What Are You Waiting For In Your Thirties?

Sorry for the long post delay. I feel like I’ve waited way too long- which is the theme of this post.

Do you ever feel like you’re waiting around for that day when your life will get much better? For that moment you are finally in the shape of your life? For the year you can quit your job and retire? For that future time period when you can travel the world? And then you can be happy?

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Sometimes I catch myself waiting in this way. But what I’ve learned this year is that it’s almost impossible to be happy later if you can’t be happy now. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying- it’s my go to habit. I can feel myself clenching up sometimes, preparing for the worst. I guess I’ve always felt like somehow my anxiety helps me to get things done.

However, lately, when I focus on manually taking down my anxiety levels and allowing myself to be happy now, I still get things done. I don’t fall into a valley of hedonism like I’ve been afraid of doing. Nothing falls apart because- god forbid- I haven’t worried about it today. My anxiety hasn’t seemed to be necessary to have a productive day.

This lack-of-waiting-to- be-happy mentality brought up thoughts of another trip with Jane. We haven’t taken a trip together just for fun in over seven years. Last time we went to Austin, so this time we picked the equally bizarre city of Portland, and it was wonderful.

At first it felt weird planning a trip purely for fun, but why wait?And why not? We just got back yesterday night, and we were so happy we’d made the leap, took the trip, and didn’t wait for some ‘better time’ in the future.

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First night in Portland!

You are allowed to enjoy life right now. Choose happiness right this moment. Of course you will feel sad and anxious sometimes, and that’s absolutely okay and actually good and normal. But anxiety doesn’t need to be the status quo. You can feel all the feels. But you don’t have to stay miserable..or anxiously await a better time.The future is uncertain. Choose to be happy now. What are you waiting for?

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Blue Star Donuts!

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Voodoo!

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Portland Love!

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My One Piece of Advice for Younger Folks

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

I think about this question sometimes, but I’ve never nailed down a very clear answer for myself. But a few nights ago, I was at dinner with a group of new friends of mine, who all knew each other (for the most part) from high school. I was talking to two of the guys, one in his mid-30s, and the other in his early 40s. We started talking about how hard it is to make new friends at this age. By ‘this’ age, I think the unspoken assumption was that this was your 30s and above.

It was interesting to hear men talk about this problem too. One of the guys mentioned that  the last good friend he made was a worker at his local Dunkin Donuts. They realized they shared a similar sense of humor and started hanging out. I love that story!

Our most fertile time for making friendships seems to be when we’re young and in school. There seems to be something especially fertile about the high school environment for making new friends. We’re so vulnerable and open to the world.

Anyway. Back to my one piece of advice. I’d tell myself to hold on tight to those friendships. I mean, I did and that’s the best thing I ever did, but I would have tried even harder. I had one best friend in high school who felt as close to a soulmate as I had experienced, and who I kept up a very close friendship with until our early-mid 20s. But we had a devastating falling out. Probably the biggest regret of my life was not trying harder to make that work.

But the point is – you’ll never get the chance to make friends like the friends you’ll make from when you’re pre-18. You can’t know at that age that those are the people who will be the emotional backbone of your adult life. They will be your memory keepers. So I would say to my teen self – make friends – as many as you can – and hold on tight.

Togetherness and Continuing to Find Yourself In Your Thirties

One of my favorite new HBO shows, Togetherness, just got cancelled a few weeks ago. It’s a darn tragedy, because the show was brilliant and touching and all about the thirties.

Togetherness features four thirty-somethings all in unique places in their romantic and career lives. Two of them are a married couple with a house and kids. The other two are single, with one’s career (as an actor) taking off and the other’s (as the bringer of blow up castles to parties (really) ) stalling.

