I turned thirty this month, and that tiny inner panic has been a little rowdier than usual, elbowing its way forward from the darker corners of my mind and asking those unnecessarily harsh questions I think we all ask ourselves from time to time: WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? Where are those children you haven’t had? Where is that house you haven’t purchased? Where is that big promotion you traded your house and kids for, since everyone knows you must be some kind of insane workaholic if you don’t have kids or a home or even a car when you turn thirty?  

While different for each of us, I think we all have a few questions taunting us as life milestones approach. For the most part, these questions are different versions of one big question, which is a little more personal and, frankly, a little scary: is there something wrong with me? Why don’t I want what [I think] everyone else thinks I am supposed to want? Is it okay that I feel differently, that I want different things, that I’m just not ready?

[Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way.]

Thirty is an age with a lot of expectations, but as I am turning the corner and beginning this new decade of my life, the fear of being broken is starting to fade. There are certainly still times I wonder if I am a giant failure because I don’t feel something that I think I am supposed to feel, or haven’t yet accomplished something that I think I should have achieved, but I’m developing a new-found confidence that who I am is good enough, and that I was made for this exact life I am living.

Here’s an example. I absolutely hate going out, but always agonize that I must have some kind of fatal flaw in my core that makes me less fun than other people, so I usually try to convince myself that I want to go out on my birthday. This year, I didn’t try to convince myself. I accepted my truth as okay.

It’s okay that I prefer not to go out for drinks on my birthday. It’s okay that I’d rather not wear a skirt and heels to a bar; heels aren’t that comfortable when you might have to stand all night. It’s okay that I’d rather stay in; it’s cold in January, and it isn’t that fun to hold your coat in a crowded restaurant. It’s fine if I’d rather make dinner at home: for the price of a $12 cocktail (plus tip) I can buy an entire bottle of my favorite wine to share with my husband, and use the last of the bottle to make this cake

It’s no great epiphany, and perhaps you and everyone else have known this all along. But for me, it helps to say these things out loud. I’ve spent too many of my secret life minutes wondering what was wrong with me, searching my flaws to root out what was keeping me from being just like everyone else. I am thirty years old, I know what I like, and I am confident enough to choose what I want instead of pretending to enjoy things to make others happy.

Mary Beth Pav

Mary Beth Pav

Mary Beth Pav is one of those people who went to law school because she wants to do the right thing. Really. She loves cookbooks, lifestyle blogs, and is currently training for her first-ever 10-mile race. [Running is actually quite hard!]She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their cat, Winston. You can find her on twitter as @marybeth_pav.
Mary Beth Pav

Latest posts by Mary Beth Pav (see all)

  • This is the best kind of epiphany. The one that sneaks up on you but leaves you profoundly changed. I had a similar experience. I got to a place where pleasing people and caring about what they thought was paralyzing me with fear and anxiety. I realized that the weight I was carrying around was MY weight, the other person or people weren’t feeling it at all, and whatever the conflict or mistake was, they had probably forgotten about it already. So I made a choice to engage the conflict, correct the mistake, resolve it, and LEAVE IT THERE. I have never experienced freedom the way I did after I made that choice. I sleep better, my relationships are stronger, and I feel better about myself too.

    • Anita Annette Scott

      Daaaaaaaang Tammy, that’s deep and so profound. I love it! Love it!

  • Meg

    I’m the same way, I’d rather be home nice and cozy, then out celebrating with a big group of people! At 32, I do sometimes wonder why I haven’t done more! I’m mostly just a wife and mother, just, as if it’s a little thing. I’m living a life far different than I expected to at this point, but isn’t that the hidden beauty of it? We’ve all been created so beautifully different, with different purposes and skills for this life! So this year, I’m celebrating who I am, and trying to be more content exactly where God has placed me in this life. Thank you for your honest words, Mary Beth!

  • greenapples

    It hit me one day that I probably shouldn’t complain about having turned 40, because I’m sure I’d sound ridiculous to 50 year olds! lol In other words, it’s all relative. You can be 23 and feel 47, or 100 and feel 58. It’s all the mind, like so many other things in life. 🙂

    I agree 100% on staying in vs going out. For me at least, that feeling only grew throughout my 30’s. Now, I’m a bonafide homebody unless it’s doing something with my hubby and/or daughter, family and *occasionally* friends or some other social activity. Most nights though, you’ll find me home: cooking, crafting, cleaning, reading. I can only handle 1 (2 at the most) nights out per week or I go bonkers. 🙂

  • you are baller. That is all.

  • Mary Beth, this was so refreshing to read! I’m so glad you are doing what you want and not what you think might be expected of you. And 30 isn’t so old! I’m over 60 and I have been such a people pleaser all my life. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve really begun to pursue things that I really enjoy. That’s not to say I always succeed at not trying to do what I think others think I should do, but I’ve come a long way! 🙂 Blessings to you! You are a breath of fresh air! <3

  • Terri

    Happy Birthday! We are homebodies for celebrations. Folks ask us about good restaurants and we can’t help them – unless they are looking for great Chinese. We have gone to the same little restaurant for 16 years, the only place we eat out. Thirty is a magical year, it is the start of something beautiful. Be you, elbow that tiny inner panic right back. You got this.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    This is wisdom right here: “I am thirty years old, I know what I like, and I am confident enough to choose what I want instead of pretending to enjoy things to make others happy.”
    It’s take a long time to figure out who you are and who you aren’t. God’s creative like that….Happy Birthday!

  • Happy 30th! “who I am is good enough, and that I was made for this exact life I am living…” YES! It’s all about who you are trying to please – others or yourself and God? Such a hard thing to live out but it sounds like you are well on your way!

  • “is there something wrong with me?” Oh, I wonder this all the time. I have wondered it so much less since turning thirty and with every year after. I have ADORED my thirties because of that. So grateful for this honesty, and to see you posting here, Mary Beth!

  • Love this. It’s a hard won victory to decide who and what you are and love – and don’t. Happy Birthday to you!!

  • Look at you being all wise and stuff, MB. Happy thirtieth!

  • Johanna

    Oh, you are definitely not the only one. I’ve spent far too much time and energy wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t want the things I thought I was supposed to want. I tried to live up to those expectations until I didn’t know myself any more. My thirties have been a time of getting to know myself and what I truly value. Thanks for showing up as yourself and happy birthday!

  • Anita Annette Scott

    Mary Beth, girl you speak truth. Thank you. I know I am 37 and sometimes I still wonder: “What’s wrong with me?” I’m not married. I’m still single. I have no children (except 55 since I’m a middle school teacher:-) and haven’t even gotten a dog. I sometimes think people look at my life like, “Poor thing.” I think I need to put more energy into what Jesus is thinking. That’s a wake-up call for me.

  • op3mom

    Happy Birthday!