The dirty little secret about your late 20s/early 30s


It doesn’t get easier…just more complicated!

Recently, I’ve been having the same conversation with a lot of good friends, MBA or not about whaaaat….THIS is what being a grown up is really about? No one told me it was gonna be like this! I thought I’d hit a point in life and kind of ‘have it all together’ – or at least feel way more proactively ahead of the game based on all my (sooo extensive) life experience. Instead, I feel like sometimes I’m just trying to keep up with my own life. My boss has a client where at one point he was frustrated because the team was just ‘putting out fires instead of being strategically proactive about the next steps for the future.’ It kinda feels like that. (except we added more resources and got it under control. My life? Not so simple)

Responsibilities, aging parents, loans, mortgages (if you’re lucky), younger brothers and sisters needing a little extra $help$, the guilt/responsibility/pride of being THAT person for your family (given you’re the ‘responsible’ one)…

Now this isn’t to say every generation before us hasn’t gone through this same revelation right around this time – but it HAS been a bit different for the ‘millenials’ that I’m talking to.

Gen X folks (and before) – their parents had pensions and insurance, from somewhat secure life-time jobs to cover things like health problems, retirement income, and fixed expenses. Folks that didn’t go to b-school or post-grad school have been working and saving money and don’t have that extra loan payment to think about (unless you DID buy some property and then you understand our pain).

So on top of paying loans, I and many of my MBA/post-graduate degree friends are

– Trying to save (since there won’t be any social security by the time I’m 60)

– Trying to be good children for parents that took care of us (when there are health problems, or other unexpected things that come up – I WANT to be able to say here mom/dad, I’m where I thought I’d be at 30, take whatever money you need, I got you. The fact that I can’t, to the level that I’d like, is not a great feeling)

– Starting to think about investing in some serious roots (i.e. buying a house, a car, heck, REAL wood furniture)

– Starting to solidify what we believe in (and unlearn all the things we told ourselves we SHOULD be in our 20s so we can focus on being who was WANT to be going forward)

– Trying to maybe travel, see the world, or experience the nicer, more spontaneous things in life (before the babies come, if you’re planning on that and your life is no longer your own)

– And of course (after going to at least 10 weddings in the last 2 years post business school) everyone’s getting married and starting to think about weddings (expensive!) and babies (expensive AND time/energy/emotional/attention consuming)

Oh and on top of that – trying to build a career, grow my network, create content to have a ‘brand’, and figure out what I’m doing with my life to actually give back so that others can have the same opportunities I had….etc..

Now, don’t get me wrong – these are squarely and definitely first world problems to have. I have NO misconceptions about that. This isn’t a woe-is-me pity party. But with that said, I DO want to do the most that I can with the time that I have and the life I’ve been given – so I think about all of these things holistically and am trying to figure out how to get it all done in one lifetime.

I enjoy my life, I appreciate the confidence, the open expanse of possibility before me, and the skills that I’ve learned over time that come with finally heading into my ‘30s’. I love my friends, and I’m blessed to have parents that are still with me that I CAN worry about not being able to spend as much as I’d like on them.

But I will say that I’m definitely not the only one who’s feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different competing factors that are pressing on my mind these days. And of course, I want to do well at all of them. Relationships, family, work, finances, preparing for the future, and still living life to the fullest – it’s a TOUGH balancing act. So I see why meditation and mindfulness practice is becoming such a growing industry among my generation. Unless we schedule it in, it’s almost impossible to simply slow down!

The best advice I think I’ve gotten is that it’s okay to take care of myself, to keep my mind, my body and my spirit right. Because it’s impossible to do well at ANY of the above responsibilities if I’m not healthy and in a good state of mind.  But it’s hard to focus on investing time in mental and physical health when there’s always something pressing that needs attention.

So given this is a topic that is literally coming up every other day lately, would love to throw it out there and see what folks are doing to juggle it all.

If any of you have any ideas/advice/perspective/pearls of wisdom on how to manage all of it  – please let me know! Would love to hear your thoughts….

24 thoughts on “The dirty little secret about your late 20s/early 30s

  1. You have effectively summed up everything that has been making me anxious since graduating from B-school recently! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I guess I just keep hope, and try to keep moving forward. So much pressure! 🙂 I look forward to reading more on your blog.

