Relax. All those things you worry about, namely the ridiculous pressure you feel to find the love of your life and life’s purpose before turning 30? It’s bullshit. Even extending that deadline to 35… Still bullshit.
Forget about timelines and deadlines as hard as that may be, given that you’ve been raised since birth to strive to the next grade, the next goal, the next chapter.
Fulfillment is elusive, no matter what age you are. And you certainly don’t find it by looking. The more you try, force, plan, push, the more you extend your misery. Because that which you resist — in this case “being alone” and “being unsure” — persists.
Life is hard and there are no romantic, professional or geographical shortcuts that will help you answer the fundamental question of human existence: who am I and why am I here? You will only answer that by living. Even then, the answer is never complete.
One thing’s for sure: you need to find peace in YOURSELF before you can be healthy and happy in relation to others. So go to therapy and take ownership of your issues. As exhausting, challenging, expensive as it is, therapy pays off over the long term. Self-awareness is the best gift you can give yourself, and the sooner in adulthood you can do that, the better.
Nurture friendships with fun, emotionally honest, self-aware people who show up when you need them and who share in your joy rather than compare themselves to, compete with and judge you. Steer clear of those with a martyr complex, a victim mentality or those whose depression is clinical and untreated. You can’t help these people… They can’t be friends to themselves so how can they be friends to you?
Forget every single one of those silly guys you obsess over. The weenie boys who flake out, break up with you over text. The ones who don’t call when they say they are going to. The unavailable, distant, inconsistent ambivalent types. Right now it’s hard to know if they simply lack maturity or if it’s a shortcoming of character. Maybe they’ll grow up and straighten out one day, but maybe they really are just jerks. When it’s absent in youth, character generally doesn’t develop over time. So move on.
This is very important: fret not about the seemingly five million friends around you getting engaged and married while you can barely scrounge up a decent date. 1/3 will be divorced before 40. 1/3 will stay married, but miserably so. The final 1/3 will actually be happy in their relationships, but it will not make them immune to the other challenges and setbacks that life inevitably sends us all from time to time. Finding a partner is not a panacea for life. It doesn’t solve all your problems and it doesn’t magically transform you into a superior being.
On the issue of having a family … these days there are so many ways to become a parent. So ignore the hype that it’s “now or never.” You’re not limited by the social conventions past generations adhered to, or even the same biological constraints. You are far better off waiting for the right mate even if it means forfeiting your biological ability to give birth. Because you can get fertility help. Or adopt. Because having kids is hard and without the right support in place it can really suck. Plus being tethered to the wrong person for life is a huge burden for you and your child. Don’t force it.
Have faith that things will go the way they are supposed to. A nuclear family is not the only way to give to and be sustained by a community of others. So don’t rule out the possibility that you are meant to create family and contribute to the world in a more unique way. Be open to all possibilities. Embrace who and where you are and you’ll find your tribe.
On the issue of career stuff. As early as possible, give up on trying to please/impress your parents and immediate circle with your job. Only you have to walk in your shoes every day, sit at that desk, walk that beat, do that thing. So choose a path that makes YOU happy. Don’t be afraid to chase down seemingly silly/ impractical dreams. You have the freedom to do that now and it definitely doesn’t get easier as you get older.
At the same time, develop patience … stay with it long enough to reap the benefits of your hard work. So many people give up before they break through. Once you realize you can achieve the things you envisioned by repeatedly working on it, showing up and focusing on your goal, it becomes easier to endure the short-term inconveniences and indignities of the workplace. Supporting yourself and having true financial independence will give you a life-long source of pride and confidence.
But also understand that no JOB or career path will complete you as a human being and give you sustaining spiritual purpose. Your vocation is not who you are. It defines how you spend the vast majority of your time, it provides income, but it’s not who you are. So be careful not to mix that up and think you are more or less “important” in the world because of what you do.
Above all, relax and don’t worry so much. You’ve been enculturated to believe that you’re not a REAL adult until you’re married with kids, but that’s a giant load of crap. Plenty of people who are married with kids are unevolved losers. Anyone can do it after all. Learning to be at peace with yourself is a far greater achievement and more worthy pursuit.