My mom has always encouraged us to go at our own pace and has never pressured us to be in a relationship or get married or have kids (almost the opposite), but I can’t help thinking that people tend to marry whomever they’re dating in their late 20s, and, since my boyfriend and I aren’t there yet, it freaks me out. We’ve been dating for a year and I cherish him. He treats me amazingly. He supports me. He makes me laugh. He’s not perfect, but he’s special. I’m starting to feel, though, that he’s not my forever person although I can’t come up with a precise reason. I wish I could. The more time I spend with him the more I love him, but I don’t know if my feelings will catch up to his.
I’m not staying with him because I’m afraid of being single or because of timelines or because he’s good “on paper” since I’ve read enough of your site to know that that would be a bad idea. We have a lot of fun together and we still learn about each other every day. But I don’t want to prevent him from meeting someone who is just crazy about him, which I can’t say I am (but I don’t know if I ever have been).
I guess I’m just nervous about turning 30. Heck, I’d almost rather skip to 32. Otherwise, I have great friend and family support systems and work is fine.
Any advice would be appreciated. I’m ready to make 29 an awesome year. Thanks. — Scared of Turning 30
Good news: there’s an astrological name (or an explanation, anyway) for the existential crisis you’re feeling: it’s called a Saturn Return, and it happens roughly every 29.5 years in our lives (and can begin every 27 years and last two to three years). Think of it as a cosmic rite of passage: “you will come face to face with your own blocks and be forced to push through them.”
Even if you don’t believe in astrology, read up on Saturn Return anyway, and I guarantee you will nod your head and think, “Oh yeah, that’s how I’ve been feeling!” I know this because this is the response I’ve gotten from many people before you who read up on Saturn Return at my urging after they, too, have expressed concern about the states of their lives in the year or two leading to their 30th birthdays.
Do you know when I first heard about Saturn Return? Right around my 29th birthday. I’d been emailing with a friend about this existential crisis I was suddenly feeling — how it was different than the quarter-life crisis I felt five years earlier which felt more like an overall identity crisis following college when I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with myself… or even who I was.
At 29, I had a much clearer idea of who I was and what I wanted — I just wasn’t anywhere close to achieving what I wanted and I didn’t know how to go about it. My friend sent a four-page attachment in an email all about the Saturn Return, and so much of what I read in that article rang true for me.
I decided to embrace the challenge. What choice did I have anyway? I would remain open to opportunities that presented themselves to me and would continue reflecting on my goals, fostering meaningful relationships in my life, and practicing positive visualization. The key here was reflecting on MY desires and MY goals — not what I thought other people wanted for me or what I thought society was telling me I should want.
It happened that what I really wanted more than anything was someone to build a life with. There were other things I wanted, too — a career that utilized some of my talents and aligned with my values (like the value of helping others, building community, and female empowerment); a home where I could put down roots; children, eventually; and financial comfort. But I truly felt that a partnership — someone to share my life with — was a top priority and that everything else would fall into place around that, and so that’s where I focused my intentions and visualization.
What you want most may be different from what I wanted at 29 and that’s ok! It’s super important to not only know what you want but also to honor your own goals and desires and to accept — and even embrace — the idea that other people’s trajectories are going to look different from yours in part because their goals and desires are different. (Of course, people’s trajectories will also look different because of: luck; timing; hard work; the presence or absence of certain privileges; and individual talents and gifts, to name a few variables).
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but given how different our goals are, the respective opportunities we’re given and roadblocks we face, and what a limited view and skewed perspective we have seeing filtered lives presented on social media, we do ourselves a great disservice when we fixate on these mostly unfair comparisons.
I met Drew four months before my 30th birthday, and we were married three years later. During those three years, I had to navigate a long distance relationship, uprooting my life and moving away from my friends, adjusting to sharing a home with Drew, seeking a job in a new city at the height of the recession when I had next to zero connections and very little work experience in my desired field, and building a new network of friends and support.
It’s not like meeting the guy I would eventually marry and build a life with — the thing I desired above all else — suddenly solved my existential crisis and made life easy. It made things more complicated. I was immediately faced with difficult, high-stake decisions that I felt — and probably rightfully so — would affect the rest of my life in major ways. But I remained open, I pushed through the fear, I continued focusing on my goals, and I took the steps I thought were most necessary in helping me meet my goals in the most timely manner.
You have to do the same.
Your trajectory won’t look exactly like mine. Or your mother’s or your sister’s or any of your friends’ trajectories. There will be some commonalities, but your life — the combination of your goals, your desires, your strengths and weaknesses, your limitations and your privileges, the foundation you’ve built and that was built for you by the people who guided you through your childhood and adolescence — is uniquely yours, and no one else’s can compare.
Think about what it is you really want in the next few years. What is a top priority for you? Focus on that. Visualize a best-case scenario. Let go of what is standing in your way of reaching your goals. Is there a way your network of friends and family can support you on this path? Let them know how. Ask how you can do the same (because I promise, if you have friends the same age, they are likely experiencing their own Saturn Return-like existential crisis).
I know it’s tempting to want to “skip ahead” to 32; however, not only is that impossible, but also you would miss out on what I’m sure will be some enriching experiences that will potentially shape your life for years to come. That’s not to say it will be easy, but if you embrace the challenges and opportunities and decisions that lie ahead, and push through the fear you might feel, you will be rewarded.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.