    By the way, I am working on starting my own MBA blog and was curious where you get your photos on your website from?

  2. This is just fantastic, The more I read the more it felt like someone has been secretly observing my life! Thanks a lot for providing an avenue to send my family and friends to when I am unable to explain myself in not so many words.


  3. Hi,
    Doing all the tasks is certainly tough but not impossible.
    When you perform all the personal or official tasks with full devotion and dedication, there is no extra meditation required.
    Because best meditation is to do your work with complete joy…whatever it be.
    But if you keep on thinking about how to accomplish it in given time then that is dangerous. Plan your whole day with the first light of sun with major tasks……and you will see minor tasks will be done automatically. This is a gradual process but when you will follow it you will start feeling happy.
    When you will be happy then only you will be able to make people happy close to you.
    And desire is the biggest stone in the path of your success and self satisfaction.

    Dont desire but

  4. I just turned 40, have an MBA, and been through the angst you’re feeling. Thankfully, I have emerged with some perspective that is right for me, can’t promise it will be right for you. But here goes..

    Be strategic!

    Ha..I know..telling an HBS MBA to be strategic is like telling snow to be white!! But I am baffled at how many MBAs I come across, and advise, who can think strategically about business, markets, products, systems..but don’t apply the same to their lives.

    What you’re describing above is exactly what every business faces – multiple priorities, multiple possibilities, but limited resources, energy and time.

    So be strategic!

    You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to decode this for yourself.

    My advice – here’s how you should prioritize.

    – be ABSOLUTELY good at what you do (for work)! This is the gift that will keep on giving!

    – work out a half hour every morning (works wonders not just for your body but for your state of mind)

    – take care of your family

    – forget about weddings – and focus on finding a true partner in life (don’t let wedding momentum around you pressure you into a relationship)

    – live cheap (forgo wasting good money on inanimate objects like furniture, cars, etc.)

    – buy a house and start saving for your retirement WHEN you have the money (after helping family, paying off your debts, paying for your lifestyle.)

    – last but not least – recognize that your greatest asset is not your MBA, but your psychology. School will teach you all about the “outside” game, but to master life, you need to master the “inner” game. I’ve come across many brilliant MBAs who started off brilliantly but are now jobless, living off of their parents or spouses. I’ve also come across many wealthy (I mean sickly wealthy) people who don’t have a degree to their name, but are absolutely successful because of their psychology.

    I can only imagine what an MBA + a fantastic psychology would do! Gives me the shivers 🙂

    All the best!!

    • I needed to read these priorities. Things are going well for except I am feeling intense pressure with all my friends getting married. I refuse to settle just to fit in, so I am single. This resonated a ton:

      – forget about weddings – and focus on finding a true partner in life (don’t let wedding momentum around you pressure you into a relationship)

      Please keep giving advice! It’s much appreciated!

    • I just read this reply and it’s wonderful advise. Thanks a lot.
      I don’t have a MBA, but plan to pursue one. I ask myself why I want it? I don’t hate my job now, it’s brightness and have a good future if I work it for 10 or more years, but the job now I can see how I could be after 10 years without any surprise. I just want to live different life and to see the world and other possibilities. I am 25 now and a little bit confuses if I should continue my plan and got a MBA in US. Hopefully if anyone could give me some lights. thanks.

    • My God! This is a great article and its reply. Im in my late 30s and starting to prepare my MBA. And i have to say i look up a lot from this conversation.

      The part of being strategic and decoding every parts of our lives is a great piece of advice. I will try to remember this all the time! Thanks 😉

  5. Hey girl! Noticed that your last post was in July. Please keep writing! I feel like you’ve struck a chord. I’m 25 and in a similar situation and was ecstatic to find your blog. Hope you stick with it!

  6. I am turning 30 in July and because I came from a poor family headed by a single parent who is now chronically ill at 65, I made the decision to get experience before getting any tertiary education. Straight from doing my “A” Levels I went into work at age 19 and started studying further at the same time. I learnt to never believe in the concept of a balanced life early on because 5 modules a semester and a 10 – hour job is not an easy ride. Especially if you do it for 6 years straight!

    Things are probably different though in The States as most students according to stats finish school before working. Here in South Africa, working and studying at the same time seems to be the norm for most people like me that come from poor backgrounds. I pushed myself so hard studying and working at the same time, squeezing in international travel twice a year during semester breaks.

