First of all, congratulations! You have beaten a certain notorious statistic and are about to make a huge leap forward in your life and your art. Turning 30 changes you, permanently, if you're lucky. It's the decade when we get serious about work and right livelihood, two terms that sound similar but are not necessarily the same thing. It's also the time when we start to figure out what love means to us, and how much we can learn from it. What you do and how you live in your 30's will set you up for the rest of your life. Set aside some time to consider the following as you cross over to the next realm:
Establish A Baseline of Health and Wellness
- Your physical health is one thing. Your overall wellness is another. There is certainly some overlap between them, but you can be in perfect physical health while still being "unwell". Your art will suffer greatly if your health and wellness are not in balance. Do you feel connected to your loved ones and community? Are you certain of your value to them, and to yourself? Do you have enough emotional energy in reserve to handle a crisis, or are you giving all your power away to others, or to a terrible job? Do you have some kind of spiritual and/or moral compass that you can rely on when things get rough? Do you love someone who actually loves you back? All of these things contribute to your wellness. Tend to them carefully, and you could experience a radical improvement in your quality of life. Find out exactly what is covered by your health insurance, and take full advantage of it. Get a complete physical and keep track of the results. Take care of any outstanding health issues, and start tracking any ongoing ones. Recognize any ongoing mental health issues, seek help from the right professionals, and get support from reliable sources. Understand your digestive and menstrual cycles, and observe the effects of what you eat on how you feel. Boost your immunity. Learn your family's health history, and manage all risk factors that are within your control. Get vaccinated. Establish a regular exercise routine, and know your physical limits so you can push them once in awhile. Breathe deeply every day and sleep restfully every night. Meditate, even if it's just for 10 minutes a day!
Start Thinking About Your Legacy
- In our 20's we are immortal. We don't acknowledge the shortness of life because we don't have to. Our bodies bounce back to factory-model condition, our whims change like weather systems, and our sense of time is unlimited. We make art with abandon, exploring, discovering, blundering, and making occasional breakthroughs. We might forget to eat, sleep, bathe, or pay our bills, so certain are we of the unceasing river of time in front of us. Once we turn 30 we start to become aware that there are only 24 hours in a day. What are we focused on? Can we identify recurring themes in our work, and let them point us toward a new understanding of ourselves and our art? What role does ambition play in our journey? What, if any, past creative successes can we use as a starting point for what we want to do next? What do we want people to feel when they interact with our art? More specifically, what do we want our artistic legacy to be? If we don't ask and answer these questions, and find a way to articulate them clearly, we might find ourselves at the mercy of others who decide that they know who we are and what we're about. There is nothing worse than feeling that your art is misunderstood! Your legacy is your responsibility. Pick up this paradigm and sign it with your blood, sweat, and love.
Develop Critical Awareness
- If you want to find your place in the world, learn how to deconstruct it. Can you see behind the curtain of our media circus? Do you understand our political system and the ways it affects us, and the ways in which we as artists can affect it? Do you recognize how much corporate interests shape not just our political system, but our entire culture? Do you know how to read between the lines, see beyond the edges, and hear beyond the noise? Don't be easily swayed by passion and rhetoric. Understand the difference between "facts" and "truth" as they are presented in our media, and seek reliable sources of both. In addition to looking at the world around us, developing a strong critical awareness is about knowing and understanding ourselves, so that we can make informed choices in our personal lives rather than blind ones. Can you tell the difference between someone you like and someone that truly compels you? Do you know why you're drawn to some people, but not others? People that compel us may not be good for us, and we can save ourselves a lot of grief if we avoid entangling with them. On the other hand, sometimes they can inspire a huge burst of passion and energy that changes the shape of our lives for the better. Only when we truly know ourselves can we know how to love someone else. There is a certain amount of psychology involved here, and some of it can be painful, as you sort through your past and move through your process of self-inquiry. You might want to enlist a professional for help. Be gentle with yourself, and be quiet in your mind so you can listen to your instincts (regular meditation will help!). Learn to identify trustworthy people and keep them close in your life and heart.
Draw Effective Boundaries Around Your Time and Energy
- You understand that there are only 24 hours in a day. Some of those are reserved for sleeping. Some are for working. Some for making your art. Some of those hours should be for your loved ones and community. This is a valuable investment of your time and energy that can restore and renew you. The trick is knowing when you've given too much. If you find yourself dreading the things you need to do and the people you need to do them with, it's time to re-examine your boundaries. Do you know how to say 'no thank you' to someone or something? Can you clearly articulate your reasons for opting out, and do you know when to keep them to yourself and just stick to "no thanks"? Are you able to distinguish between duty, friendship, family and favors? If time away from your art feels like a sacrifice, can you find a way to re-boot your entire schedule and let your loved ones know that things are going to be different for a bit, while you work on your craft? Banish guilt and replace it with genuine responsibility to your loved ones. Once good boundaries are in place, take extra care of your relationships by living up to your social commitments and being fully present when you're there.
Practice Engaged Compassion and Generosity
- The world doesn't owe us a thing, but we owe each other the world. The future of our planet isn't looking so good, and many of us are unsure of what we can do about it. Artists are especially vulnerable to a certain kind of existential crisis, one that leads us to question whether we'e having any impact at all. Art can start to feel like a superfluous frivolity, something non-essential and even ridiculous, in the face of so much fear and uncertainty. But the fact is that artists have survived war, plague, famine, and genocide and come out the other side making art that uplifts and inspires the entire human race! This is a powerful gift that we can give, and we should be generous with it. Can you contribute your talents to a worthy cause? Look around in your community: who are the most vulnerable people, and what do they need? Which organizations are taking on their plight, and can you partner with them to put on a benefit event featuring local artists? Maybe you've found a cause that doesn't have a voice. Can you use yours to bring attention where it's needed? What kind of local environmental causes could use your help with mobilizing community actions? Can you donate some pro-bono art skills to help a struggling charity get its message out? Let compassion bloom in your heart, and put it into action with your art!