When she was 33, one of my favourite singers Ani DiFranco wrote: “I suited up for the long walk back to myself, closer to the ground now, with sorrow, and stealth”. Beginning your 30s is not an easy thing, especially in a culture which places so much emphasis on youth. We need guidance for how to think in a life-giving way about the decades after youth. One of the most helpful things for me is the mood captured by Ani DiFranco’s line: “closer to the ground now, with sorrow, and stealth”. It suggests a seriousness that comes after you have been knocked back a bit in life. Being “closer to the ground” means being more realistic. You know now that life is short, lots of things fail, time is limited. It’s time to focus more now on what matters, and start making steps forward. You know now that small steps forward, when the goal is good, are to be seriously appreciated. It’s much better than hard work for organizations which have no proper goal.
A similar, helpful, thought came from Cicero: that life has stages. Youth is energetic, late youth and middle age is serious, and old age has perspective. It is helpful to think of life has having distinct, legitimate stages, and that it’s okay to move emotionally and intellectually from one to the next. Yes, you lose some of the energy of your teenage years. But you gain a sense of seriousness which can become a sense of determination if you are willing to start making small steps towards the things you care about. Cicero also said that life is like a play: a good actor knows when to move from one act to the next, when to come and go, and not to cling unnecessarily to previous parts of the story.
I’d like to hold on to the best parts of youth: having confidence in putting together a vision, and unhappiness with the difference between the ideal and reality. But I can learn to do this in a more focused way. I am starting to take steps towards building a therapy company, which is my attempt to show how business can engage with important needs, and how the reality of organization and revenues can come together with ideals. Our 30s are the time to get more in touch with what we actually care about and to start guiding our work according to this. Even though we know some of the sorrows, difficulties, and disappointments of life, we can still keep loving and getting energy from the ideal, as we are a little more stealthy and closer to the ground in the messiness of the real.