My 30s hit me hard. I didn’t realise until I got to them how many expectations their would be in those 30s. Nothing like my 20s when I just did things, made mistakes, had zero level of shit worked out and didn’t have to think about the looming ‘future’ ahead or the consequences.

Because when that big 3-0 arrived it did feel like the future was here and the weight of that fear inducing anxiety that major life decisions must be made NOW was a daily hurdle. And it wasn’t just a personal expectation that I should have a concrete notion of where I was going in life. There seemed to be this societal assumption that in my 30s I should have attained, be accomplishing, and have already achieved.

Societal expectations in the 30s

What a delight that’s been to realise and navigate. Society expects marriage, babies, top class careers, well-travelled adventurers, financial success, mortgage sorted in those 30s. The list is endless. You feel like you should have it all figured out. A 30+ person should be ‘complete,’ or at the very least be pretty far up the ladder to obtaining ‘completeness’. But what if you aren’t even close? What if 30 is still firmly on route to destination ‘life figured out’?

My 30s

My early 30s began with a divorce, leaving my London job and swapping a decade living in Kent for my home county of rural Lincolnshire, UK. I didn’t know where my life was going and I didn’t have any idea what the present, let alone the future would look like. By societies standards I was moving back down not up that ladder! I felt that added pressure of the expectation that I should be achieving not readjusting in my 30s. And when I looked to my peers and saw some of them achieving success, not realigning, that pressure became even more heightened.

So getting to your 30s and having zero level of shit sorted out is pretty naff. Especially because it is a time where some people you know are starting to make sense of it all. And so your 30s becomes the decade where you see those differences in plain sight; the figure ‘outers vs. the figure ‘ees. And it’s a time where uprooting, still realigning, figuring out big decisions, it all somehow feels wrong, even when it’s right for you.

The Mid-30s Crisis

I went through a mid-30s crisis. There was all this panic over things not done yet, or tick boxes that hadn’t been achieved. Pressure that certain decisions needed to be made now, post haste! And it’s hard not to notice that people do think you’re slightly crazy for making big bold decisions later on in life. They expect you to be in a different mindset entirely; settled and satisfied, not still working through it all.

If you change your career, suddenly leave a relationship after a decade, decide that charity work is way better than that six figure salary in the city, still don’t know whether kids and marriage is for you, people think you’re nuts when you’re still making those big decisions at any stage past 3 point 0. I mean time is cracking on – what the heck are you dallying about for?

Dismissing the expectations

I mean whose life is this?. Releasing the pressure is wonderfully freeing. I had to have a word with myself and dismiss those expectations that seemed to come along with my 30s. Because whilst I wasn’t achieving in the same way as others, and there were still many things I hadn’t figured out, I had made some pretty big decisions that were positive to my life and my future. I was discovering that sometimes you have to take a perceived few steps backwards to go forwards. That starting again is not starting from the beginning. And that my 30s was as good a time as any to make those changes.

Every 30s decision helped me move forwards

And with that, I realized that my own happiness – which I had neglected for many years before – was actually the only thing that really mattered. So every decision I was making in my 30s, whether they appeared to be backwards steps to anyone else, were things that were helping me to move forwards. I was taking charge of my 30s, maybe just in a different way to the one people expected. Because I had taken risks and allowed myself to start over. Told myself it was okay to wipe the slate clean and start again. Or just have literally zero clue where the heck to start in the first place. Dismissing the expectation that my 30s should be everything concretely figured out was by far, one of the best things I did for myself in my early 30s.

“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”

— Cheryl Strayed, Writer

It is never too late to reset

For me this decade has continued to be one of self-reflection and I’m totally okay with that. But I have adjusted the expectations of what I should be achieving in my 30s and released the fear factor. Because taking time to reassess and take stock is healthy. It is never too late to reset. Making sure you are on the right track is a good way to ensure you are on a path you still want to be on. Necessary changes, even if they appear like backwards steps, are changes that move you forwards. And FYI, taking charge of your 30s – without allowing age itself or societal expectations to be the defining factors – is pretty effing fab, actually.

There are multiple points in life where things go to shit – even in those 30s. So to look at those 30s as a decade of only ticking tick boxes and achieving when you have no idea what’s around the corner is a sure-fire way to making yourself unhappy. Plus, if the 30s is just a decade long wonderous thing of fulfilling all your goals and life aspirations, what else would there be to look forward too?

Revise your own & dismiss societies expectations completely

If you’re feeling any level of crappiness about hitting those 30s and having entirely no clue, a fairly vague idea, or just a slightly sketchy outline. I can tell you from experience, that revising the expectations to achieve certain things by a certain age. is the only way forward. Take charge of those 30s and dismiss societies expectations. Your 30s is just an extension of the life you’ve been living so far; discovering yourself, your wants and your dreams. You don’t need to have achieved all of that by now. In fact, that’s a continual and lifelong process.

It’s never too late to take a few risks, reject societies ideals and take charge of your 30s. So reassess, reset and realign to your hearts content. Do these things for you, not for anyone else. Because those 30s offer a decade of being more confident and equipped to handle what life throws at you. It is a time of redefining personal fulfilment. A period of heightened self-awareness unlike any decade before it. It’s the perfect age for self-improvement and continuing to grow and develop. Whatever your 30s is, is right where you should be. Take charge of your 30s and enjoy it.

Life as a 30s something

It’s not often I write with a sense of ‘wisdom’ thrown in. But my 30s have been a steep learning curve. Here’s what I’ve learned about 30s something life:

  • Don’t give yourself ‘age’ time frames to achieve goals and life aspirations. You don’t need that pressure.
  • Don’t look at others and compare your life, as every path is unique.  
  • Do reassess and reset if you need to. It’s never too late to take charge of your life.
  • Make your own happiness front and centre of every decision.
  • Vow to do things your own way, it’s going to be a spectacular journey.
  • Be good to the people you care about, those positive relationships are integral to your growth.
  • Prioritizing self-care is fundamental to creating a happier you.
  • Empowering yourself and taking charge of your own destiny results in positive, healthy choices.
  • Societal expectations shouldn’t over-ride your own wants and needs. Be confident in who you are and what you want from life. Every decision you make is leading you towards a present and future that is right for you. 
  • Your 30s is the perfect time for continuing to grow and develop.

“Everything I know I learned after I was thirty.”

— Georges Clemenceau, French Prime Minister

How are you handling life in your 30s? I’d love to know! Do you think we need to dismiss the expectations of what our 30s should look like? Share your comments below.

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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