I’m approaching a milestone birthday and I feel lost

Agony aunt Mary Fenwick looks choosing optimism around a milestone birthday


I’m approaching a milestone birthday and I feel lost

Q: ‘I’m heading towards my 30th birthday and, although I am generally quite a cheerful person, I am feeling quite gloomy. I have not achieved any of the things my friends have achieved. Lots of them are married and some are having children, while I am still single.

I started working at my job five years ago as a stopgap, but I am still there. It is secure and pays reasonably well and I work with a nice bunch of people, but it is not a vocation.

I share a flat with a friend and I can see no prospect of buying my own place. I thought life would take shape, but nothing seems to change. I still feel like a student.’ 

A: It is great news that you are generally cheerful, because optimists tend to live longer. Optimistic people believe negative events are temporary, limited in scope (not pervading every aspect of your life), and manageable. I am sure that there is a part of you that knows all of that applies to turning 30.

One way to help yourself regain your upbeat mood is to work on building your ‘hope muscle’. It might sound like an airy-fairy notion, but hopeful people have more persistence and capacity to put up with pain in pursuit of their goals. And it can be learned.

The first step is setting yourself concrete and attainable goals, so rather than, ‘I’m looking for my vocation’, try ‘I will talk to three people with jobs that inspire me’. You have a secure, well-paid job with nice people. You did that, and you can make other good things happen, too. I hope there is one aspect of you that never changes: being a student of life is a wonderful mindset.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

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Photograph: iStock

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