Since I'm over 30, preparing to build a family, still living in an apartment, and just recently getting off my butt to get myself into a real job™, I thought, "Growing up after 30," was an appropriate name. We'll see....
Before we begin, let's figure out where we've been, shall we?
At 32, I've worked in retail, construction, after school programs, tutoring, and I run my own not-successful-but-makes-more-than-it-costs wedding photography business. (I remember a car ride with my Dad when I was 8 or 10 where he was telling me about working as a high-rise window washer in Portland, and I was amazed that someone who was a nurse at a hospital used to do something so different. Of course, years later, he ran his own construction company, which I worked for at one point, and then he became the maintenance director at a nursing home) These days I work in a hotel as a Front Desk Lead; which is a fancy term for an over-paid Front Desk Clerk with delusions of authority. I am ridiculously overpaid for my job thanks to a glowing recommendation from the boss who had just fired me for a clerical error, but of course, being over paid as a Front Desk Lead is sort of like being the classiest person at Wal*Mart...
As for my personal life, I married my high-school sweetheart, and managed to stay married for almost 2 years. (Which of course, was the final nail in the coffin for my credit, which I'd been trashing since about 3 days after my 18th birthday) Through what can only be attributed to the good advice of friends and the grace of God, I've now been married for almost two years to a woman I will never deserve, and on that front at least, my life is far better than I could hope for.
So here we are. It's a mixed bag, I suppose. (Isn't it always?)
In the 'win' column:
- Amazing wife
- Almost have my credit fixed
- Steady day job that pays well for what it is
- We can pay our bills
- I have my own photography business and it's technically in the black
- Excellent health
And in the 'lose' column:
- Crappy apartment
- Crappier neighbors
- No kids yet (yeah, I'm a guy and actually want kids)
- Underemployed in a dead-end job
- My photography business is only in the black by about $200/year
- Life fulfillment other than my wife: extremely low
Now, I'm not saying this to moan and complain. I suspect that this is all pretty normal these days, and I know it's normal for a lot of people. If you're still reading at this point, that probably includes you. The only thing that changes is what pieces go in which columns. Maybe you love your job and own a beautiful home, but your wife or husband is a jerk and you can't pay your bills. But I think that in this day and age, if you total up your life into two neat columns, there are going to be plenty of both wins and loses if you're in your late 20's or early 30's. For that matter, this may still be a description of your life whether you're 19 or 62. The world is full of people who are happy with just enough areas of their life to stay complacent about everything else.
It seems more and more today that people don't really start growing up until they're in their 30's. Many of us spent an inordinate amount of time in college only to find ourselves with a Bachelor's Degree in Rastafarian Tailoring, or worse, you end up like me with an Associates Degree and many wasted credit hours towards a real degree you didn't quite finish. (It seems unfair, but the worst of the made up 4-year degrees look better on a resumé than an AA degree and another year of study towards a Bachelor's in Mathematics with a minor in Physics) By then, we're in our mid 20's, and just starting out working at what we hope will someday lead to a real job™. We work for a few years in un-fulfilling, low-paying jobs, that in all likelihood have little or nothing to do with what we studied. I have one good friend with a degree in Sociology who works for the state doing statistical analyses on workers comp claims (Update: said friend just contacted me to inform me that her degree is in psycology, and that her work has expanded to include child welfare stats, which I'd know if I came over to hang out more often. oops) and my wife has a Bachelor's degree in Music, which she applies in her daily career as the Director of Travel for an aircraft company.
All of the sudden, we're pushing 30 (or looking at it in the rear view mirror) and we're lucky if we make the median income. We live in mediocre apartments. It's a craps-shoot whether we're married, divorced, single, or shacking up (yes, it is 'shacking up' and not 'living together.' It was shacking up when your parents did it and lied to you about it years later. It was shacking up when I did it for a few years before marrying my ex-wife. It's shacking up now. Don't worry, we'll come back to that a little later. Probably in a post of it's own...) Half of the people I know my age have kids, but half of the kids were accidents. (I say, "accident," only for lack of a better term because if we're honest, that's not something that happens, "on accident.") Most of the friends I have with kids that were on purpose™ didn't have them until their late 20's or early 30's.
By 30, your grandparents (or maybe great-grandparents if you're younger than me) were in a completely different place. In all likelihood, your grandmother hadn't worked outside the home since 7 months after the honeymoon (the first kid can come at any time, the others all take 9 months) and your grandfather had been working the same job for 11 years. Their oldest was in the 5th grade, their car was bought with cash, and their mortgage, if they had one, was not only sane, but also probably owned by the same bank that issued it to them 10 years earlier.
So, what are you going to do about it? While the world our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in is gone for good, it doesn't mean that you can't build your own amazing life. While you may be 10 years behind where you thought you'd be today, you might only be 5 years from where you'd like to be. Maybe closer. The only thing that determines when your life starts to become awesome, is when you decide it's time for an awesome life and start pushing for one. When are you going to be ready to sacrifice? When are you going to be ready to jump on a moving train and hope you don't die?
I'm ready today.
It's time to study. Time to plan for a better life. Most importantly, it's time to start living up to my potential. That's the plan, because it's time for something new. I'll be working towards some IT certifications that will help me to land a job I'll actually care about, while also allowing me to work a schedule that lets me do something useful with my photography. My wife and I will be shopping for a home, paying off debt (Hooray for the magic of student loans™). Babies are in the not-too distant future. Career changes cometh. Cropping out the useless and distracting will happen. Fat will be trimmed.
I hope you'll follow along, because this should be fun.