I'm coming up on 38. Not all that old by most standards. At this point in my life I can't say things are bad. They aren't what I'd hope them to be, but I have enough to do more than just survive. Last year around my birthday I spent a lot of time contemplating my life. I really questioned whether I'd been doing it right. I chose a life that wasn't normal, and in doing so I have no real guides to judge by. I don't have kids and never will. I don't have a "normal" career where I move up some ladder to eventual retirement. I lack all those signposts of life most people seem to have.
This year I've thought what being in my 30's has meant. Not too long ago people started saying the 40 is the new 30, or 50 is the new 40. I don't know whether this is just a pithy saying or a genuine reflection of improving medicine and technology helping us live longer. But I wonder if I can extend that thought. Have my experiences in my 30's been more like what someone used to go through in their 20's? Where once one would have graduated college, gotten married, and started a family by 30, those things took me much longer. College took me 5 years. I lived with my parents until I was 26. I didn't get married until I was 28. I didn't start a good job until I was 24, I didn't start something you could call a career until I was 30. My marriage ended when I was almost 33. Looking back, there were a lot of things I postponed for myself during that time. Now at 38 I feel like I'm doing things I should have done 10 years ago. But would it have been possible then? Probably not. Is this just me, or do many people have this experience?
I've been reading the Stoics. It's a philosophy that suits me well. I think my introversion is a natural fit to being a Stoic. Stoicism is misunderstood. The most important aspect is the idea of training yourself to experience joy in what you have, and to not worry about what you don't have. Stoicism has a lot in common with Zen Buddhism, but with more emphasis on civic involvement than on isolated contemplation. While this philosophy makes a lot of sense to me, it's always a battle to implement.
Setting aside the details, the general thing/wish/want I have at this point in my life is growth. Mostly of the educational sort. Unfortunately a master's degree or beyond is out of my financial reach, as is any kind of formal training. I have been teaching myself some new skills, including some advanced guitar repair. But, trading time on these activities against paying work isn't always easy. Is this something that should have happened in my 20's? Maybe at a time I could have stayed up until 2am everyday and not felt horrible the next day? I must be missing some of that "30 is the new 20" health technology.
I am where I am because of choices I have made. Some choices were wrong, some were right. Some were right at the time but turned out bad in the long run. I can't change any of that. I can only continue to make choices in this moment. That's another tenet of Stoicism. The past cannot be changed. The future is unknown. And right now, there are things I can control, and things I cannot. I need to focus down only on the things I can control right in this present moment. Again, never easy. But no one ever said life was easy.