Turning 30? No Worries!

In a youth-obsessed culture, 30 might seem practically over-the-hill. But this decade can be a time of growth, satisfaction, and renewed faith.

Before turning 30, I worried about my 30s. Now that I’m 35, I’ve noticed the 30s are not so bad. In fact, they’ve turned out to be the most fulfilling years of my life. God’s grace is working powerfully in places I never thought I’d find it. If you haven’t hit your 30s yet, you may have worried about some of the same things that troubled me.

Sitting here writing to you from the other side of the hill, I’d like to discuss seven of the biggest worries I had and the reasons you don’t need to worry about them.

When Will My Ship Come In?

I had ambitions. I planned to be a well-known writer by 30, maybe have a few books published. When I graduated in 2008, the economy was going through the Great Recession. Young adults weren’t finding it easy to land a secure job of any kind, let alone one in their field of choice. According to the 2010 US Census Bureau, only 27 percent of college graduates had a job that matched their major in 2010. I wasn’t among that 27 percent as I bounced around between odd jobs for years. By God’s grace, I was able to get freelance writing and editing gigs with a diocesan newspaper and a local newspaper chain.

Then things started coming together. I got a steady job as editor of a Catholic company’s blog, got married, had a son, bought a house, and became a parishioner at the local parish.

You could say that by 2018 my ship had come in—but then 2020 happened. I had become too comfortable with the good, steady job I had. With 2020, everything was thrown up in the air. My job and almost everything about our family’s future became less secure, less certain.

It took me a while to realize that there is very little in life that is certain, and most of the certainty I did have wound up being false certainty. I lost that steady job during the worst economy since the Great Depression, but I’ve learned to see this hardship as an opportunity to strengthen my faith. I can use unpredictable events to gain deeper faith in God because he always pulls us through when we have faith.

In these crazy times, I am turning more intently to God, who speaks to me through Scripture with words like “under his wings you may seek refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield” (Ps 91:4). I knew that no matter how crazy life got, God would provide. I’ve found that seeking God’s kingdom first makes everything else fall into place.

I also discovered that providing as a father and husband is not simply about finding a job to support my family. The vocation to provide for a family also means providing wisdom, a good example, courage, and many other virtues.

What If I Lose My Friends?

I used to wonder about Christ’s words in Luke: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (14:26). I began to understand them when old friends started to fade out of my life. It wasn’t just because we were all getting too busy, but also because I was leaving behind the ways of the world to pursue an authentic Catholic family life.

As Christ said, if we are not putting God first in our lives, we need to put aside other relationships for a while to put God first, and that includes friendships. Then, once we find life in God, we can build truly holy relationships based on love of God. I’ve learned that true friends hang on through this transformation, and those friendships become stronger. God also brings new people into your life who have a spirit kindred to your own, and life becomes even more meaningful.

illustration of women drinking tea

Will I Lose Sight of Who I Am?

The words from “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads sometimes ring in my head: “You may ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’ And you may say to yourself, ‘My God! What have I done?'” I have asked myself these questions, specifically when I felt Christ calling me to something I knew nothing about—for example, working with youth in the high desert of Wyoming. I closed my eyes, took a leap, and when I opened them, everything in my life was different. This has happened several times.

In my 20s, my lifestyle and the surrounding scenery were ephemeral. In my 30s, the changes are much more permanent. You will likely find the truth in the words “you can’t come home again.” It’s one thing to move away from home in your late teens or 20s for college or a new job. In your 30s, though, there is more finality to the move. There’s not just the uncertainty of pulling up roots, but also the necessity of putting down new ones, which can be even scarier.

There is a remedy to this scariness, though. When I was a kid, my mom had this phrase printed on the top of her checks: “Bloom where you are planted.” Something about that advice reminds me that it is not about me. I planted a rosebush in the yard of our new home in late August. I wasn’t sure it would make it, but when roses kept blooming one week after another, I realized how simple, yet wonderful, that bush’s purpose was. God made it to be beautiful, and to provide hope for those who gaze upon it. When we do the same with our lives, we give glory to God. After being uprooted, replanted, and now settled in, I’m glad to finally be living proof of God’s words, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39).

Am I Ready for Family?

Your kids will definitely take time away from you. Does “me time” matter in family life? Yes, but sometimes God’s plan has bigger things in mind, and nothing is bigger than sharing life with the new life you brought into the world. Dying to self is a requirement no matter what vocation you choose. But there is life on the other side.

