That’s it. Tomorrow my 20s pack their bags, throw the goat one last time and head on out to that great big road trip in the sky. In their stead come my 30s, wearing a cardigan and slippers and smoking a meerschaum. No more blaming things on impetuous youth. Gotta be an eh-dult now. Oy.
Folks who know me well have noticed that, when talking about my turning 30, there’s been a bit of dread in my voice. Folks who are in their mid-30s and above are slightly offended by this – “If you think you’re old…” But it’s not so much that I feel old – 30 is a perfectly fine age to be – it’s that I’m doing that whole “Where am I in my life” thing, and I see some key components missing.
There are some extremely wonderful blessings – I get the insanely great privilege of waking up to one of the most beautiful and wonderful women in the world AND I get to call her my wife. We’re currently right in the early stages of getting a house, which means we should have a place to call our own by mid-year. I’m no longer working for the Academy of Art College (I will never call that place a university – that’s an insult to those of us who actually went to one) which is truly wonderful as I came to the realization the other day that, if I were to enter my 30s still working at that hell hole, I’d probably be spending my birthday draining a vein. Instead, I work for a great outfit of hardworking, creative folks who really get the concept of respect in the workplace and are just fun to be around.
But there are a couple of things missing. For instance, I had hoped to be a father by now. That’s not that big a deal, though – my own father was just turning 30 when I was born, and I’ve since observed many men whom I greatly admire who had children past 30 and are terrific dads (my current boss being one shining example). I think the thing that’s really sticking out for me, though, is the horrendous lack of risk in my life.
I am, to put it mildly, risk-averse. This had affected me in numerous ways over the years, from keeping my single through my college years to taking forever for me to find a new job after my old dot com went bust. We all take little risks each day. Just getting behind the wheel of a car is a life-threatening risk, and most of us do it for at least an hour a day. But the bigger risks, specifically the ones that result in some sort of public exposure but nothing as serious as death, are the toughest for many of us. The possibility of public failure is a huge deterrent for many of us who’d rather just stick with the status quo, regardless of antsy it makes us.
Practically every aspect of my life is in good order, despite this aversion to risk. I’m very happily married, and I’m proud to say that I can say that without hesitation or feeling like I’m lying. We make good money. We’re not rich by any stretch, but we’re doing well enough to be buying a home, which is a gigantic step. I have a good job working for terrific people. Ah, but there’s the real problem – I’d rather be working for myself.
Lately, I’ve been hearing the words of my grade school teachers coming back to haunt me – “Not living up to his potential.” It’s been driving me nuts. During the dot com boom, everyone and their brother was coming up with business ideas and putting them to work. I had a few of my own, but had no idea where or how to start. When the bust came and left my without a job, a million ideas blossomed in my mind, but I was too afraid to act on any of them for fear that I’d never make any money. I felt my time was best spent looking for a new job. When I went to work for the AAC, I realized that working for someone else was just as risky and working for myself, if not more so. At the AAC, I always felt like I could lose my job at any minute because I didn’t toe the line drawn out by the power mongering Machiavelli who ran my department. When I left, I told myself it would only be a temporary job until I got my own idea off the ground.
This week will be a year since I’ve left the AAC. I’m in the throes of building my ideas into a viable company and hope to have it up and running at full speed by summer. But every day brings with it the challenge of conquering my own risk aversion. It’s an uphill battle for me, one that I’m currently fighting alone. I’m successful, but it puts into clear light the things I’ve missed for fear of shaking my sense of stability, which has never, ever been anything other an illusion. I’m actually proud of myself for taking these steps, and 100 percent confident of my success. By this time next year, I will be singing a different tune. Perhaps by them my 30s, driving their practical car and reading the business section to see how their retirement portfolio is doing, may not be as scary as they seem now.