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Dear Dania: Finding Myself in my 30s

Dear Dania,

Lately I’ve been doing the work: got some therapy in, completing exercises on my own and journaling weekly. What I’ve realised is that I’ve spent a lot (almost all) of my life living according to the expectations and conditions of other people. What I need to do now is work out what I like, want and need.

But, I’m in my early 30s and feel that everyone around me has already done this and are now focusing on careers and families. It’s left me feeling anxious and embarrassed, like I’ve wasted my exploratory 20s and maybe need to just accept that fact. Can I build and future and work out who I really am at the same time? Or do I have to sacrifice one of those?




Dear Tai*,

Thank you for your letter.

I’m sorry to hear that you are now feeling a bit lost at this stage of your life. Although as a society we are trying to not use milestones as a way to determine our level of “progress”, some of us may still feel inclined to conform to the social norms. Unfortunately, we are gaslit into believing that a linear trajectory is the way towards the end of the rainbow, where we can bathe in glitter and gold. However life is anything but linear – it can be a beautiful, gut-wrenching, messy process.

It truly is a shame that, from a young age, a lot of us are treated like a collection of uniforms rather than as individuals. In order to succeed at life, we must get good grades, go to university, graduate, get a well-paying job, get married and have kids. This dusty manual certainly doesn’t take into consideration factors that could affect life’s trajectory. Some of these include: environment, family life, individuality, ethnicity, socio-economic background, trauma.

Since you mentioned that you spent the majority of your life “living according to the expectations and conditions of other people”, I imagine that perhaps you were not often asked about your passion(s) or needs. Manual-bashing inadvertently ignores the (silent) cries of a child who is trying to find their footing in the world. Perhaps you needed to comply with the desires of others as a way to survive. Please remember to show that part of yourself some compassion, as you did the best you could in a not-so ideal situation.

I can completely empathise with the need to sprint into action, particularly when we reach a certain age, but perhaps it may be worth accepting that not everyone’s journey is going to be the same. I understand that going against the norm can make us feel on edge, anxious, embarrassed, almost waiting for a judging hand to grab us by the collar and drag us to detention. But remember that no else is living your life – you are. You have to do what is right for you. Find out what you like, what you don’t like, what you need, what energises you, what drains you.

These are some questions that you could ask yourself:

  • Am I wanting to build something because society tells me to, or because I genuinely want to?
  • If I want to focus on my future, do I know what that may look like? Is it working on my career? Starting a family?
  • How much time can I dedicate to soul-searching? And how about future-planning? Do I have the capacity, energy, and the space at this moment for both?
  • Can I divide both processes into smaller, more manageable ones?

As human beings we’re always evolving, revising our wants and needs as we grow. Remember that we are forced to adapt to the future since the day we’re born. We go through major developmental changes whilst also acquiring life skills. So, one could argue that we may be used to multitasking – recalibrating as we are also focusing on life. With that being said, I’m afraid that only you can determine whether now is the right time for both processes.

For more information/tips please click here or alternatively you may want to consider full time therapy as a course of action.

I wish you all the best.

Your sincerely,


Dear Dania is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a mental-health professional, or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We may edit your letter for length and/or clarity.

*The author’s identifying details have been changed in order to protect their privacy.

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