Is life over at 35?

Joey Garcia

I am depressed about my upcoming 35th birthday because I don’t believe I have a purpose. Every dream I try fails miserably. For instance, I’m considered far too old to be an actress, athlete or singer. I have no children and have never married. I am attractive and in shape, but I haven’t met any dateable men in 10 years. I have prayed to God to show me his will, but nothing is changing. Should I just stop trying at this age? I hate being alone and single, but I don’t know how to meet single men. How can I accept my cards, stop wishing for what is not possible and learn to live alone?

Accept your cards? At the tender age of 35, your task, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, is to “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Despite your ego’s incessant discouragement, the game of life is not over. So, forget about perfecting your poker face. Nothing you have described is permanent, but the grief of not yet accomplishing your ideals is driving you to believe otherwise. Remember you’re not alone. God is with you always.

Your career choices reveal a yearning for recognition. If you simply wanted to act, for example, any opportunity to do so would be a privilege. In the interim, you would take classes and audition ad infinitum because it gave you pleasure. But, if these career pursuits are driven by a desperate need to fill a God-sized hole within, you will expect fame and fortune in exchange for sharing yourself with the world. You must discern whether your career choices are true callings of just bids for attention. After all, we have plenty of actresses, athletes and singers, but we have a dire shortage of peacemakers, truth tellers and generous-hearted fools. What is God really calling you to be? “Purpose is not happiness, but goodness,” Aristotle said. Many people feel good when applauded for their accomplishments, but what activities fill you with goodness?

Like you, I have been hard on myself. Twenty years ago, I spent birthdays in a funk, believing I had not accomplished enough. Finally, I realized that each of my apparent failures provided me with skills and insight for life’s next adventure. Once, I found it difficult to meet men I was interested in dating. Eventually I understood that my prince would come, but he might not be whom I expected. Would you rather have your prince, or would you rather that your ego’s vision be correct? (Hmm, now replace “prince” with “life” and repeat the sentence.)

I was sexually and physically abused by my mother, which has conditioned me to be armored in my relationships with women. I’m not able to achieve orgasm without control and violence. I want to surrender that. Can you help me?

Not as much as therapy can, so make a commitment to sessions with a traditional psychotherapist immediately. Childhood abuse severs our natural covenant of trust. Afterwards, the expectation of betrayal permeates every interaction, not just sexual ones. Your armor is a shield against vulnerability, which in turn prevents intimacy. Without intimacy, relationships remain superficial, which is the last thing an abused person needs.

Meditation of the week
Consider the words of Frederick Bruechner, author and sage: “Life purpose is where your joy meets the world’s great need.” Are you willing to do the soul work of filling the world’s needs instead of obsessing about how to fill your own endless neediness?

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