Thirtysomethings

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and it got me thinking.

My friend is about my age, mid-thirties, and he's already accomplished a hell of a lot in his life. He works in the corporate world, in a management position. In his twenties, he was something of a rising star, a prodigy.

But lately, he said, he seemed to have plateaued. He'd risen as high as he could rise in the foreseeable future, and he was having philosophical differences with the people above him.

At the same time, he didn't see much value in leaving the company. He'd put nearly a decade into this job, at this firm, and he didn't feel his interests would be best served by starting anew.

Partially, this was because his interests had changed.

I remember seeing my twenties as my time to build a foundation for the ideal rest of my life. I was optimistic; I had audacious dreams, and I had the energy and the work ethic to bust my ass to make them come true.

I remember my friends treating those years the same way. Nobody could tell us the odds weren't in our favour. We knew that, but we were equally certain we would be the outliers, the special ones who got exactly the lives we wanted.

Some of my friends got married and started families, but many of us didn't. And among those who've chosen to remain childless, I've noticed a pattern in how our lives are evolving, and how we're reacting to that evolution.

I think the punches start to hurt more when you leave your twenties. I don't necessarily think there are more hits to absorb, but I definitely think they get harder to take.

And I think part of what defines your thirties is how you roll with those punches.

My friends Arthur and Megan have taken a few punches, and they've persevered.

Last year, Arthur lost his job, a cataclysmic event for anyone, particularly a young couple trying to make a go of things in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

I remember Megan talking about how she wanted something different from her thirties, how she wanted to thrive and build a future with some security, and how this path she'd been following since her twenties had probably run its course.

They chose to make the most of the setback, selling their apartment and moving to Hawaii, where Arthur has family. He's found work writing online, and Megan started a successful mentorship business.

We're spending the summer together in the eco lodge, which is not something any of us could have foreseen a year ago, but I think you'll admit, it's pretty damn cool.

My friend in the corporate world decided to spend more time on himself. He's young, he's single, he makes good money, and where in his twenties he might have been more apt to give himself entirely to his company, he's now focusing on making the most of the world outside his office, while he still has the energy to have the most fun.

He's bright. The job, or *a* job, anyway, will always be there.

This stuff isn't just restricted to thirtysomethings, either, but it feels like this is the time when the punches really start to sting.

I visited with my friend Jim Thomsen when I was on Bainbridge Island last month, and we talked about #ProjectNomad, and his own nomadic lifestyle.

Jim was a career newspaperman whose job got the axe, and he's been making a go of things as a freelance editor and a professional house-sitter, which sounds all kinds of rad.

He's embraced a minimalist lifestyle, spends his summers in the Pacific Northwest and his winters in Florida, and essentially gets paid to take care of rich peoples' homes.

Not the kind of life he imagined, I'd wager, when he got into the news business, but he's taken a punch and stayed on his feet.

I admire that. And I'm kind of envious.

As for me, hell, I'm pretty stressed these days, the eco lodge notwithstanding.

I spent my twenties charging blindly forward, following the path that seemed right and ignoring those opportunities that seemed to branch too far astray.

Consequently, I've made agreements or been party to agreements that maybe haven't served my interests best.

Or that have brought me to where I am now, this plateau, but won't take me any further.

I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure my way forward from here, and it's stressful. I know what I want, and I know I have the talent for it.

But I also know I can't control everything about the process, and that's the stressful part.

So maybe the point of this post is about embracing that plateau, and finding something else to live for. I expect I'll make a decision soon enough about whether to keep pushing forward, or take one of those branch paths to somewhere completely new.

Either way, my life is going to stay interesting.