The scary part of turning 30… That I’ve sort of held back on

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Turning 30 hasn’t really gone exactly the way I thought it would.

The big Three-Oh, as they call it, has been both much better and much worse than I ever could have imagined.

I remember, years ago, when I realized that this age was on the horizon, thinking that it was a scary time. But that’s okay, because that scary time was very far ahead of me. Then as the years got closer and closer, I came to this realization that turning 30 was Supposed To Be Scary.

It was! There is not a single person that I’ve heard from who was actually excited to hit this mile marker. And I think I know why.

As teenagers, we seriously can’t wait to grow up. I couldn’t wait to finish high school, go off to college, get out of my parents house and start my new life. Then as a young adult, I was living the life I had always dreamed of as a teen.

I was successful in my career. I was living in the city that I loved. I had wonderful friends and I was constantly making new ones. I even had some sort of a love life most of the time. It was great.

My 20s were wonderful, really.

They were exactly what I had always hoped for and imagined, and then some. It was a time of discovery and appreciation. A time when I grew into my personality, lost weight and gained the self confidence I always knew was deep down inside of me.

The reason why turning 30 is seen as a scary thing is because, as teens, that’s when the fun seems to stop.

There isn’t necessarily a concrete age where everyone wakes up and decides “Holy F, I guess it’s time to be an adult now!” but 30 always seemed like just about the right number for that.

When we turn 30, we’re no longer the young people that everyone talks about. We’re not allowed to just be silly and have fun, to need time to find ourselves, to admit that we still haven’t figured it all out, to need a seriously drastic change in our careers or our homes or our relationships (like I did).

This is the age when we supposedly Have It All Figured Out. And despite the fact that I intellectually know that this is all BS, that there isn’t a perfect age to know everything about yourself or the world or your place in it, that feeling is still somehow there, in the back of my mind, taunting me with its anxiety about why I haven’t done those things yet and fully become The Person I Was Meant To Be.

In our 20s, it’s easy to say that we still have time. When I was 23, I was just out of college. At 25, I was having a quarter life crisis and adjusting what I truly wanted in my career. At 28, although I was well aware that 30 was just a couple years away, it still felt like I had the world ahead of me.

And then I turned 30 and somehow… I don’t know, there just wasn’t something extra there.

I don’t know exactly what this piece is that I was missing. I’ve been told that turning 30 is scary. I’ve read articles about all the things I should know or do or read or have by the time I reach this age. I’ve also been reminded that it’s not a big deal. That turning 30 doesn’t really change anything and that plenty of people, both friends and those of the famous variety, have lots of growing up to do even after this age.

But yet still it somehow affected me.

And I still haven’t even figured out how, to be honest. Turning 30 was simultaneously not at all a big deal to me and also the biggest deal on the planet. I know that it’s fine that I’m not quite There Yet, but I also know that plenty of people are.

So what if I have friends who are only now starting to pair up? So what if I have friends who are just barely starting grad school? So what if I have friends who just decided to quit their jobs to travel the world? Their choices are amazing and wonderful and I admire them – and at the same time it all still scares the F out of me.

This evening I lay in bed and read the first chapter of what I am coming to appreciate as a very important book in my career, Writing Is My Drink. Although there are lots of awesome tidbits and nuggets I’ve already obsessively underlined in the book (yes, I’m one of THOSE people), there is a particular sentence that stood out to me: “Why don’t you try writing about what scares you the most?”

It’s something that is suggested to the author, Theo Pauline Nestor, and prompts her to write a story about her abortion. As I sat there marinating on what that sentence meant, I realized that she was right.

Writing about what scares me the most is the key to good writing, and in particular the key to good memoir writing. As I begin this new life as a full-time freelance writer and seriously start working on my memoir, Moscow Chica, there are lots of things that scare me… But one in particular that I am honestly just not ready to write about.

Yet as I lay there, I realized that’s not really the biggest thing that scares me. The thing that scares me is that turning 30 is going much better than I thought it would a couple months ago, and somehow much worse than I thought it would a couple months before that.

