On my 29th birthday I realized that I would officially be “old” next year. I would no longer be in my 20’s, I would no longer be “successful at a young age”… I would be “old” and “marginally successful.” At the age of 29 I began to think more sincerely about what exactly I was expecting to accomplish before I turned 30 and why I was struggling so much with my 30th birthday.
To set the record straight, I wouldn’t want you to think that I was only struggling with this birth year, but that I was otherwise entirely content with my day of birth. On the contrary, I have never enjoyed my birthday as much as I enjoy other people’s birthdays. Given the summer, my birthday falls squarely within the week that most people want “out” of their respective cities, day camps end, and friends disappear to enjoy family vacations. So, while growing up, birthday parties were hard to plan, worse to execute, and oftentimes fell in June or September. Womp. Womp. Woe is me. But, now that that rant is out of my system, I’m pretty sure I’ve overcome those birthday challenges.
There was something bigger bothering me about turning 30… it was that I was turning 30 and didn’t really feel like I was ready to turn 30. I didn’t know why I wasn’t ready - it was the next number in a series of numbers that I was familiar with, why would I not be ready for this one? I came to the conclusion this week that I struggled the whole year with turning 30 because I didn’t know myself well enough to know why I was struggling. It occurred to me that with everything that I learned in life, I didn’t yet know myself or how to talk about myself. Everyone else knew how to talk about me - who I was, what I was good at, what was new with me. But me? I had no clue how the puzzle pieces were fitting together. I felt that by the age of 30 I should have had that kind of thing figured out.
Subconsciously, I started to pay more attention to what, why, when and where people were saying things about me and began to do my own research. I took a series of assessments: Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Fascination Advantage, and most recently Strengths Finder. I overloaded myself with information about… me. I knew I had weaknesses that were well documented in performance evaluations from supervisors and spun into strengths in recommendation letters. For example, “needs to recognize and appreciate the slow cycles of business.” And I personally knew that I had self-improvement to do. For example, “public speaking.” But, I didn’t really know what I was good at or what about me made me good at whatever it was that I was good at.
What started with Myers-Briggs to learn about my “preferences” and how I make decisions about the world, turned into the Fascination Advantage to understand what about me fascinates people. I became obsessed with these assessments poring over their reports and analyzing the relationships between my type and the other 15 and 48, respectively. I learned a ton about myself and came to the conclusion that if you spend your life constantly working to improve upon your weaknesses, you won’t have enough time to capitalize on your strengths.
After a year of assessment and introspection I think I’m starting to understand “who I am,” “what I’m good at,” and can begin to talk about “what’s new with me.” Now that my 30th birthday has come and gone I can safely say that it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating it would be. I already had the gray hairs to validate the next number in the number series of life. So, I’ll take 30 and raise the bar… one year at a time.