Are you satisfied?

One of my friends from film school was recently telling me about having lunch with one of our esteemed professors from UCLA. This professor is an amazing, kind-hearted man who’s beloved by his community. He turned 80 years old last year and still teaches two classes in the Masters film program. I’d say his name here, but I feel weird about it, since I haven’t asked him if I can talk about him on this blog. (Though, I am sure he would be happy for me to share this.)

I took two classes with him while I was in school, and he talked a lot about what success and satisfaction look like for his students – aspiring directors, writers, and producers in the MFA program.

The other day, my friend reminded me of something this professor said about life satisfaction that I wanted to share here. Basically, the level of your satisfaction in life equals reality over expectations. So, essentially, you’ll be more satisfied with your life if you’re happy with your reality and don’t have expectations that you have no control over.

This equation reminds me of a fortune cookie quote I got in college –  “Expectations reduce joy.” It’s hard not to have expectations because as human beings, I think we’re hard-wired to go into most situations with a desired outcome. But if we can just focus on the actual process of doing things and being in the present with the people around us, maybe we won’t think about our expectations of outcomes so much.

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Rebooting Old Friendships

As an only child, I’ve been fascinated by friendship since pre-school, when I had the opportunity to make my very first real friend.  Whose name I don’t remember…oops!

On my birthday two weeks ago, an old college friend who I haven’t spoken to in maybe 5 years reached out to me. There was never a falling-out between us. Rather, she mysteriously disappeared. She stopping returned emails, texts, calls and just vanished. A group of her friends from med school and I tried to figure out what was going on, but we couldn’t track her down. Because we knew she had disappeared on other people at an earlier stage in her life, and that there had been recent drama in her life, we didn’t think she was kidnapped or anything crazy like that. We knew she must have chosen to leave of her own volition. Also, one friend heard from her and passed along the information that she was safe but not looking to be contacted.

Back to my birthday. I got an email from this old friend who disappeared. It was a very simple message – she wished me a happy birthday and apologized for missing so much of my live/events in my life, etc. and asked if I’d be willing to open up a friendship again. She didn’t mention why she disappeared or what happened.

While some people might have been hurt to have been left by a friend, I was excited to hear from her. She was someone who I didn’t depend on completely for emotional support, and I something I loved about her was her independence and free spirited nature. While we never had that much in common, I always enjoyed spending time with her and loved her intellect and passion for life. She inspired me because she gave 100% to everything she did – becoming a neurosurgeon, going to residency, and then deciding to quit it all to write. She’s now got a book published. It’s pretty amazing. She’s already accomplished so many big deal things in her life.

We’ve been emailing back and forth a few times, but we haven’t gotten to meaty subjects yet, though I’m sure that is coming in time.

I read an article this week about how to deal with re-building these sorts of friendships – ones that disappear and then re-emerge: A Psychologist Explains How to Revive a Dead Friendship.

The most important take-away from the article for me was this: when re-building an old friendship, you need to be willing to see that person with a completely fresh set of eyes. Easier said than done, but I think it’s the only way to have an authentically honest new friendship.

It’s like if an artist were to paint another painting on top of an already used canvas. Like, when art historians discover than underneath a Picasso was an older Picasso painting he painted years prior.

I’m not sure what will happen with my new/old friend, especially because we don’t live in the same city, but I’m curious to find out.

A Somewhat Rambling Post On Turning 35

In March, I’ll turn 35 years old. Kinda crazy to think about. I still feel like I just entered my thirties, the decade so many people told me would be the best of my life. So far, that’s been true for me. All those cliches about getting older were validated – you’re more confident in your own skin and you give less sh**s about what other people think. I’m still working on the comparison game however; it’s hard for me not to look at folks my age who have high-powered careers and families, and wonder why I’m eating frozen burritos in my apartment with no kitchen.

But the thing is, while I can compare myself to other people my age, I also realize I made the choice to be a writer – to follow this path where nothing is predictable and quality work doesn’t always correlate with dollar bills. I knew full well that making solid money from this wasn’t the primary goal. And the truth is, knowing I have this deep passion for storytelling and that I’m trying to pursue it as a career is way more valuable to me than a six-figure paycheck. (Though I eventually want that, too!). I like to think that the longer and harder the journey, the sweeter the success will feel when I get there.

I feel excited about turning 35. It feels substantial. I feel substantial.

So, I find it somewhat hilarious that in an interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump talked about women’s ages and said: “What is it at 35, Howard?” Trump wondered aloud. “It’s called checkout time.”

I can’t formulate a better reply to this than writer Michelle Ruiz’s in her Vogue article, On Turning 35, the Age at Which Donald Trump Dumps His Girlfriends.

Here’s how she reacted:

But, upon further consideration, I think Trump is exactly right. Women at 35 are “too experienced.” Too experienced to see themselves as a man’s possession to be “checked out” on. Too experienced to constantly second-guess themselves and whether or not they deserve their compliments, their jobs, or their promotions. Too experienced, for sure, to sell their souls to Oompa Loompa–color sugar daddies with penchants for pussy grabbing. Today, at 35, I’m largely out of fucks to give, and, to borrow a phrase from Trump, as “nasty” as I want to be. I’m more willing to speak my mind than ever, and I care significantly less than I did 10 years ago about what other people think. And, as a bonus, I like my body and my bank account balance better now, too.

