“The swerve” describes people facing a mid-30s crisis. It began when New York writer Rachel Syme shared on her Twitter how people in their 30s go through, “lurches and swerves”. It generated a sea of responses from other people going through the same thing. Without realising it, she’d voiced an opinion many of us share.

“Feels like so many big decisions and future plans have to be squeezed into this lil window; just me?”, wrote Syme.

Rachel, it isn’t just you. The mid-30s crisis is totally a thing.

BIG 30s Decisions 

The 20s seemed all about having fun. A decade of mistakes, fucking up, good times and testing out life. Errors were inevitable and nothing felt out of bounds in those 20s for me. And then the 30s came along, attached with a heavy weight. Bringing with them a sense that big, irreversible, scary decisions that will affect the rest of my life needed to happen, and pronto!

Whether to have children. Settle in a relationship. Get married. Kill it in the dream job. Buy a house. Get a mortgage. Be comfortable financially. Basically, get all my shit in order. The list was endless, and every choice felt infinitely more pressured than it had just a few years before. All of a sudden, there seemed no room for mistakes.

Plus it was a time when some of my peers were settling into the rhythm of their own lives. Not being where they were at, left me questioning myself; Surely I can’t be still figuring things out in my 30s when those guys have a handle on where life is going for them?

“Life can sometimes feel like a race to obtain everything, and it can be disheartening to reach your 30s and realise that you’re lagging behind the rest of the runners, battling shin splints and clutching a stitch, wondering how you ever got so unfit.”

— Amy Roullier, The Authentic Optimist

There feels like all this pressure to commit to big decisions and determine resolute future plans

I’m not sure exactly where it comes from, but there is a lot of pressure. So how can it possibly not be uncommon for anyone in their 30s to feel like a bit of a failure when still searching for a life route?

If we haven’t figured it all out, life took us down an unexpected path, or we just don’t know which way to turn at the crossroads. And then suddenly this pressure that we should have it all locked down and a clear journey ahead hits us in our 30s, we probably are going to end up experiencing a mid-30s crisis. I know I definitely faced ‘The Swerve’ in my early 30s.

The discussion that Rachel Syme sparked online highlighted how many people experience the Mid-30s crisis

The good thing is, we are not alone. In fact we’re in good company. Many people go through the same thing.

But it might surprise you to know that there is a big difference between what we think we should be doing in our 30s versus what we are doing. Studies suggest the norm is now not to be married, with the number of women getting married dropping below 50%, and the number of people living alone increasing.

The average person changes their career up to 7 times, so it is not uncommon for people to reassess their working lives at some point in those 30s and beyond. In 2018, one in four adults aged 20 to 34 years were living with their parents. Over a third of people don’t want to have children. So this pressure pot where we feel a need to have achieved all things in our 30s, doesn’t actually add up to what’s happening out there in the world.

Tackling the mid-30s crisis

For me that was a comforting reality. In that many of us are a norm and not a minority in going against those old ideals of what life should be in our 30s. It took a while to get my own head around it for sure. Because despite those figures saying otherwise, I personally felt like I should be one thing overall in my 30s. And that thing was having my shit together.

Yet my 30s began with a change of home, career, and relationship status. I moved back in with my mother whilst navigating a divorce, and was getting my head around the loss of a future I’d envisaged as a certain. I couldn’t have been further from figuring out my life or having any level of shit in order. However, my first step in tackling my own mid-30s crisis, came from me realising that my life is my own. My path is unique. And it was absolutely okay for me to be reassessing and redefining my life priorities in my 30s, no matter where anyone else was at.

There’s nothing wrong with change

In all honesty, it’s unrealistic to think we can set an age limit to achieve everything by. When we do attempt just that, it can lead to feelings of pressure, anxiety, failure and sadness at not achieving. It’s a negative spiral.

Okay so maybe we’re all a little guilty of clocking up items on the list to achieve, whilst simultaneously wanting to accomplish everything and be fantastic at all things once we get there. But realistically, it’s tough to meet such fantastical ideals. And even harder when we place an age time frame to fulfil all of those life aspirations by.

So from one friend to another, ditch the pressure of feeling that you need to achieve certain goals or milestones by your 30s if you’re resonating with this.

Don’t compare yourself to others as everyone’s journey is different, yours included.

Remember that none of us need to fit a ‘norm’.

The mid-30s crisis exists, it’s a thing. But we don’t need to have everything figured out in our 30s and very few of us do. There is nothing wrong with taking time creating a life that you’re going to be happy with even if that means making some grandiose changes. Exist in the moment, anything can happen.

Age really is just a number

I definitely faced ‘The Swerve’ in my early 30s, but now at 37? Maybe I’ve become more comfortable in my 30s being less about the assumed figured it all out. A little more about self-reflection, awareness, assessment and analysis. It’s all definitely been a learning curve. And the biggest part has been accepting that my 30s have just been a continuation of my 20s; messing up, still figuring it all out, having fun, testing out life. Just with a little more wisdom on board for the journey.

And possibly it’s just that, that causes the mid-30s crisis in the first place? The unexpectedness of what those 30s actually are when we get there. All that uncertainty we had in our 20s which we thought would be far behind us now, they are actually just continued factors in our 30s. But with a nagging feeling that we should be a few more steps ahead than we are. The only way forward is removing the pressure and accepting that life in our 30s often never ends up how any of us envisioned it would be. And that really is okay.

Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.

— Arianna Huffington, Author

Are you tackling a mid-30s crisis? What did you think of this article? I’d love to know!

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

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