I’ve spent many days over the past several months (and, to be honest, the past year) telling myself that it was all going to be okay. Turning 30 didn’t mean the end of anything and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to grow up, be an adult and know what the heck I want in life.

And although I know that’s true, it still doesn’t scare me any less that I am not where I thought I should be at this age.

In many ways, turning 30 has allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate my life. It’s why I started the Map Your 30s blog in the first place. But I realize now that I haven’t really been very honest here, and I haven’t really been writing as much as I know I should be.

Before you take a step back and warn me about using the word “should” in the past two paragraphs, I KNOW.

Nobody is quite as good as I am at giving myself way-too-high expectations that I am sure to fail. I’m only now, at this age, learning where that feeling comes from and what damage it has done in my life.

For right now though, I have to admit that this isn’t really going the way I thought it would. I think it’s going very well, actually… Maybe. But at the same time, there is a fear in me still that I can’t seem to calm. I don’t even know if I can put a name on it yet, but it’s there.

This whole “turning 30” business has really messed me up somehow. And I don’t know if it’s because of the ever present societal expectations or just my own, but what I do know is that I have a need to write about these things.

I promise to try to write about them more often. And a little bit more honestly. Because it’s really easy for me to talk about the awesome parts, like meeting the love of my life or moving out of the city I called home or how I’m eating healthier these days. But it’s harder for me to talk about the painful or confusing or scary parts, like what to do when tragedy strikes or why I have issues accepting generosity.

I know I need to, though. I wouldn’t be up right now, sitting in my very dark apartment while Adam sleeps in the other room, typing away at my computer about The Thing That Scares Me The Most. And I’m not even sure what that thing is yet, but I’m here writing about it anyway. Maybe if I keep hitting the keys long enough, I’ll figure it out.

For now, though… I’m just going to say that being 30 is weird. There are a million amazing things about it, yes, but it’s also really, really weird. It’s not an age I ever had a plan for, despite absolutely being the type of person who’s always planning my next step in life, and so now I am a bit aimless and confused.

And I guess that’s okay. I know that I’m not the only one feeling this way. Perhaps when I wake up tomorrow, this will serve as a catharsis and that whole number will seem a little less scary to me.

But for the moment, I’m just going to crawl back into bed and try to fall asleep… Scary oh-my-god-am-I-actually-thirty-now thoughts and all.

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Why I’m happy that I failed at my July “writing every day” project

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I have always been one of those people that is much better at ideas than the actual follow through.

You can probably ask any one of my friends about this. I can spend a morning coming up with 36 ideas to write about (as I recently did in a pitch to one of my regular publications) but when it comes to putting a solid pen-to-paper, I’m not quite as good.

Jokingly, I blame it on being an Aries. I’ve always read that we’re just like that: get really enthusiastic and passionate about a project… For about 2 days. And then we’re on to the next great thing, and have forgotten all about that last task we were just SO REALLY VERY excited about.

That’s always been me. And although I don’t actually believe in astrology, it’s still fun to think about it. But I know that it’s not good or healthy for me to be this kind of person. Instead, the more I grow and learn about myself in these last 30 years of life, the more I realize that it’s something I should work on. More importantly, though, I need to partner with people who can help me see things through.

So when it came to my July “Writing Every Day” Project, I was afraid that the same thing would happen. Again. And I was RIGHT!

I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in order to track my progress and here is what I came away with at the end of the month:

Days of Writing: 13 out of 31

Average Per Day: 907 words

Total Word Count: 11,796

To be honest, I am actually kind of proud of the work that I did.

Okay, so 13 days isn’t exactly great. But that’s almost 2 weeks of writing! And beyond that, averaging almost 1000 words per day when I was only writing for an hour every day is mighty impressive in my opinion. Although I was just shy of 12,000 words, I am still proud.

After 13 days of writing… Well, things got a bit hectic. I had to spend long days at work to prepare for a week-long vacation and just didn’t have the mental energy to do any personal writing. Then I was on vacation, and then I had to catch up on work. A lot of excuses, I know, but for a minute I truly thought I would be able to do all of this *and* continue with my daily writing. I honestly did!