A little life experience will do that for you. Many 35-year-old women, myself included, have been around the block, or even the whole neighborhood. We’ve been dumped, disregarded, laid off, and underestimated; made mistakes, taken chances; failed miserably; in some cases, even hit rock bottom. We’ve lost friends and parents and found a little more of our ourselves. (Lose a friend in his 20s, or see a college classmate lose her toddler son to cancer, and suddenly, complaining about a 35th birthday loses its fun). We’ve gone from assistants to bosses, gotten married, birthed babies, or done none of the above, and discovered our own resilience all the same. If this makes women of 35 undesirable to Trump, or anyone else, then, as fellow 35-year-old Beyoncé would say: Boy, bye.

That’s one of the great things about being in your 30s – you don’t have time for people who find you undesirable or unworthy. You know to never settle for people who don’t fully support you. As our first President so wisely said:

“Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

-George Washington

How Would You Answer This Question?

What would you say if someone asked you if you agreed with the below statement?

“I’m confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.”

I would say yes. But I happen to be a pretty optimistic person generally (if, anxious).

In a study at Clark University completed by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, 655 thirtysomethings were asked the same question – if they agreed with the above statement.

And guess what percentage said yes? 87%. Not only that, but more than three quarters said they still feel like “anything is possible.”  That’s pretty impressive, especially considering how many thitysomethings feel like they aren’t where they want to be career-wise or personally (That’s my informal, completely un-researched opinion after talking to my friends).

Arnett, the researcher, was surprised by these results, and while he said they are admirable, he also felt they were unrealistic. That’s because he also asked these thirtysomethings if they have gotten as far in their careers as they’d hoped to be by now. And 56% of respondents (born between 1975 and 1984) said they haven’t gotten as far in their careers as they’d have hoped to by now. And 17% said they are not in a relationship now but would like to be.

Maybe it’s because we may not feel like we’re at the ‘destination’ of where we want to be, but we’re enjoying the ‘journey’ a heck of a lot. Personally, I do love the fact that I have more time and freedom right now than people with children or very demanding jobs. That time has allowed me to explore screenwriting and TV writing as a career.

We also might not be settling for less. We’re realizing that it may take a longer time to get exactly what we want, but it’s way better than settling for a mediocre career or relationship situation that society tells us is what we should have in our 30s.

Portrait of a Thirty-Something: Jennifer Harder

We are thrilled to present our fourth Portrait of a Thirty-Something interview with Jennifer Harder, a performing artist in New York City. Jennifer works as an actor, horn player, and a neo-vaudevillian (which if you haven’t heard that term, as I hadn’t, it means bringing back sideshow, circus, burlesque, and other live nightlife of yesteryear). I love how open Jennifer is about finding more peace with herself and how she’s learned to let go of seeking approval from others. Enjoy her interview, and a big thank you to Jennifer!

You can visit her website here.

Name/Age/Location: Jennifer Harder/34/Brooklyn, NY  AC_Portraits5B__033 as Smart Object-2 copy

Occupation: Performing Artist

What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your 30s so far? Feeling at home and at peace in my own skin has been something I never thought would happen. It’s glorious.

What do you NOT miss about your 20s? I don’t miss the striving for “perfection” that I thought was lurking around every corner.  I was fairly close-minded in my early years about what constituted “success” and what that then meant.  On nearly every endeavor, I hardly enjoyed the journey and when I got to the destination it seemed hollow and unsatisfying.

Looking back, what shouldn’t you haven’t been afraid of in your 20s? People! I was so afraid of what they thought, gaining their approval, disappointing them, being dismissed by them, etc.  We are all in the same boat; the idea that we’re somehow different or separated from one another is imaginary.  People are truly what life is all about: a full life is one in which you share your moments with each other.

Any surprises about what your 30s are like? My mind has expanded exponentially and I’m able to look back on my stories of mishap and adventure with wisdom and without judgement.  I never really thought my 30s would be any different, but am pleasantly surprised with the maturity and peace of mind I’ve found.

What do you find most challenging about this decade? I might be at a crossroads with my career and it’s proving to be both frustrating and illuminating.  I may be emotional one day and excited the next about where life might take me.

What are you most looking forward to? Be it tonight, next month or ten years from now! I’m looking forward to becoming more spiritual, which is another area I never thought I’d explore.  I’m also looking forward to trying new things and seeing new places.

What would you like to hear more about regarding the thirties. What articles would you like to read?  I’d like to hear stories of people who have changed focus in their careers.

Be a Part of Portrait of a Thirtysomething!

We just published our first interview series with the wonderful and talented Eljon Wardally yesterday. We learned a lot about her experiences as a thirtysomething, including that it never helped to be stressed in her 20s about where she was going to end up in her 30s, and that it’s challenging to be expected to be married with kids by 34 (agh, this is always a major issue for thirtysomethings, isn’t it? Sigh.)

