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Maybe I’m The Exception, but I’m Happier in My 30s Than My 20s

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UnknownLast weekend I attended my 20 year high school reunion, and I didn’t buy anything new to wear. As I was getting ready, wearing a dress I loved but that I had also donned to at least five past occasions, I jokingly asked my husband if it was a sign of maturity that I hadn’t bought a new dress for this “big” event. While I’m sure he appreciated me saving our family a bit of money on an unnecessary expense, I appreciated the fact that now that I’m in my thirties, finding a perfect new dress for every single party isn’t at the top of my priority list. Turns out, the dress I already owned and had worn many times over was perfect for the event, and I felt comfortable and good reuniting with old classmates I hadn’t seen in 20 years.

A new study released last week found that women in their mid-twenties tended to be happier than women in their mid-thirties, who were often more stressed out with the demands and pressures of life often involved with raising a family and growing expenses from mortgages.

The study, conducted in the UK, interviewed 2,000 women and found that at least 1 in 5 women (18 percent) noted they were unhappy due to stress. Among common stressors at this age were finances, raising a family, lack of personal time, and health and weight, with over 50 percent of women responding that they felt overweight. This is contrasted with women in their twenties, who indicated they felt happiest with their often more care-free lifestyles.

While at a glance it’s easy to see how some women are more stressed during their mid-thirties, the study doesn’t take into consideration general mental well-being and how women by their mid-thirties may be more equipped to handle these stresses. Sure, if I simply write out a laundry list of common stresses in my thirties versus my twenties, the former would far outweigh the latter. I have three young beings who rely on me to provide for their almost every need, specifically their mental, physical, and emotional comfort and safety. I also have a mortgage double the size of the one I had in my mid-twenties, and I have to work a lot harder to maintain my physical physique than I did when I was in my twenties.

To counter those stresses, however, I am considerably more confident, secure, and a lot less emotional now in my thirties compared to 10 years earlier. I have, in essence, learned to not stress the small stuff and have a deeper respect and understanding of my relationships, making me a better friend, spouse, sister, and daughter. While it’s a growing process and I am still prone to occasional moodiness (I am human after all), the days of flying off the handle or getting hurt by every little thing are a lot less frequent.

Physically, I sure do have to work harder to not only maintain a physique I’m happy with but also to just feel good in general, doing regular weekly yoga sessions to keep backaches at bay. However, I definitely know how to take care of myself better now than ever before. In fact, I just made a list of healthy habits I wish I would’ve adopted in my twenties. During that time, I knew that the best way to cure a hangover was to roll through the McDonald’s drive-thru. Now, I know the best way to cure a hangover is to not drink so much!

As far as finances are concerned, there are plenty of worries to consider now in my thirties. Between a mortgage, kid’s activities, diapers, and college funds, it feels like we will never earn enough money to cover it all. My twenties were consumed with career-climbing, counting down the days till my annual review so I could ask for a raise or a promotion, and wondering if my spouse and I would ever make enough money together to not just pay our mortgage, but support a family as well. While I wish I could say all our money worries have magically disappeared now that we’re in our thirties, they haven’t, but I’ve learned to stress about money a heck of a lot less. Over a decade’s worth of practice has helped me sort out our priorities, nourish careers, and when all else fails, have faith that in the end, it usually all works out.

By no means do I have it all figured out, and remaining positive and not feeling swallowed by the endless to-do lists and avalanche of bills and expenses that comes with a family of five is a hard task some days. But I look back at some of the things that used to bother me or stress me out in my mid-to-late twenties, and I see how silly I was and how far I’ve come.

It’s often said that your twenties are for figuring out who you are and what you want, and I don’t necessarily disagree. If that’s the case, then I’d say your thirties are the start of beginning to enjoy who you’ve become and what you’ve achieved.

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