After that didn’t work, though, my plan was to write for two hours every day to make up for the time I didn’t have before. But then things kept being busy and, eventually, I gave it up.

To be honest, giving up on “writing every day” was REALLY difficult. I was starting to do what I always do – putting a ton of pressure on myself to do THE BEST JOB EVER and stressing myself out.

I joke about how nobody puts as much pressure on me as I myself do, but it’s honestly not really a joke. And, after a particularly stressful couple of days, I had a long talk with Adam and he encouraged me to chill the F out.

So I decided to quit early on my July “Writing Every Day” Project and, to be honest, I feel pretty darn good about it. The truth is that taking care of my mental health is at the top of my list this year. I need to learn to treat myself better, and being my own worst boss is simply NOT an option. I’ve been there and done that, and I still have trouble relaxing about my self-imposed work schedule.

But for now, for today, I am proud of the work I did writing every day for 13 days. Yes, it wasn’t 31 days. Yes, I gave up early. Yes, maybe this makes me the worst writer on the planet (or not)…

The point is, I still DID IT. I wrote consistently and I even had a pretty awesome average daily word count.

I’m proud of myself for that. And I am proud of myself for admitting that sometimes quitting early is the right thing to do. The lifelong overachiever in me is still having some serious trouble with that, but the girl trying to grow and be better is pretty happy with the results.

Plus, now that I know that I *can* do it, I’m planning to continue writing more. Sure, I won’t be doing it daily but I *will* be doing it regularly. And that’s what really matters in the end… With the caveat that I’m continuing to put less pressure on myself.

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When overthinking gets in the way of my writing

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s really, really easy for me to overthink my writing. In fact, I basically do it EVER. DAMN. DAY.

Here’s what typically happens in my brain:

I want to write! Okay… but what to write about? Let’s see… Well, I have a story due, so I’ll work on that. Okay, done with that, now I should write a blog update about Map Your 30 Project. Or, um, maybe I should go for a Healthy Latin Food story since I’ve been thinking a LOT about food lately. But then I kind of feel like writing about my memoir. Or maybe I should read a memoir. Or maybe I should research the memoir? Oh WAIT! But now I want to write about doing Whole30… but then I just did all that research on high protein smoothies, so maybe I should write about that? OH MAN! I just got a *great* blog idea. Maybe I should start a new blog? Oh geez, do I really have time for a new blog…

And this goes on for about an hour. Or sometimes all day.

Over, and over, and over again. I have one very big issue with my writer’s block. And it’s not so much that I don’t have any inspiration to write but that I simply have TOO MANY IDEAS to write about.

This has always been my problem, actually.

I overthink absolutely EVERYTHING. And I don’t just mean my writing. I overthink my relationship, I overthink moving, I overthink social plans, I overthink conversations, I just… overthink.

It’s the main symptom of my anxiety, I think. (Look, there I go AGAIN! Hahahahahahah… or not.)

The worst part of it lately, though, is that I am letting my overthinking absolutely cripple my writing. I have SUCH a strong desire to just sit down and write. Just get my words out there, even if nobody reads them.

But then I sit down… and I start to think. And my brain jumps from one idea to the next to the next to the next and, before I know it, it’s time to move on and do something else (like sort that pile of clean laundry on the couch… Stop taunting me, pile!).

And I make myself believe it’s OKAY. Really, seriously, Irina, it’s FINE. You’ll write tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day!

But as my mami said in Spanish often when I was little, it ends up being “the tomorrow that never comes”.

Because that’s what is happening with my writing lately. I put it off, I let myself overthink it, and I never simply sit my pretty ass down to a computer and JUST START WRITING.

Which is horrible!

I’m smarter than that. Really, I promise that I am. Every fellow creative person I talk to (and even my wonderful boyfriend, who’s an engineer but has a few creative bones in his body thanks to a love of music and playing the drums) tells me every time the subject come sup: JUST. START. WRITING!

I’m sure I’ve driven a good chunk of my writer friends crazy with my constant zigzagging between ideas.