Throughout the two season series, the marriage of the main couple shows some slow-building cracks and begins to fall apart. The husband quits his job as a sound designer for movies and starts driving an Uber. The wife adds a volunteer job of starting a charter school to her stay-at-home-mom life and finds some happiness and power in doing that. Hook ups happen, cheating happens, drugs happen,  moments of intense clarity happen, kick the can in the park happens, characters grow into new jobs, characters find new parts of themselves, characters find new friends, characters fight, characters crash on couches, characters crash cars. Basically, a lot of the tumult and highs and lows and crazy and silly of the twenties happens here… in a more…grown up way? It’s hard to explain it except that I recognize it, and it’s amazing how this show has managed to capture it. Characters have already grown into themselves, but they’re growing into themselves again and again and again in their thirties.

What this show captures is what Jane and I have been trying to figure out here on this blog, but haven’t ever completely been able to pin down: that feeling of starting to know who you are and then using that knowledge to go with the new version of yourself that’s already begun to develop and will develop differently again and again. There’s a fluidity to a thirty-something that grows out of a solid foundation already built earlier. Meaning: you’ve already found a lot of yourself during or right before your thirties, but that self changes and grows and shifts and then is found over and over again. The thirties are about recognizing, from the self that you’ve already found, the changes that are happening to you. A thriving thirties decade is also about being able to communicate those changes with both yourself and with others. Also it’s about recognizing that you can’t compare your life with the lives of your friends and relatives- some people will have their careers laid out, some people will be switching around. Some people will have kids, some will stay single, some will get divorced. Your road is your own.

What makes the characters in Togetherness amazing is their ability to communicate with each other (eventually) throughout the series. Sometimes it takes a complete breakdown in communication, but the ‘togetherness’ of Togetherness stems from each fiercely independent character equally fiercely wanting to reach out to one another. The early marriage breakdown in the show stemmed from very slow communication breakdowns- nothing huge or obvious, just slow cracks. The show begins with shedding light on the cracks, which have to be revealed in order to be repaired. I feel like a lot of finding yourself in your thirties is about shedding light on slow cracks that have built up, tending to them, and rebuilding again and again.

Hopefully, there will be other shows this good at capturing the thirties decade. Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen Togetherness, what are you waiting for? Go watch it and enjoy!

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Living Far Away From Close Friends and Loved Ones

When I moved to California two and a half years ago, I left behind my parents and a lot of my closest friends. It was the toughest physical move I’ve ever had to make, because I left a robust support network to live in a city where I knew I’d struggle to make new friends. The first year was incredibly rough, I felt vulnerable and desperate to meet people. Yet, since I moved from NYC with my boyfriend at the time, I spent a lot of time with him and didn’t make as strong of an effort as I could have to make new friends. So some of the struggle could have been alleviated had I made more of an effort. But…

Flash-forward to 2.5 years of living in LA, and I feel much more contented and happy in my support network here. Having a weekly writer’s group has really helped with that, as well as meeting new people through the UCLA connections I’ve made from graduate school.

However, my closest friends are still my friends from home. And I miss them. A lot. Sometimes I don’t even realize just how much I miss them until I re-connect with one of them. For instance, I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with one of my closest friends from high school, and it felt like my heart battery was charged up again.

The more I come to face the reality that I may be in LA for quite a long time, the more I want to find ways to keep close to my old friends. And I read a startling fact about close friendships and face-to-face time that made me want to buy a plane ticket home to NYC stat.

In the book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier written by Susan Pinker, she writes:

In a study of the effect of Internet use on social relationships in adults aged eighteen to sixty-three, Dutch psychologist Thomas Pollet found that time spent using online social networks resulted in more online contacts but didn’t translate into genuine offline connections or a feeling of closeness. Indeed, not only is online contact experienced as less fun, but without face-to-face contact, social relationships decay and are soon replaced by others… “Emotional closeness declines by around 15 percent a year in the absence of face-to-face contact, so that in five years someone can go from being an intimate acquaintance to the most distant outer layer of your 150 friends,” says Dunbar.

Isn’t it crazy to hear that emotional closeness decreases by 15% every year you don’t see your friends face-to-face? When I heard the data quantified like that, it really shook me up. Would it change the way you travel? Because for me, it makes me want to schedule more girls weekends with my friends out of town, and make sure I have a solid two-week trip home to NYC planned at least once a year. I never want to decline 15% each year in closeness with my best buds.

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