I’m turning 30 this year and I’m psyched about it. I mean, proper psyched. While most of my friends of the same age are worried, I’m out here loving turning “old”.
I remember clearly when my sister turned 30, almost 18 years ago. I was just a young boy and it seemed infinitely far away. My brother and I made fun of her. A whole lot. She was officially becoming “old”. 14 years later, it was time for my sister’s revenge on my brother turning 30 himself. This November, I’ll have two people out for blood to make fun of me.
Yet, I don’t feel any kind of stress. On the contrary, I’m looking forward to reaching the big 3 0.
After all, I’m already “old” in the eyes of many of the people I know. And for good reasons! I have quite the list of “old man” attributes:
- My baldness is definitely not at a level I can hide anymore.
- I sleep most nights between 9 and 10 p.m.
- I wake up at 5 a.m. most mornings.
- I enjoy putting classical music to listen in the office.
- I like to sit down with a coffee and read for a while.
- I don’t take part in allnighters anymore.
- If I go out, I’ll head back by a certain hour, no matter whether I’m having fun or not.
From the outside, this looks like a boring life to many. But this life is exactly what I enjoy.
The beauty of this is that I’ve realized many misconceptions about “getting old”. Of course, I’m not talking about retirement or getting into a home. Those are still far, far away. But the “midlife crisis” doesn’t have to make you feel bad. Here are some of the important aspects to remember.
1. Time is of the essence
I am more conscious of my time and the decisions I make. My priorities come above the look in others’ eyes. Even what seems like the tiniest of choices to a friend will usually be the result of a calculation on the better solution. Not the best. There’s always better and I’d just waste time looking for the best.
The lessons we learn from experience are too often overlooked. They teach us how to act or react to various situations. Yet, we make the same mistakes over and over again.
I’ve gone to hundreds of parties in my life. I’ve often come back home satisfied by the time spent. I’ve also often regretted staying because a friend told me to have another drink.
In my favorite TV show of all time, How I Met Your Mother, the main character, Ted, talks about a saying his mother told him as a kid:
“Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”
I’ve agreed on this for almost a decade. And yet, I’ve stayed later than 2 a.m. more times than I can remember. Often seeing this come true. But as the years passed by, I’ve noticed this rule starts becoming true by 11 p.m. most of the time.
Those times I’ve regretted staying later? They often followed a drink that’d made me arrive back home after midnight. Which means I had stayed out past 11 p.m.
It took a few years for my friends to start stopping to ask for that extra glass. I still have some who insist to this day. But I’ve made my peace with that and enjoy the fresh look on my face in the next early morning.
Sure, I’ll make some exceptions. I recently went to the 10th anniversary of Nujabes’ death. — If you don’t know him, you definitely should check out the 6-part Luv Sic songs. — It was a concert from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. and I was worried about how it’d turn out. Funny thing? It was planned so that allowed me to let go and appreciate it. Nothing bad happened after 2 a.m.
Time is precious. Manage it and understand how you use it. Would you throw out the window 86,400 dollars in a day? No? Then don’t throw away the 86,400 seconds you have today. Organize them and, then, add some flexibility.
2. Have a flexible rhythm
My mornings are pretty much set. Before I get to bed, I have my diary and my Burmese textbook ready. I have my clothes ready too. And I’ll follow a set pattern every day, as long as no disruption occurs. Because they do!
Right now, with a friend staying over for two months, I can’t follow my “perfect” morning routine. The moment I set foot outside my room, there’s a risk of a conversation that’d mess up my fresh mind. The article I’m already writing in my head might get lost. The calm to read a book or meditate might disappear.
What do I do then? I head out for a 10–20 minutes run without headphones. The fresh air, the calm, and the blue sky get my head ready for the day. By the time I’m back home, I’ve usually found some key points for an article or organized a latter part of the week.
Having a set rhythm allows you to get rid of useless thoughts and get straight to what matters to you. It’s crucial to use your time at its fullest potential. But without the flexibility to adapt, you’re bound to get stuck on tiny things. Who wants that?
3. Let go of the right things
As you grow older, experiences pile up pretty quickly. I’m not even 30 yet and I already have countless stories to tell and knowledge amassed. Of course, this isn’t about to stop any time soon.