    And now that I am about to leave for Europe for my one year MBA, my mother will be taken care of, my mortgage will take care of itself as I will be renting out the townhouse fully furnished and have saved enough to cover health care and pension premiums for the year. Also the fact that I will be paying for my MBA by myself, and have two older siblings that can take care of my mother financially (they both reside in Europe) makes things easier and a bit different to what you are going through. But it has been a tough journey especially as I work in the energy sector, heavily dominated by men or women over the age of 35. I don’t ever remember working less than 10 hours even on a Friday.

    I do feel for you though, and hope that after my MBA I will have a different story to tell.

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  8. Hey girl,
    I just turned to the BIG 30 2 months ago and I am about to graduate from my MBA in Europe this end of August. Now struggling to find a job (no, don’t even ask me about passion) in tough European economies and yes! I DO feel you. I also came from poor family, wh had been supporting my parents since I graduated college and found it hard to tell my mom last year that I would had to stop giving thier monthly allowance. Thanks for opening up and writing about your experience. I learnt from your blog and people’s comments. Please, keep writing. You have made an impact to one person’s life =)

  9. wow, am so happy to come across this blog,,u so much inspires me today.
    Am a mother of 1 ,working in a software testing firm for 4 years,planning to start my masters dis year,have been struggling with the thought that, should i start this year, or wait after giving birth to all my children(1 more in sha Allahu), another thing am struggling with,,is that, am i convinced on why i want to go for the masters? i need help on so many things,,,but ur blog and some comments have read today as helped me answered some questions that have bn bothering me for so long. thanks ma’am.

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  15. Hmm, I have read some of your blogs and like reading the comments too. I am 24 years old. I was an English and Psych major at a top university, but I just have not found the job opportunities I wanted. I’m kind of that person who has followed their “passion”, only to discover its not really helping me in the real world. Currently, I’m thinking about an MBA as an opportunity to open more doors and at least get me into a stable, well-paying job.

    • I followed my passion by getting my undergrad in English as well only to realize that most jobs requiring an English degree were ones I didn’t want, such as teaching or technical writing. Six years later I’m in an MBA program and feel like I’m back in Square One — the more I look into jobs for MBAs, the more I feel I’m getting the wrong degree for me because none of the post-MBA career paths I see are ones that interest me. I hope you’re able to find a career that utilizes your English degree and MBA — that will make one of us!

  16. I stumbled upon this and it really touched me. I am glad that I found this and that many are going through this situation. I find peace of mind reading everyone’s experience after b-school. I hope that everything falls into place. Thank you for this post.

  17. I completely understand how you must be feeling.
    I’m not exactly in the same situation, I’m only 2 years out of college and I am planning on B-school soon.
    But I had 2 really bad years, and it led me to an insane amount of introspection and a reality check of what life is gonna be like. I felt so stressed out, it started affecting my health.
    The scary thing is that I’ve been one of those people who always had things figured out till graduation. or at least I thought I did. I’m an engineer, I got my dream job straight out of college, I have no student debt and I’m doing things at work that most 23-year olds don’t get the chance to. When I would tell anyone about how depressed or frustrated I got, people would just think I’m complaining for no reason, since I’m “sorted”.

    I have since then managed to calm down and find true inner peace. I am now no longer as affected by stress and it feels wonderful! I think when you are ambitious and trying to do everything right in life, you are more afraid to fail. The anxiety only gets worse as bigger things are at stake. I am so glad I have found this mental peace younger. I think I’m now better at taking decisions that are good for me instead of simply being the better opportunity or what i “should be doing”. Now I genuinely know what I want in life, and I really hope this helps me stay away from stress during my MBA and later in life.

    I really hope you find peace too. I think it comes from understanding what actually matters to you, and taking decisions that are what you want not what you should be doing. I’m sure you’ll figure it out!

  18. I donot know if I am late in advising on this (As its past 3 years), but since you mentioned in the last lines in this article to throw some wisdom on managing all of it together really well, I would like to suggest a book – The One Thing by Jay Papson & Garry Keller. It has helped me profoundly on this. By the way, I have loved your articles, really. So thank you for sharing vulnerably.

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