I’ve just turned 30.
30 seems to be a really good time to start considering priorities in life; what do I want not tomorrow or next week, but next year, 5 years from now, 10 years from now? And what can I do ‘right now’ to achieve these things? I ask this question because in today’s world, it’s often either: emphasized that people in their 30s (women, especially) have a hard time coping with the pressures that society places upon them in the 21st century and they go into some kind of crisis mode; or, it’s really not important to ‘be in a certain place’ at a certain time and we should all stop worrying, travel endlessly with money from…somewhere, and worry about the big stuff later. But what’s “later”? How long do we wait, and for what? And what are we waiting for? Being a millennial who’s verging on not being of a ‘millennial’ age anymore is confusing. I think we’re all confused, wandering through this abyss of nostalgic Buzzfeed articles, social media pages from our friends who are ‘farther ahead’ than we are, and getting mixed messages from parents, mentors, friends, ourselves, and television and films about what we “should”, or if we “should” all be doing something specific right now.
My question is, what are my priorities? And how am I feeling when my priorities are either being met, or not?
I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate the point – between 2013 and early 2015, my priority was life. I took out a pension, moved to the coast, racked up endless amounts of debt by being a student and being unemployed in a city where knowing connections is everything and people with phDs are vying for the same jobs as you just to get their foot in the door. But I had fun racking up that debt and wandering around eating soup and banana bread in trendy cafes around the city. So while I was stressed, I shoved that stress down so far I could hardly see it.
Until I met someone. Then I could see it all as clear as day. The wedding, the house, the career, the summers off as a teacher spending endless amounts of time raising my family or traveling across the country, the continent, even the world… suddenly, life took on this new meaning that was crystallized by, nothing other than, falling in love.
Falling in love induced me to moving back to Alberta. Falling in love helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher, so I could be better and do better and be more than I thought, just because someone I love introduced me to the idea that I could do all of these things. So I left my life of lollygagging around and doing nothing of importance, and I found a job at least closer, and cheaper to travel to the person I loved, than taking an expensive plane ride to and from Vancouver once or twice a month.
Suddenly, I found my career was the priority.
Endless hours of work, stress, dreading waking up in the morning out of fear of how things might work out or not, dealing with beaking kids and inappropriate comments I’m not sure how to unpack or handle, wondering what the future holds, cold winters, scary highway drives in the dark, in the snow, and all because I wanted a ‘good’ job. Which didn’t turn out last year, to be very ‘good’ for me at all. Actually, it changed me as a person – into this poor, blubbering, frustrated, self-pitying, annoyed, depressive, clingy bag of misery, living in one fourth of a crack den, in a cold, isolated, lonely place, just so I could work in a job I wanted.
Upon promising myself not to do this again, I found a slightly better but still sometimes agonizing and frustrating place which gave me a career I wanted, in a reasonably good place to live, but still away from people. Do I like my luxury apartment and small city life? Yes. And did I get myself out of a potentially bad situation I may have been stuck in forever? Yes. But am I 100% happy and loving life as I once did when I was free and easy in Vancouver, racking up debt and being 21 all day, every day, even though I was almost 30? No. So what is happiness, really?
A proverb (maybe slightly differently worded here) I always come back to is: “the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows happiness beneath his feet”. I remember and absorb the wisdom that quote instills in me. But I still can’t follow it. In the past four years, I have changed locations (apartments or cities) several times, had jobs with a definitive start and end point, and travel every single weekend to see the person I love, to the point where I rely on that time to keep me happy and motivated. I question sometimes whether either of us really need that time or if it needs to be every weekend. But, then when I consider the value of staying in, having ‘me’ time, it’s depressing. Because in the last little while I’ve had varied priorities that have trapped me where I am. And I felt like I couldn’t leave or get out and looking ack, it’s occurred to me that I could realistically leave at any time. Last year, I could have just looked for other jobs and bailed on my contract because I was so desperately and miserably unhappy. So I suffered in my dutifulness when maybe I didn’t need to in the end. The question though, that this all comes back to is: why am I not happy? What is missing where my priorities aren’t messed up and I feel totally fulfilled all the time with waking up, going to work, and going home?
Priorities drive us. They dictate what we do and when we do it, what decisions we make that shape the rest of our lives, and the ways in which we act and do what we need to so we can eventually get what we want out of life. Knowing what my priorities are after I made certain decisions, has become a huge problem for me in my life. All I want to figure out again is how can I be fortunate enough to, right now, get what I want out of life so that my life I live matches the priorities I have.