What do I want my 30s to be about?

Something dawned on me the other day. Tomorrow, I’ll no longer be 30. I’ll actually be in my 30s.

I’ve reached that stage in life where everything begins to slow down while simultaneously becoming more complicated.

Spending the past year as a 30-year-old, I never truly felt like I was “in my 30s “ As my 31st birthday arrives Monday, that feeling is beginning to change.

At 30, I got married, lost an old friend far too early and said goodbye to my second grandparent in as many years.

That, along with the speculation of what is to come in life, has led me to spend more time thinking about the impact I’m making as I start my own family, play a visible role in our community and try to leave a lasting impact on our world — even if that “world” is limited to southwest North Dakota.

My 20s were all about health, exercise and having fun. Those close to me would say they were also dominated by my job, and they’re not wrong. Along with working my butt off at the newspaper, I did the same at the gym and still had enough energy to stay up late, party just hard enough so I could still remember it, wake up the next day and do it all over again.

My 30s, so far, have been decidedly different.

While my job has changed, I still stay up too late sometimes and I continue to try and focus on health and exercise, though it’s an aspect of life that has admittedly fallen by the wayside because, well, living life has become more important. “Partying” now means going to Buffalo Wild Wings with whichever friends can spare a few hours away from their own busy lives to have a couple of beers and appetizers. Most of us end up in home and in bed by 11, and Prilosec has become a new friend.

While I have regrets — I traveled some, but not nearly enough and had a few adventures, yet nothing too outrageous — I’m happy with my life as I head into my 30s.

Now, children aren’t just a possibility, they’re likely right around the corner. I’ve started thinking about what I need to get done before then — whether that’s finally cleaning up my junk-infested garage or starting to write that book I’ve been talking about for two years — while knowing I probably won’t get more than a shred of it accomplished.

Looking back on the past decade or so, I am beginning to understand how much my life has changed, and there’s still aspects of it I’m adjusting to.

For instance, my wife convinced me I look good in a beard and she was shockingly right (even if my friends don’t think so). I have a job I never imagined I’d have when I was 21. Back then, I thought I would be reporting on the NBA. Instead, I’m here trying to put out the best newspaper possible for you fine folks.

But I’m happy, proud of what I’m doing and who I am, and isn’t that the whole idea?

Nonetheless, I — and likely many of you — look back on my 20s and realize I had all the time in the world but wasted a good chunk of it. Like me, you probably either worked too hard, partied too hard, or did a bit of both. I wasted time worrying about what the future would hold without understanding it will all come together eventually. I made mistakes, but also began to understand why they mattered and learned how to fix them.

Now, as my 30s arrive, I am trying to determine what the next decade needs to be about for me.

Perhaps it’s best to keep it as uncomplicated as possible and build a family, form long-term plans for the future and continue to improve my life as best I can. Because that’s the essence of life, and it really is just beginning.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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