I turned thirty this year.
Ticking over into the new decade introduced pressures that I hadn’t known existed. What I didn’t see coming, hidden somewhere behind the three or the zero, was the measuring stick. Thirty came and brought with it a bar against which I would compare various aspects of my life and see if I measured up.
Those who had succumbed to their thirtieth birthdays before me had tried to tell me that there was just something different about being thirty than twenty-nine, but no one could put it into words.
Now I can tell you that for me, at least, it’s the measuring stick.
Or, more importantly, my measuring stick.
You see, what I didn’t realize is that I’d been establishing the bar for myself all throughout my twenties (and probably well before) without realizing I was doing it. I had abstract visions of what my life would look like “in my future.”
What job I would have, what my earning potential would be, whom I would be spending my life with, and where I would be living were all things I thought about as existing in that perpetual fantasyland of “tomorrow.” I never solidified goals for any of those things. I never set out with a step-by-step plan that identified exactly what I wanted and how I intended to achieve it. On some level I just assumed that I would recognize it when I had it.
Well, now I’m thirty, and I still don’t have it.
I went to college, then to graduate school, and then expended all of my energy on finding any paying job during the recession (and consequential hiring freeze). Once I actually convinced someone to give me one, I settled in and hammered out the next few years essentially repeating the same day over and over again without giving it much thought and without setting any new goals for my life. The rest, I figured, would just happen when it happened.
Now I’m realizing that may have been a mistake.
Let me precede the rest of this by saying that I truly live a blessed life. The job that I have is a very good one as nine-to-fives go. I am in the best health of my life. I have a wonderful family that loves each other. None of that is diminished by the realization that I haven’t achieved what (I thought) I had set out to achieve.
I have an amazing foundation. Now I’m seeking to build upon it in ways that I’ve neglected.
Which brings me to the purpose of this blog series. At the recommendation of a friend, who (tongue in cheek) said she’d started reading it thinking it would help her be a better woman, I’m working my way through Lucia van der Post’s Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me, a book about (as I see it) the art of genuine grace and elegance. Van der Post was a career journalist writing what she refers to as “lifestyle” pages, dealing with beauty, fashion, nutrition, decorating, and more.
“Having family and friends we love and care bout is all that most of us need to wake up with a smile. If we can then add some graceful flourishes to that foundation – if we can look good, feel well, enjoy our leisure, create a home that’s filled with peace and some well-chosen decorative touches, good food that doesn’t break one’s back to serve, flowers, books, and wine – we’re almost there.”
-Lucia van der Post
I’ve realized in the months since my thirtieth birthday that the distance between where I am and where I thought I would be by now could be closed with a little more effort on my part to transform an abstract wish into a concrete action plan, with a deadline for a little added push.
With that thought in mind, I’m going to document my progress through van der Post’s book. I’m hopeful that a little inspiration will go a long way here and that by Christmas of next year I’ll be able to look back and say I’m a heck of a lot closer to meeting that bar that I set for myself somewhere along the way.
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