeling miserable; If you’re feeling more negative than ever; then join us. It isn’t a straight, one-size-fits-all path to happiness. But I’m hoping some of the tips and tricks that worked for me might inspire you.
Feel free to send this along to a friend who might need it, and thanks for being here with me!
Author L.A. Detwiler
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books