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

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

The last decade of my life has been focused on survival. I was focused on finding a way to leave my toxic family and violent neighborhood. My health suffered. Every day felt like hopelessness. Now I have more peace of mind, space, health and time for my loved ones, but I still don’t feel at home and I wonder if I ever will.

I haven’t done anything great with my life. I have never traveled, I don’t own a car, and I don’t own a home. I couldn’t afford to go to college. I have no friends and my sex 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 am not mastering any discipline. I’m not getting good at anything.

I see former classmates who were never the smartest but 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 happier than 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 having reached 33 with nothing to show for it..

Philip’s response To me, 33 sounds very young, which leaves you with a lot of time, but I know when you hit 30 you can feel like you’re leaving youth behind. Or maybe we can get excited about turning 33 because that was apparently the age that Jesus died. Okay, you’re in a desert and some things take time.

You have been used to high levels of internal stress for most of your childhood. When the source of stress stops, it can create discomfort, boredom, and a sense of meaninglessness. What you are experiencing is to be expected and is normal. When you’re using all your energy to survive, then you run away and suddenly you don’t need to do that, it’s not surprising that you experience a void.

Perhaps you would have been in a similar position to your old friends from school, content with a small business and living to pass on the love they had experienced as children, if grandma’s love was the only kind of care you ever experienced. . Your childhood has given you different things. Insufficient approval can give you a desire to prove yourself, a longing to show those who never believed in you that you can achieve 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 in relation to your own desires and dreams instead of the people you are trying to leave behind. Don’t bother trying anything on them.

Instead of thinking of your dissatisfaction as bad, think of 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 are running out of time is, I think, your old panic: how to survive and escape. You got into the habit of panic and now it has 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 to focus on your breath can make a positive difference.

Be careful of thinking of “all or nothing” statements, such as “nothing to show.” You have things to show in your life; for example, you can write impeccable English. If you say something is completely brilliant or not absolutely great, you’re probably not looking at it realistically. Don’t think of yourself as a 1 or a 10: it will distort your thinking. We took on the belief systems of the people around us when we were growing up. If they treated you like you were worthless, or if you were only good if you were like them, that way of thinking will have become familiar. What feels familiar feels true. But it’s not true, you’re just used to it.

This is the basis of your self-criticism, that inner critic, and you need to separate yourself. You can learn to observe it instead of assuming it is correct. It’s not okay, it’s familiar. There is a difference. Notice when you describe yourself negatively, for example, “I’m not a serious reader” (you don’t have to be, just reading is enough). Stay away from such self-critical thoughts. They are not true, they are a habit, they will be bringing you down.

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

If you have any questions please send a short email to askphilippa@observer.co.uk

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