Birthdays

by Malek Mneimne, M.A.

Today is my 30th birthday. The “big 3-0.” When I was younger, I looked forward to the day when I’d be 30 years old with excitement. Now, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, if anything. It means getting older and having less time to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself. The end of a chapter and the start of a new one.

As I think about turning 30, I think of years past and where I want to be in 5-10 years. I think of the goals I have wanted and want to accomplish in life, and whether I’m heading in those directions. I think of similar-aged, married friends with children, careers, and/or mortgages and wonder if the extra years of schooling I decided upon will be worth the cost. I wonder if I’ll be happy in 5-10 years if I do indeed reach those goals on some level.

Some people have told me that the 30s are a time of reappraisal of life goals and the path one has taken to achieve them. I’m pretty sure that I have a few concrete and specific life goals that I’d like to achieve during my lifetime. Even though it would be tough, in the unlikely case that I didn’t have a chance to achieve my goals, I think I’d be able to manage.

This is what I tell myself to quell my fears of not having done enough and taking too long to achieve my goals. On my 30th birthday, as I’m struck with the realization that I’m getting older, starting a new chapter, and have slightly less time to achieve my goals, I’m practicing rational thinking. Mostly because I don’t want to make myself feel unnecessarily bad on my birthday.

If, on your birthday, you find yourself worrying unnecessarily about getting older, it might be time to re-assess and/or refine goals you’ve set for yourself, assess whether they are still your goals, whether deadlines and other criteria for measuring progress are realistic and flexible, and whether you’re being too hard on yourself for not living up to lofty standards you may have placed upon yourself to achieve those goals. It might be time to ask yourself if you MUST achieve those goals and whether you would be able to tolerate not achieving those goals. What would that mean about you and do you think that is a fair assessment of you as a whole? Lastly, it might be time to refine criteria for measuring progress toward your goals until they are realistic and attainable.

Then, go have fun, because it’s your birthday, and because you can also practice rational thinking later.

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