Holding on to your past is a risky task. On one hand, memories are what we’re made of and losing those would amount to living a meaningless life. It’s what we’ve lived that make us who we are. But on the other hand, keeping too many things close to heart will only weigh you down. It’ll prevent you from becoming better.
“In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” — Deepak Chopra
As I recently wrote about, I contacted one of my exes to talk about myself, about stuff that certainly will hurt me. One friend told me it was stupid, that I should let go of that relationship. It ended almost 4 years ago after all. But that’s where he missed the nuance.
Yes, I did let go of that relationship. I don’t expect anything from her, nor do I want to find excuses for how it turned out. What I want is to discover stuff about myself that I might have missed. Sure, some will be outdated. But if I get just one thing, it’ll still be one more thing I know.
Looking into your past doesn’t have to be a completely positive or negative experience. It’s about finding nuances within your past, cleaning what doesn’t matter anymore while retaining what does. Dissect your own experiences. Not only you’ll learn from the right parts, but you’ll also leave space for future lessons.
4. Appreciate right now
The past, the future, time. All of it is important, but what about the present? When was the last time you took notice of the smooth wind caressing your cheeks? When did you last feel the weight of your body?
As time passes, I’ve noticed we constantly talk about the past or the future. What the weather will be. What we did yesterday. What the plan for next weekend is. What hurt us in the past, and so on. Yet we never stop to appreciate our life in the moment.
“Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about.” — Marilyn Monroe
Even in the worst days, good things are happening in your life. Even when work is killing you, when your client just triggered your anger, or when you’re heart-broken, right now is beautiful.
Children are always running around, looking for the next thing. And then the next. And again and again. Sure, most are happy. But that’s because they take action and the action itself, in the moment, is helping them be happy. Adults look for the next thing and forget the action, the present moment.
Stop for a second, look up and find the beauty around you. It is everywhere around you.
Last week, while waiting for the bathroom in a coffee shop, I saw a small quirk in the, otherwise immaculate, wall next to me. Isn’t it funny how life is full of quirks and yet it still keeps going without a problem?
5. Being alone is awesome
I thought I had always liked being alone. But in reality, I was never truly alone. When I was a teenager, I loved being alone in my room but then I’d spend all my time on MSN Messenger or Facebook when it came out. I’d be on the phone all the time too.
When I grew older, being present at most parties was crucial for me. The idea of staying home while others were having fun together was plain scary. Big case of FOMO right here.
Now? If you come to see me without connection to the outside world, in my apartment or the forest, you’ll find a magnificent smile on my face. Spending time for myself has, without fault, been the best investment I’ve done in my life.
I can read, write, learn, and discover new things altogether. I can focus on what matters to me. I can become better as a person.
6. Be happy with who you are
In the process of personal growth, it’s quite natural to start judging yourself. After all, if you had started earlier, you’d be far better off now, wouldn’t you?
But would you really though? If you had started earlier, then your mindset, and your experiences and your perception of them would have been different from now.
If you ask someone in their sixties or seventies, most won’t tell you they hate themselves. Maybe they’re not satisfied with some parts of their lives, but they are comfortable with who they are.
Part of the hurdle of becoming bald is to accept it. I’ve fought it for years. I used to hate seeing my hairline grow thinner and thinner. My dad? He’s been bold for the past 40 to 50 years and he’s very comfortable with it. I’d even say he likes it. And you know what? I’m starting to like the style it gives me, too.
Does this mean you should just accept who you are and give up on improving yourself? Of course not! Being happy with who you are doesn’t mean you can let yourself go. It doesn’t mean you can’t be better.
What it means is that you should feel good about yourself and aim for a process that makes you feel better. Not a goal. A process.
Life itself is a process. A process of being born and heading towards your death. Do you spend all your time contemplating your death? No. You live for what’s in between those two points in time.
Enjoy now. Enjoy yourself. Stop caring about reaching a certain age. What you’re “supposed to have achieved”. What others’ expectations are. The moment you were born, you were old. You were 1 second-old. Then 2, and so on. Maybe you have some decades behind you. But you’ll have many others ahead.
Take care of your time and your attention. But above all, have fun! After all, what’s a life without some fun?
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Mathias Barra is a French polyglot living in Japan, who has learned 6 languages and dabbled in many others. Being a curious child full of wonders is how he keeps on learning and can’t stop sharing every tiny idea or discovery.