I have two pretty big life dates coming up in June. I’m about to turn 30 and it’s my 3-year freelance anniversary.
Last year, to mark my second freelance year, I wrote a blog about what I’ve learnt so far as a freelance writer. This year I wanted to focus on what I’m still learning as a person. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on how different I am from when I was in my early 20s. Something I know for definite is the older I’m getting the more comfortable I am with showing people that I haven’t got it all sorted out yet.
Like anyone in their late 20s, I could fill a whole book with what I still need to work on. But in the interest of time, here are 3 of the biggest things that I’m still working on and improving -
1. Knowing that age is just a number
This might sound like a weird one but it’s something I’m still getting my head around, even though I’m much better than I used to be.
Every single birthday since I can remember I would overthink what my new age meant. At 22, I thought I was an official adult ready to go out adulting, at 25 I used to hark on about being old and at 26 I actually truly panicked about running out of time to do my age life goals.
Now, as I’m about to hit 30, I feel much younger than I did back then. I think because I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be in some ways but further along in others. I just don’t feel the need to waste any more energy worrying about something you can’t predict.
I’ve also recently met people from all walks of life and seen that age doesn’t mean anything, and you should feel zero pressure to conform to what your age is meant to be doing right now. And this might be a coincidence, but in the last year I’ve had countless people telling me how I seem nowhere near 30 (I was asked for my ID twice this week, once for buying alcohol for my 30th birthday party) - and I know it’s not thanks to my expensive face moisturiser, it’s how I’m acting. When you lose those age shackles, it quite literally takes years off you.
And since I’ve stopped trying to prove my age and get to those ‘age life goals’ we all have, I’ve ironically started to tick quite a bit off my life to do list. I think because I stopped concentrating on the big end points and worked on little wins. So for example, learning to dance flamenco for one hour a week didn’t seem like a massive amount of effort. It soon blossomed into learning two different dances 3 times a week and ticking off a bigger life improvement goal – finding something I enjoy so I can be more active.
Getting to some of my life goals by just living my life is helping me to feel like I’m slowly achieving something. And even though I’m not quite there yet or anywhere near where I thought I’d be at 30, that’s also OK.
2. I love a good guilt trip
I decided to find a business coach last year. I booked my first session with her and thought we’d discuss how to manage time, priorities and my ever-fluctuating motivation levels. And although we did that, what actually came out of the session was years and years of built up guilt.
My level of guilt is bordering on the catholic. I apparently felt guilty about everything. I say apparently because I kept hearing myself say it but didn’t realise before that very moment. I felt guilty about my freelance life and how I don’t work 9-5 or in-between assignments. I felt guilty working on creative projects that don’t pay but that I care about, I felt guilty about sometimes not feeling motivated or how bad at admin I am and I felt guilty about not finishing my book that I started at 23 – and that’s just in my work life.
I couldn’t believe that what was holding me back was guilt. It was something I never let bubble up to the surface so I could deal with it properly. Knowing it and calling it out helped me work on it and in turn freed up my thoughts so I could work on my artistic projects more and enjoy those rare down-times when I’m in-between work.
And I still feel that familiar guilty tug for things most people wouldn’t care about, but I know that I’m working on it.
3. I still don’t like saying ‘No’
This is a story as old as time and applies to most of us – when I was younger, I wanted to please everyone and would do things that I didn’t really want to do for an easier life. That could span from staying in a club 2 hours longer than my boredom wanted me to or saying yes to something at work that I fundamentally didn’t agree with.
I’m much better in my non-working life than I used to be, which I think comes from confidence and knowing myself more. If I want to leave a social thing I do, If I’m too tired or financially depleted to hang out with friends, I tell them. If someone is rude to me, I defend myself and if someone is taking up too much of my energy, I stand my ground and distance from that situation much more.
Something that isn’t where it should be is knowing to say no in my freelance life. I am more confident in meetings and will tell people my opinion, especially if it’s important for the progression of a project. But what I need to work on in my 30th year is when to say no to a client who isn’t listening and is affecting my overall motivation and satisfaction. I’ve found myself not fighting my corner any more in so many projects that I know would benefit from me doing so. I’ve stopped because I feel like it won’t change anything if I do and it’s making me feel disconnected and ground down. This work lethargy is also bleeding into my more creative projects, which to me is always a big warning sign.
I think in my 30th year and 3rd freelancing year I’m going to view myself as a work in progress which will probably last my whole life. A not quite ready patchwork quilt or a not quite risen cake. I may not know everything, I’m probably going to make a shed load of mistakes and some good choices too, but I know I’m getting there and it’s starting to take shape.
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