At 33, I have nothing to show for my life. I want to feel alive | Family

The question I’m about to turn 33. I live in a very small village in Mexico, alone in a rented house. I am single without children. I work from home for a salary that barely covers my bills and debts. My job is easy, but I hate it.

The last decade of my life was about survival. I focused on how to leave my toxic family and violent neighborhood. My health suffered. Every day was like despair. Now I have more tranquility, space, health and time to myself, but I still don’t feel at home and I wonder if I will ever make it.

I haven’t done anything great in my life. I have never travelled, I don’t have a car or a house. I couldn’t afford to go to college. I have no friends and my gender life is non-existent. I read, but I’m not a “serious” reader. I listen to music, but I don’t know anything about it. I do not master any discipline. I don’t become good at anything.

I see former classmates who were never the smartest, but they seem content with their simple lives. Some of them own a small business, have children, but have no aspirations. I find myself remembering when I was young, the two years I lived with my grandmother. I have never been so happy as then. I felt safe and loved, and every day was an adventure. I want to feel more alive. That my life has meaning. I don’t like turning 33 without showing anything for it.

Philippa’s response To me, 33 seems very young, which leaves you with plenty of time, but I know that when you enter your thirties, you can feel like you are leaving youth behind. Or maybe we can get excited at the thought of being 33 because that was apparently the age of Jesus’ death. It’s okay, you’re in a desert and some things take time.

You have been accustomed to high levels of internal stress for most of your childhood. When the source of stress stops, it can create unease, boredom and a feeling of insignificance. What you are experiencing is to be expected and it is normal. When you use all your energy to survive, then escape, and suddenly don’t need to, it’s no surprise you feel a void.

Perhaps you would have been in the same situation as your old classmates – content with a bit of business and living to pass on the love they experienced in childhood – if Grandma’s love was the only kind of healing you’ve ever experienced. Your childhood gave you different things. Insufficient approval can make you want to prove yourself, a desire to show those who never believed in you that you can accomplish things. Make sure you don’t stress yourself out thinking you need to shine brighter to prove them wrong. Do what you do in life based on your own wishes and dreams rather than in relation to the people you are trying to leave behind. Don’t try to prove anything to them.

Rather than thinking your dissatisfaction is bad, see it as information. I wonder what he’s telling you to do. Maybe move to a bigger city where you’re more likely to find like-minded people?

The panic that you’re running out of time is, I think, your old panic – how to survive and escape. You used to panic and now he’s found a new object – your age – to cling to. If you need to stop your racing thoughts and take your attention away from your busy mind, try noticing your breath. Five minutes a day focusing on your breathing can make a positive difference.

Beware of thinking in “all or nothing” terms, such as “nothing to show for it”. You have things to show for your life – for example, you can write impeccable English. If you say something is completely awesome or absolutely not good, you’re probably not looking at it realistically. Don’t consider yourself a 1 or a 10 – it will distort your mindset. We adopt the belief systems of the people we met growing up. If you were treated like you were worthless, or only good if you were like them, this way of thinking will have become familiar to you. What sounds familiar sounds real. But that’s not true, you’re just used to it.

This is the basis of your self-criticism – this inner criticism – and you have to separate. You can learn to watch it rather than assume it’s true. It’s not fair, it’s familiar. There is a difference. Notice when you describe yourself negatively, such as “I’m not a serious reader” (you don’t have to be – just read). Step away from these self-critical thoughts. They’re not real, they’re a habit, they’ll bring you down.

You need time to recover. You have time. Allow yourself to simply feel, think and be. When you are ready, you can dare to take a step on a path that will lead you to adventure. Life is not a race. Take all the time you need.

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