Oooooh what about this?! Or THAT?! Should I work on that book? Or this one? Or maybe this other blog idea I had that one time… 

Trust me, it’s EXHAUSTING. It exhausts and frustrates even me. Like, constantly. All the time. But I decided to finally do something about it. I think…

I’m going to take the month of July to write EVERY DAMN DAY.

That’s right. I am going to sit down at my computer every single day during the month of July 2016 and write something on this here writer’s portfolio site/blog/whatever you want to call this place.

I’m not saying it’s going to be good. In fact, it’ll probably be just like this–some ramblings and musings about who-knows-what with no real substance or anything.

But then again, maybe something will come of it. That’s my hope, anyway. With so many ideas always crowding my mind and essentially giving me serious writer’s FOMO, I need to let go and, as Nike famously put it, just DO it.

I know there’s also some fear of success/failure issues that go along with this. After all, it’s MUCH easier to pretend that everything’s fine when I don’t have a full manuscript staring me in the face, asking me why I haven’t yet sold it to an agent (or, worse, what to do ONCE I HAVE). As long as the book I want to write is never done or the blog that I believe in never receives 100% of my attention, it’s going to be totally okay. Right?

Instead, I happily allow myself to sit in an Overthinking Cloud of Doom and never actually go for one thing or the other. Hell, I never even go for BOTH things at the same time–but with the determination and commitment that I truly want to give of myself.

I just don’t do it. I think and think and think and never write and write and write.

So this is important. I need to stop getting in my own freaking way and just WRITE. I mean, look, I’m here doing it, aren’t I?

Here’s to the month of July and accomplishing one sort-of-kind-of-maybe-I-think goal: WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY.

… Wish me luck, y’all.

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I’m about to turn 30…

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In the past few months, and I couldn’t tell you if this is coincidence or some weird algorithm or simply because I am more aware of it, my Facebook feed has been full of “hey you’re turning 30!” articles.

And it’s true. I am turning 30. In exactly a month, to be precise.

To be honest, I am not yet sure how I feel about the whole thing. At times I feel like the it is kind of silly. All of the pressure that we face, as women and as human beings in general, to have checked off certain life milestones by this age. A great career, a nice home, a semblance of independence and some vague definition of being a real adult now that our twenties are behind us.

Oh yeah, and can’t forget the whole life partner thing.

Whether married, engaged or simply paired off with the person that you’re thinking you probably *will* marry, the pressure to “Have It All” seems to really start at this age when we have graduated from those years of growing and finding ourselves to these years of settling into our lives.

But what if you’re not actually quite settled or ready to be settled yet? Is the pressure to have it all figured out by 30 real, or is it something that’s just in our heads?

Irina25thBdayAs I read through what seems like the 27th list of things I should have done/read/watched/experienced/learned by the time I hit the big 3-0 next month, I’m left wondering: isn’t there more to figure out after this? After all, life doesn’t begin at 30 and it definitely doesn’t end there either.

So that’s where I find myself now, thinking that turning 30 is both a really big deal and absolutely no big deal at all.

Sure, I have some things figured out, like that really awesome career that I love. But some things are still in the To Be Determined folder, like that life partner-type figure that’s looming somewhere on the horizon. Maybe.

In the end, though, I know I still have some work to do on myself. I don’t really think that work will ever end, because what’s the point of life if you just stop improving yourself? But since I’m turning 30 and all the hoopla that supposedly comes with it, I am taking this year to especially focus on some of the things that are important to me.

I’m calling it the Map Your 30s blog. It’s basically a vehicle for me to focus on the things that are important to me and the parts of my life that I want to work on, strengthen or improve in some way. That means my career, relationships, finances, home environment, health and confidence/spirituality.

I doubt it’ll only last a year. That’s quite a big undertaking that I am planning to tackle. But the truth is that it’s really not about a year-long project or because I’m turning 30 and all of a sudden some sort of alarm is going off in my head (it’s not), but simply because I want to do it. And I want to do it now.

Being 30 (and maybe having learned a thing or two in the last decade) is just a perk.

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