No one magically becomes an adult overnight, and contrary to what you might feel like surrounded by your peers, everyone is struggling with something in secret. Even those who seem to have everything you want are worried about something, wondering whether they’ve missed an opportunity or will ever achieve a dream they may not even share with others. But knowing others struggle doesn’t always help you feel better. It’s nice to know you’re not alone, but when it feels like you are the only one struggling to get your life in order, it’s not easy to feel confident.
Maybe you’ve gone through some bad relationships and are worried you’ll be forever alone. Or maybe you had a marriage end and now wonder what you’ll do with the rest of your future that was once deeply tied to someone else’s. Maybe you’re stuck in a job you hate, drowning in student debt and have no idea how to break into another field. Whatever you’re dealing with, it’s not the end of the road until you say it is. Plus, you’re only in your 30s. There is still plenty of time to figure out this weird thing called life. You can even learn to have fun during the process. Here’s how to start.
Let Go of Your Expectations
Get rid of any thoughts in your mind that start with “I should.” Should is a heavy word that usually only fuels our feelings of inadequacy. Rather than thinking about what we can or would like to do, we ruminate over what we haven’t done, what we missed out on and wallow in the disaster that we’ve condemned ourselves to live in. It’s all a lie you’re spinning in your head, and it’s one that will haunt you forever if you don’t decide to kick it aside in favor of more empowering, purposeful thoughts.
Regardless of what you might have liked to achieve by this age, you are where you are. That means you need to consider not only what you have accomplished but what you still can. How can you strive toward those things you fear you’ve missed out on? If it’s a family, do you absolutely need to be married to your soulmate or could you adopt? Maybe you don’t need a significant other to live happily ever after. There’s no age limit to getting a degree, either, so even if you think you “should have” gotten a college education years ago, there’s still plenty of time.
Your expectations are often rooted in other people’s ideas about what makes you a worthwhile person. Over time, you’ve soaked up their impressions and think that unless you meet these standards, you’re no good. Start defining life on your own terms. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as you feel content with what you’re striving toward.
Get Smart About Your Money
Finances are one of the biggest stress adults face. Between credit cards, car payments, insurance, bills and student debt, there’s never enough to go around, even if you have a decent job. Focus first and foremost on where you’re losing the most money. Beside necessary expenses, could you cut back on eating out or cancel subscriptions? Even saving $10 a month can make you feel better about yourself. Remember, kick out the “shoulds” and focus more on what you can do.
If debt is a huge obstacle in your life, explore ways to alleviate the strain. A student loan debt consolidation is one option for graduates that could lower your monthly payments and give you more flexibility in your budget. Check out this guide from Earnest to learn more about how it works and the ways it might benefit you. For other kinds of debt, you need to review your credit report each year, possibly refinance or get serious about paying off as many balances as possible. Credit counseling can be helpful if you’re facing significant debt and don’t know how to go about repaying it in a timely manner.
Get Rid of Those Who Don’t Contribute to Your Life
You aren’t obligated to keep anyone in your life who doesn’t make you feel happy in their presence. If your family always judges you or you have a friend that’s constantly filling your day with drama, start distancing yourself. This process isn’t always as clean as we’d like, but it’s still feasible. For example, you can’t just stop talking to your condescending boss or nosy coworker, but you can develop better communication skills and learn how to tactfully shut them down. As for the ex you always text back and “friends” who only come around when they’re bored, lose their numbers. When you start to believe in your own worth, you’ll find that it’s easier to cut out anyone who doesn’t share your values and support you.
Figure Out Your Career
Some people aren’t cut out for desk jobs, and that’s okay. No one necessarily needs to work a 9-to-5 if they don’t want to. Rather than forcing yourself to continually give your all at a job you hate, reassess your career path and think about where you’d like to go. For just one minute, imagine what you’d be going after if you were 18 and the entire future was a blank canvas. If your heart is pulling you toward a certain path, don’t ignore it. You may have to go the long way around to get there, but whether you wish to return to college or start working as a freelancer, options are out there.
Heal from the Past
Do you find yourself always rehashing things that went wrong in your life? Do you imagine who you’d be if only you’d been given a better chance or someone hadn’t done something to you? These thoughts will never help you grow or heal, but they do serve a purpose. They’re telling you that you have emotional wounds you need to address. Don’t let them bleed forever. If you need help, get it. Whether it’s professional counseling or giving an overdue apology, begin to prioritize your mental well-being by tackling the things you know aren’t ever going to just go away on their own.