Family life is not only about raising kids. It also includes taking care of a house and running a household. Broken appliances, bills, and maintenance needs will inevitably happen before you are ready. The best thing to do right now is putter around with stuff. If you know someone who has skills you lack, ask if you could learn from him or her.

The messy shed in my yard is often a cause of worry for me. I let my worry overwhelm me, which causes me to stay away from the shed. This is just plain foolish. We are co-creators with God, who wants us to look at our environment and learn ways to improve and maintain it.

Will I Lose the Vigor of Youth?

Losing the vigor of youth means, among other things, losing your idealism and your will to press on despite the odds. The remedy? Remember Christ’s words, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (Jn 14:13). Remembering that we are children of God keeps the fire of life burning bright in our eyes.

Losing the vigor of youth can also mean losing the will to exercise. But with a family of my own, I’ve found that my will to exercise has doubled because I feel I have to be strong for the ones I love. Now that my life has more direction and structure, exercising is part of an intentional, healthy, holistic, and holy lifestyle.

Sometimes losing the vigor of youth means losing touch with pop culture and current trends. Two words about that: So what? I’ve never been more out of touch with the trends of the day and pop culture, and I’ve never felt more free-minded. So much of the culture around us portrays a negative view of humanity and human dignity. We’ve been working on building a wholesome culture in our household and have found we’re better off leaving the TV off as much as possible.

Losing that youthful vigor may also mean losing the will to go out on the town and have other random adventures. For me, the last of such trips was to Brooklyn for my bachelor party. One of my friends referred to the subway ride as a “buzz killer.” Something much deeper became clear when he said that. The whole party was a buzz killer, not because it was bad but because I knew my future had a more fulfilling kind of joy in store. I wasn’t losing the vigor of my youth; I was being reborn into my vocation. Marriage brings with it a whole new kind of youthfulness. I’ve learned the truth of Christ’s words, “I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

illustration of a baptism

What About Money?

You may accrue more debt; you may lose your job; but hang on to faith, and you’ll make it through. Everything we have is on loan from God, and eventually we have to give it all away. We are all in debt, even if it’s just the debt Christ paid for our sins.

Acknowledging how we depend on grace every moment helps us live a life of gratitude. Ironically, living in gratitude also alleviates us from feeling we need to do more things that will put us more in debt. Gratitude shows us God has always, and will always, provide all we need if we have trust.

If money gets tight, you may have to take a job you never wanted. I’ve worked at minimum-wage jobs that tested my patience. If you have to get a similar humbling job in your 30s, consider it a character builder. The wisdom and virtue you learn from these jobs will likely become some of the strongest threads in the fabric of your character.

Concern for money can become a heavy burden, one that may make you let go of the hobbies that bring deeper joy to your life. I used to journal on a daily basis. I haven’t gotten back to journaling consistently for years, but when I do, the catharsis I experience is unparalleled. Never let go of the fervor and ideals of your youth. They are gifts from God, and such gifts never become obsolete. Pick one dream and obsess over it. Even if money gets tight and you have to take odd jobs, you’ll still be able to pursue at least that one dream with the spare time you have, and it will reward you for choosing it.

How Can I Keep My Faith?

Even with a strong foundation, losing faith can happen. Pew Research says 13 percent of US adults are self-proclaimed former Catholics. What can we do to prevent this from happening to us? I’d like to simply say the important thing is getting back up, regaining your footing, and starting to believe again. But that’s not how faith works. People often lose their faith because they lose their focus on God and make faith about themselves, then drown in the worries and influence of the world. Faith is a gift. Put God first always, and he’ll do the rest. Don’t lose your first true love.

I’ve found it easier to hold on to my love of God by having a relationship with Jesus Christ. So often we overlook this obvious aspect of our relationship with God. We forget that God did the hard part by coming down to us so we may be one with him.

Many people believe Christ was a great teacher but not the son of God. They don’t see the value in having a relationship with him. If he is just a great teacher, the ways he can lead you to God are very limited. If he’s just a sage, you may start to see Christ as an idealist who expects too much of us. But if he is the Son of God, that changes everything. I can’t emphasize enough the difference this distinction has made in my life.

No Worries

Everything above hinges on this teaching of Christ: “Do not worry about your life. . . . Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? . . . Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?” (Mt 6:25‚ 27).

Most of the things I worried about in my 30s actually did happen. I’m not sure if it was all inevitable, or if I have the gift of prophecy. Whatever the case, I was still wrong—not because I thought these things might happen, but because I worried that they would. Like a good father, God does not simply keep us away from the things we fear. Oftentimes, he takes us right into the thick of them, saying, “Don’t worry, I’m right beside you.”

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