Mid-Life Explorations, Random Ramblings

Our Judgmental 20s and the new Perspectives our 30s Bring

Many of us in our 20s come to a place where we begin assessing parts of our childhood and upbringing that we previously just took for granted as ‘normal’.  In doing so we often find our parents/teachers/community members a complete and utter disappointment.  I’m 35, so have a little distance from my 20s, but not so much distance that my memory has become murky.  Having moved through a pretty judgemental-in-my-20s life stage, I’ve come to realise that this judgement and questioning is not only natural but also a truly valuable part of the human experience.

Taking it back even further, as a child and a teen you need to accept your parents as they are.  Sure, we grumble and fight with our parents as we embark on the teenage years, but for the most part we as teens would still passionately defend our parents against any outside criticism.  It’s cool for us to complain about our parents, but people outside of the family? nah-uh!  At that age you fundamentally need your parents protection, their guidance and their support.  As you embark on your 20s you begin to find out who you are independent of your family.  You become your own person.

In your 20s you begin to feel safe in taking a step back from the safety net your family has provided you with.  With each passing year you break more and more of those ties and become more and more aware of the ways in which your parents and the other adults in your life have failed you, messed you up, hurt you and hindered you reaching your full potential.  In our 20s we begin to pass judgment on our parent’s choices and all the things they should have and could have done differently.  We wish deeply that they had done a better job raising us, that we had been properly prepared for the real world we found ourselves in when we left the nest.

My 20s were spent sharing on this blog, but that came abruptly to an end the year I turned 29.  I stepped away from food blogging after my silent 17 year struggle with Bulimia came to a head.  Struggling with an eating disorder and baking and cooking for an audience was not a healthy path for me.  I stepped away from the personal blogging, both out of fear and out of an awareness of my lack of emotional boundaries. I was incapable of separating both criticism and positivity about my writing and my work from my own self worth.  Quite frankly, I had no self worth of my own, so I was a flimsy blade of grass blowing haphazardly in the wind, awaiting the fateful day when one of those gusts proved strong enough to pull me up by the roots and blow me away.

In our 20s we can be judgmental jerks at times, but letting yourself be angry and hypercritical of the adults around you, I believe, is a key part of this life stage.  I don’t advocate for staying in that state of bitterness and anger towards your parents, teachers, community leaders etc. but rather, using it to propel us towards the kind of adult human we want to be.  Part of becoming separate from our family of origin is the freedom to accept that we aren’t who our parents, our teachers or any one else says we are.  We aren’t an extension of our family (or community group, school, friend group), we are our own individual person and our family and our parents don’t define who we are.  We decide where we want to take our lives, what will define us going forward and who we want to become.

During my final months of blogging, I was experiencing flash backs and unraveling my memories of childhood sexual and emotional abuse.  As part of my journey at that time, I cut all contact with my parents.  I couldn’t in a healthy way, continue publicly exploring the depths of my mind on this platform and despite logically knowing this was for the best, I still carry regret for the years of which I now have no written record.  I wish that my life had unfolded differently, that I had been better, stronger and more whole sooner.  Despite these regrets, I returned to my blog in my mid-30s with new eyes and new life perspectives.

I’ve learned in my 30s that at this life stage we begin to give our parents and other adult influences from our childhood, a little more grace.  After all, most of us remember our parents themselves being in their 30s.  A realisation that in itself can be a bit confronting.  We seemingly without warning find ourselves in the same age bracket as our parents were when they were dealing with our tantrums, making important life decisions for the family despite critique from our then child-hood selves, and just trying to work and support their family the best way they knew how.  In your 30s, you realise that your parents weren’t as ‘grown up’ as you thought they were.  You begin to realise that life is hard to navigate and being on this planet for 3+ decades doesn’t automatically qualify you to have life and all it’s intricacies figured out.  You also come to appreciate that your parents themselves were dealing with the repercussions of their own childhood traumas and unhealthy patterns they had been brought up with.

This greater context and understanding we achieve in our 30s shouldn’t be mistaken for making allowances or excuses for actual abuse.  For me what it puts into perspective is the smaller aspects of child rearing that can really have long lasting effects on us, but weren’t willfully neglectful or harmful on our parents part:

‘why did my parents move me across the country when I was only 12, it was such a delicate age for me, how could they not have realised it would effect me so negatively?’…

‘why didn’t they spend more time with me growing up?’…

‘why didn’t they ever tell me I could be whatever I wanted to be?…

‘why didn’t they encourage me to pursue my interests?’…

‘why didn’t they push me to participate in sports or group activities?’…

‘why didn’t they talk to me more about my feelings and what was really going on at school?’…

‘what were they thinking when they said, _____ to me when I was 10?’…

‘why didn’t my Dad take more/less risks in his job so we didn’t have to struggle financially for so long?’…

‘why didn’t my parents teach me how to interact with other people?’…

‘why didn’t my parents give me the tools to deal with criticism so I didn’t humiliate myself in my first real job?’…


I can now give the adults that were in their 30s and 40s when I was a child a break for the mistakes they made, for the actions they took and the actions they failed to take.  I better understand what they were going through at the time and for these new perspectives I’m eternally grateful.  Understanding another human beings perspectives is a beautiful part of life’s progression.

I can’t speak to how my perspectives will transform in my 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.  I suspect I’ll give my current 35-year-old self a lot more grace than I’m currently capable of giving.

To conclude this mind dump, I’ve recently been fascinated with the concept of generations and how each generation’s experiences shape them and the world they create around them.  I’d always been aware that I’m a Millennial, my parents are Baby Boomers and my older siblings are Gen X, but I hadn’t really explored it further than that until recently.  I’m still in the learning and information gathering phase of this exploration but as a side hobby I’ve been exploring a recent love and fascination for Gen Z and the content they create on Youtube.

As the distaste for the Boomer Generation, the opinions they hold and the decisions they’ve made rages on, I quietly await the day that the same distaste is slung in kind at us Millennial for all of our missteps and missed opportunities.  I’m not stating an opinion on either side of the debate, I’m more interested in the phenomena of the younger generation making judgments about the generations that came before.  It’s fascinating to me.

I leave with the thought that, no one is perfect, we’re all just trying to make it from one day to the next, from point A to point B, from birth to the grave with minimal pain and heartache in between.  Use your judgments to propel you forward to being better than your predecessors but never forget that your predecessors are simply human…as are we all.


photo of woman walking barefoot on seashore
Photo by Akshaya Premjith on Pexels.com

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