We’d love for as many of our wonderful readers to be a part of this series as possible! We’re trying to shed as much light as possible on the thirties decade, and of course everyone will have different experiences. But we’ll be looking for some patterns. If you’re reading this blog, and wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about the thirties, we’d be extremely interested in featuring you! Write to us at omgimthirty@gmail.com, and we’ll talk about details 🙂

Questions we’ll ask will include the challenges you didn’t expect to face in your thirties, facets about aging you were most scared of in your twenties (and/or are still scared of), the biggest surprises about the 30’s, and more. Also, we’ll be sure to link to your blog or website if you have one.

Thanks so much for reading! Here’s to shedding lots of beautiful light on the mysterious do-or-die decade! 

Eljon Wardally

The wonderful and fantastic 34 year old playwright, Eljon Wardally- our first Portrait of a Thirtysomething interviewee! 🙂

 

 

How to Set Goals for Finances- New Years Resolutions Series

The countdown to 2015 continues…though hopefully no one’s standing outside in Times Square yet waiting for the ball to drop. You never know, though. I wouldn’t put it past people.

Anyway, I thought I’d kick off some New Years resolution money talk for thirty-somethings.

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Last year, I made a resolution to put 30 percent of every paycheck I received towards savings, student loan debt and retirement. I actually started doing this slightly before New Years so I cheated a bit.

I split up the 30 percent this way- 10 percent went into my Roth IRA, 10 percent towards my savings, and 10 percent towards my smallest student loan. (My largest student loan already had a crazy amount of money going towards it because its minimum was so high. But I digress.)

And I followed my financial resolutions through thick and thin for the whole year and am continuing with them. There was a moment where I even tried to up my payout percentage to 40%, but that was way too much. Other than that- the 30% resolution was actually quite simple: whenever I received a paycheck I’d log onto Chase.com and make my transfers. There was something extremely satisfying about the whole thing.

If you’re making financial resolutions for the New Year, my advice is much like Jane’s in her last post: break down the goal into easy steps. My financial resolutions last year were simply:

1. Put money into savings

2. Pay down student loan

3. Put money into Roth IRA

A lot less would have gotten done if I’d stopped there instead of making the simple breakdown of 10% from every paycheck towards each category.

So, if you have savings goals, save yourself a headache and break them down into steps that seem so easy as to be almost automatic. In fact, you can even automate the savings process by having your bank automatically put a certain amount of money into your Roth IRA and savings account every month. Just about all banks will do this for you.

Since I’m self-employed and am paid a different amount every month, I kept my process manual. Also, I get a gleeful joy out of manually saving money, but I’m weird like that.

Anyway, this year my financial goals are:

1) Pay extra $$ towards my BIG student loan

-This is broken down into the easy steps of

a) Finish paying down the little student loan the same way I was before. Just about done!

b) Put the 10% (plus the monthly minimum) I was putting into the small loan towards the big loan instead.

Tada!

2) Find a savings account that pays way more interest than my bank. 

– Done! I guess once more I cheated on this one…I did it last week before New Years. But don’t worry if you hate your savings account, I’ll talk about better ones in another post soon and help you set that up too if you like. For now, if you’re interested in how much you should be saving, I wrote about it here.

3) Switch my Retirement Plan from a Vanguard Target Date fund to a different Vanguard account now that I have more money in my Roth IRA. 

– This involves a couple of breakdown steps including investigating Vanguard’s other options and figuring out more about how to manually choose funds. I’ll explain why I’m doing this in another post as well. And if you’re interested in retirement plans in general (or if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about), I talk all about why retirement accounts are important here and here and here.

Of course, there’s my fourth financial resolution which I haven’t yet broken down, and that’s:

4) Discover additional sources of income. 

I lied about not having this goal last year. I have this goal every year, and I’m always messing with the breakdown. There’s quite a bit of work ahead. Sometimes breaking down resolutions can be as tough as keeping them 😉

What are some of your financial resolutions for the new year?

Real Happiness Begins at Age 33?

In four months, I’ll be turning 33. And apparently, I have a lot to look forward to, according to a study by Friends Reunited, a British social networking site. In the 2012 study, 70% of respondents over the age of 40 claimed they were not truly happy until they reached age 33.

One of the study’s authors, psychologist Donna Dawson, explains the findings this way:

“The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth…By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. I definitely feel like I’ve been more confident in my abilities in the past few years than I was in my twenties. And overall, I just like myself better. I don’t put much stock in if other people like me or not. Because if they don’t like me, most of the time, I don’t like them either. It just seems to work out that way. And realizing that is liberating.

Another recent study (also, British – those Brits must love these happiness studies!) done by The Huffington Post UK Lifestyle and YouGov found that the average person doesn’t achieve ‘true contentment’ until age 38. The study asked 2,000 Brits between ages 18-80 and took into account the respondents’ contentment with relationships, family, friends, and jobs.

So if you’re reading this post and stuck in a early thirties crisis, hopefully you can take a little comfort and relief in these studies.

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