If you look up “mid-life crisis” or “quarter-life crisis,” you'll get a ton of hits.
But, if you are in your 30s and are (most likely) going through a tormenting time, you will only find a few posts that won't even begin to reflect the complexity of the life stage you are navigating.
Why is that? There is no other time during your life when you'll feel more different than your peers and even your best friends.
You have friends who are single, who have just entered relationships, who are married, who are divorced, who have kids and who don’t have kids.
In my closest group of friends alone, there are single people as well as a couple with three kids, and they are all my age. What person am I supposed to relate to most?
The fight between the rebel in you and the responsible version of yourself has never been more present.
This is why your 30s are, in a way, your second adolescence.
If you try to awake your inner teenager during your mid-life crisis, you don't need much of an awakening in your 30s.
The teenager is still there. You still do wild, irresponsible things, and you still feel like you don’t know a lot about the world; you still feel like you belong in a club or can come home drunk after a night out.
But at the same time, the responsible part of yourself is getting stronger.
You don’t even know when it crept up on you. Was it a natural process? Did society influence you? You don’t know.
But, you suddenly feel you need to act more mature in ways, like by getting your own house, being more in charge at work and, ultimately, being responsible for another life:
Let's Start With The Children.
People without children start to feel the pressure from the ticking of the biological clock and wonder, “Should I have a child now while I’m still young?” “Is there such a thing as a maternal instinct? Will my tell me what to do with my baby?”
Young parents are frustrated they are no longer able to keep up with the not-yet-parents part of the group, and they don't have time to nurture their inner teenagers anymore.
Let's Talk About Work.
If, in your 20s, it didn’t matter to you what you were doing as long as you were getting paid, your 30-something self starts to wonder, “Is this what I’m meant to be?” “Should I change my field of expertise?” “Should I go back to school?” or “Is it right that I’m still at the same position after working for so many years at this company?”
When it comes to your work, you feel young and old at the same time.
You're young because you still have 30 more years to work. (Is it really that much?) And you're old because you realize it’s too late to start learning again and compete with people 10 years younger than you.
You're young because you still dream big. You're old because failing is no longer an option, as you have more and more responsibilities and people to look after.
You're young because you still want to run away from a bigger role, and you still make funny faces in the meetings.
You're old because you start having a lot more experience and ideas, and you want to lead and be part of the decision-making.
How Can We Not Speak About Love?
If you are single, this is definitely when you start wondering what's wrong with you.
You cannot stand your parents’ scrutiny anymore or being surrounded by couples who have nothing better to do than plan when to have their next child.
If you are in a relationship, you feel the pressure to settle down. You obviously ask yourself, “Is he or she the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with?” or, “Am I done searching?” I'm telling you, it's not easy.
Burning Desire For Self-Improvement.
I truly believe it's a bit like "Limitless" in your 30s; your brain is at the peak of its functioning. But this comes with a downside because you know enough to realize you still have a lot more to learn. Generation-Y no longer defines the status quo by what they own; it's by who they are.
You ache to be the best possible version of yourself. The tormenting questions are, “Do I know enough?” “Have I’ve done enough?” and “What other dream do I need to fulfill?”
As a result, you start painting when you are 32; you start dancing when you are 35; you start a new master's program when you are 34; or you quit being a teacher and start a life-coaching career.
Full-Fledged “Young And The Restless” Syndrome.
“Young and the Restless” definitely had the best possible insight on this. It's the perfect way of describing our 30s. But, does all of this restlessness leave room for happiness?
Well, if the above points didn't hint at the obvious answer, there are studies that have correlated happiness with age. They have proven we go through a U-bend of happiness.
In general, happiness starts to decrease after your 30s, reaches the biggest low in mid-life and then goes up again.
Does this mean we have to wait to grow old to be happy again? Not necessarily. We just have to allow time for integrating the novelty in our lives.
We need to observe how the things we have just learned or experienced are contributing to the way we present ourselves to the world.
This way, feelings of pride and accomplishment can kick in and generate happiness.
If not, you get a similar outcome to when you eat something too quickly: You don’t allow your brain the time to acknowledge your stomach is full, so you keep on eating.
For instance, I’m keeping a monthly list of everything I’ve done. Now I can look back, reflect on it and feel proud of myself, despite being in a middle of this awful yet wonderful 30s crisis. Try it out! And remember: You are not alone in this.