If you had asked me when I was 21 where I saw myself when I was 30 and what major milestones I would have achieved, these would have been my answers:
- Join the Peace Corps
- Go to law school
- Become a lawyer
- Get married
- Own a house
- Have a dog
- Make six figures
- Build a savings account
- Travel the world
Spoiler alert: I just turned 30 and how did I do?
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a straight A student, but I certainly wasn’t the kind of girl who got Fs. So, I got to thinking about my “failure,” whilst reflecting on the decade I left behind. I wondered how many other women hadn’t achieved their anticipated goals. Turns out, there wasn’t a whole lot of data on this exact question but there were some disturbingly brilliant articles about women’s confidence gaps, the inability to have it all, and good data re: the timelines for major life milestones.
According to a Harvard study, the average woman has 9.46 life goals (good to know younger me was right on track with my nine). These were categorized as “things that occupy your thoughts on a routine basis, things that you deeply care about, or things that motivate your behavior and decisions.” Turns out, men have less: only 8.41 life goals. But, if you haven’t achieved those goals yet, don’t worry because a lot of those major life milestones are happening later these days anyway!
“Mawage”: The average age of marriage for men and women is on the rise. In the UK the average for both men and women to tie the knot is now just over the 30 year mark. In the US, the average has been steadily increasing to men being 29 and women being 27. Experts suggest the trend of increasing marital age is likely to continue in the US, moving into the 30s. Bonus: there is also this beautiful new trend of marrying yourself – and no, it doesn’t always mean replacing a partner. (Thanks, Carrie Bradshaw!)
Babies: If you are choosing to have ’em, and plenty of babes aren’t (totally fine!), then the average age of popping out your first kiddo depends a lot on where you live, your education level, and your marital status. But the general trend is increasing, with the average age of first-time mothers at 26, up from 21 in 1972, and for fathers it’s 31, up from 27. In many urban cities, most first-time mamas are over 30.
Bungalows: Turns out buying a house in America is getting really expensive – like reaaalllly expensive (see my forthcoming January Inkstick x TBB on this). So, it’s not a huge surprise that more people are waiting. The average home buying age in the US is now 34.
Mo’ money: Plenty of time. Most women’s salaries peak at 41.
So, good news! The data certainly helped me realize that I’m not alone in my “failure.” And, because I just turned 30 (and can do what I want), I’d like to take a minute and get personal (and real). The past decade didn’t go as planned. I mean truly… it (clap) did (clap) not (clap) go (clap) as (clap) planned (clap). Maybe it looked glamorous and bullet-proof from the outside (thanks, social media) but let’s call it like it was.
I did join the Peace Corps but it dealt me a massive trauma that threw me pretty far off kilter. However, it was an experience that built me back up stronger than ever. I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m not sure I would change anything either.
I definitely did not go to law school (and thank goodness because I know a lot of lawyers these days – most whom don’t love their jobs) but I ended up with a Master’s degree (who would’ve thought) and a career I LOVE, changing the world in my own tiny way.
I’m not married and I’ve lost best friends who I thought would be the bridesmaids at my nonexistent wedding. But, I’ve cultivated a pack of incredible, fearless friends all over this country (and world) who blow me away everyday. That group may be small but, hot damn, they are mighty.
I don’t have any kind of property to my name and I pay an absurd amount for an apartment that I don’t own. But, I’ve hand drawn my dream home (because I know what I want now) for when that day comes.
I don’t make six figures but as someone who started off in national security making $36k and living in a 268 sq. ft. apartment (wtf) in DC… yeah, I am pretty pleased with where my finances currently are.
I’ve made mistakes that hurt people. Really hurt people. And I’ve had to spend a good amount of time learning to forgive and accept forgiveness.
In the past decade, I’ve lived in four states and two countries. I’ve published more than two dozen articles, including a book chapter. I launched THE BABES BLUF and now get paid to write a column I adore, trying to bridge a gap I am passionate about closing.
I won awards, learned several languages, joined boards, launched startups, won grants, sat on panels, and have been on TV a few times (peep an upcoming Netflix series I am in with the brilliant, Erin Connolly). None of those major achievements were on my list at 21. Best of all? I’ve met people with different ideas, practicing various religions, across the financial and political spectrum, from all over the world.
So… when all is said and done, frankly, I’m grateful that the world didn’t hand 20-something-year-old-me what she thought she wanted back then because: 1) I’m not sure I would have really liked the person she turned into, but 2) I really love who I am now, and 3) without that “failure,” I wouldn’t be right here writing the words you are reading.
No, I still do not have my shit together but that’s totally okay.
All of this is to say: Wherever you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be. There is no right time to accomplish everything on your list. So, if you’re freaking out about what you haven’t done yet or what never worked out – you’re not a failure and you’re certainly not alone. When your life or list doesn’t go as planned, learn to refresh the page and recalibrate the navigation.
That’s all for this one, and until 2021, babes.
No pressure. No bullshit. Just, THE BABES BLUF.
This is a look back on the past decade. Missing plenty of people and milestones but I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the people in my life (the ones still in it and the ones who have moved on). I am grateful for people and experiences of my 20s and so excited to welcome the 30s (champagne in hand). Thank you.