I hate to admit it but the steady approach of my 40th birthday has had me feeling especially out-of-sorts. Birthdays are always a time that I find myself examining my life for signs of progress and accomplishment. This sets up a bit of a conflict in my psyche since I have also been influenced by studies of spiritual perspectives such as Buddhism. I believe it is important to shift my focus to the present moment. To not miss living while too busy with concerns about the future and arbitrary values of achievement. Yet a strong part of me continues to be dissatisfied with my career and education level. I can see these expectations adding to the struggle and stress in my life. I also clearly see the link between stress and my wellbeing. Yet is also natural to be frustrated by a feeling that I have something more to contribute. At times like these I feel a push to go to graduate school.

That is what I was thinking six days ago when I started this post. Today, I was noticing that the way I experience my life is shaped by the expectations I create and that society tells me to have. The standards that I measure my life against are my own creation with society as my muse. I drive home through blocks of gorgeous homes and find myself wishing for a lottery win so I can buy one of the smaller ones. Then I get frustrated with myself for falling into the cultural trap of wanting what I don’t have. I know it is an endless game because there is always someone who has more than you. I hate that it distracts me from focusing on what I do have and realizing how lucky I am. That in the grand scheme of things I am blessed. Sure I know that as an American I take for granted so many things that I am privileged to have. I know it, but in the midst of day-to-day stresses I forget. I see myself as a trying-to-be-middle-class, small-apartment-renting, under-achieving college grad. Instead I should be measuring my life by health, family, friends and the beauty around me. Or not even measuring it at all.

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  1. I just turned 40, and you’ve articulated the way I feel — bachelor’s degree not enough? bigger house would show my worth a little better? Have I really done everything I should have? What can I / should I do to start towards the “next level”?

    I can’t apologize for feeling this way, despite being a privileged, healthy, outwardly quite fortunate person.

    I want it all. I want to have plenty of time with my family, and I want to play music, and go boating a lot, and I want to be a principal a company that will be acquired for $100M in two years, be rich and famous… I want all those things at the same time.

    I’m old enough to know I’m unlikely to get all that, but I’m still idealistic enough to think I owe it to myself and my family to find some way to GO FOR IT.

  2. I’m always glad to hear when a post resonates with someone. I want to achieve a state of contentment and gratitude but at the same time believing that anything is possible. Perhaps an obsession with achievement is creativity gone too far. You need to keep reaching and exploring to be creative but unchecked you never rest in the pleasure of what is.

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