(Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
Erin, please help me!
I need help after recovering from an illness. I’m 29 years old (going to be 30 in Dec). At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. After seven years of stagnation and recovery, my disease is finally in remission.
Now that I’m soon approaching 30, I feel so behind in life in comparison to friends.
I feel like I’m old and the best years of my life (my 20s) were wasted on an illness. I can’t get them back!
I have friends that have amazing careers, relationships, children, and experiences. I haven’t hit any milestone in life.
Here I am at 29 with no career, still living with my mom, and just finishing up my college degree.
How do I overcome not only jealousy but feeling like I’m old?
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This is such a good question for me to answer. Why? Because I am totally a late-bloomer.
I spent my teen years and most of my twenties struggling off and on with a heroin addiction. I stopped using when I was pregnant with my son, at age 28. I’ve now been clean for more than 15 years. But guess what?
All of those normal milestones came late for me, too.
I graduated from high school at 16 and then stopped and started college so many times. I didn’t go back to school to finish my degrees until I was in my late 30s.
After having my son, I had to learn how to function as an adult. As I was doing so, there were a whole lot of growing pains. I got divorced, still made a lot of relationship mistakes, and it was a long road to learn how to be in a healthy relationship.
I learned in my 30s how to take control of my mental health, how to set a boundary and respect other people’s boundaries. I learned how to stop all the negative self-talk.
I changed careers paths so many times. In my mid-30s, I changed direction once again and started writing. Now, in my early 40s, I just sold my first book.
I got married again. I had another baby. I moved to New York City which is where I’d longed to be.
My point is — it’s not too late to hit any and all milestones you want to hit.
You are still so young. As someone on the downhill side of 40, let me tell you, it really does get better. Look at what you’ve done! You’ve survived a major illness. Your disease is in remission. This is cause for celebration!
You have the opportunity now to plan the next phase of your life. And you get to do so with the wisdom of being 30, rather than 21.
Instead of dwelling on what you’ve missed, get excited about what has yet to come.
No, we can’t get back years lost to illness, addiction, a bad marriage, a dead-end job, etc. But, we have the power to make new decisions for the future. If I can turn my life around and see my dreams come true, you can too.
Your friends may have hit those milestones sooner, but you have opportunities ahead of you that they do not because the future is open and clear for you shape it with 30 years of experience behind you. Enjoy this.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Chrysoprase, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo