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Alicia Jessop Headshot

A Short Guide to Having It All by the Time You're 30

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Today is October 3.

October 3 is a day, that in history books, is relatively unimportant. Save for some great games and moments in sports history, Sinead O'Connor tearing up a picture of the Pope on national television, and O.J. Simpson being acquitted of two murders, October 3 is a day relatively void of any significance.

Today, though, took on new significance for me. Today, I realized that save for some surprise I'm currently unaware of, I will not be a mother by the time I'm 30. Save for something short of a miracle, or a Britney Spears Vegas-style wedding, I will not be wed by the time I'm 30.

The fact that this is an item of significance may seem surprising to anyone who knows me. It would seem surprising, because I've spent the bulk of my life focused upon academics and career success rather than expressing the desire to or actually building a family.

But, like everyone else, I want it all. I want a job that I love that brings home a solid paycheck. I want a warm home and pretty things. I want cool friends and fun endeavors. I want to be able to travel and have adventures. I want a story to tell. And I want a husband and some babies to rock. And maybe a Golden Retriever. However, because of my allergies, a Golden Doodle may be preferable.

There, I said it.

I want every, little, teeny-tiny ounce of it all.

Society, though, has this nasty little way of telling us that we-men and women alike-cannot have it all. It whispers in our ear doubts. It says, "How are you going to manage a demanding career that you love -- and gasp -- a family?!" It says, "How are you going to be a strong woman and obey by your husband?" It says, "How are you going to be a breadwinner and have time to be a dad?" It says, "How do you live your values when you blow your paycheck on a Marc Jacobs bag?"

If there was a place called Buzzkillville, society would be the president.

For the bulk of my life, my attempt at gaining it all was mostly focused on my career, while my family, friends and anything mirroring a relationship waited in the wings. As I write this, I'm 29 years old and a full-time professor at the University of Miami. I graduated from law school cum laude and am licensed to practice law in two states. I write for two national media outlets and have standing appearances on radio and television shows nationwide. To quote the ever-popular 50 Cent hit, "In Da Club," "I'm fully focused man, my money on my mind."

The approach to life I took in my 20s was one I see many of my peers taking: I was selfish. Really, really selfish.

At 22, my selfish spirit took me to California -- 1,000 miles away from home -- exactly one month after my mother had a heart attack and had to be shocked back to life. Most 22-year-olds aren't focused upon the preciousness of life and how it can be swept away in a split second. Given that I fell into the "most 22-year-olds" category, I had no problem packing my bags for California, because California meant law school. To me, law school appeared to be the easiest path to having it all.

In California, law school became my life. In my selfish way, I wanted to be the best at it. So, I secluded myself from friends in a way that I had never done. I became one with my books. Namaste. Professors said that the key to success in law school was being invited to join the law review. I wanted success, so I wanted to be ranked in the top 10 percent of my class so that I would be invited to join law review. So, study I did and a social life I alienated and law review I joined. We can talk about how much fun law review is another time.

At 24, I graduated from law school near the top of my class. Two months later at 25, I sat for the California bar examination. The day after it ended, the selfish chains wrapped around me began to loosen their grip.

After you sit for a bar examination, you want to do one or both of two things: go home and sleep and/or party. I went home and slept after the test ended on Thursday afternoon. I was looking forward to partying that Friday night. But my mom called. And was in a panic. My dad was in the hospital. He hadn't eaten in days. He looked terrible. Doctors were scared that his cancer had come back and spread. This could be it.

Between the ages of 22 and 25, my brain had matured some and I realized the preciousness of life and just how short it is. I called my friends and said I wouldn't be able to make it to Newport Beach's famed Woody's Wharf that night (yes, Chuck Norris once owned this seaside dive bar). Instead, I haphazardly packed a bag, got in my Honda Civic and hit the rode for the 14-hour drive to Denver.

I wanted it all. I wanted success. I wanted a strong social life. I wanted family.

And when my car hit the parking lot at Lutheran Hospital and I rushed upstairs to sit by my dad's bedside, I slowly began to realize how I could have it all.

As I approach my 30th birthday in June, I know now that getting everything you want in life is about balance. If you want it all -- whatever that means to you -- you have to make room for it all. If you don't make room for it all, then it should come as no surprise that you don't have it all.

Why am I going to turn 30 and be unmarried and without child? Because my prior definition of "having it all" was unbalanced. For the last decade, I have focused upon building a career. And that focus, has bore significant fruit. I am proud of it. I am happy with where I am. I am grateful for it. Truth be told, I probably would change very few things about my 29 years of life.

During these years, though, time seeking love lost out. I've dated a Who's-Who list of men throughout my 20s (however, Where's Waldo? might be a better analogy for some of them). There have been professional athletes, actors and coaches. There have been great men and the shadiest men to ever walk the face of earth (you know who you are). There have been men who were solid lovers and friends and others I should have ran from at the get-go. The reason, though, why none of these relationships worked from my end, is that they were never a great enough part of my focus. Hanging onto them wasn't my greatest priority. Rather, building what I thought defined "success" in my life was. Now, though, I can realize how that approach was misguided.

How, then, can late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings work to have it all?

It's about balance. And practice. And patience. And forgiving yourself for what you did or didn't do in the past.

Recently, I made a list of my priorities for my life going forward. These things were on the list:

-- Be a better daughter

-- Be a better friend to more people

-- Develop a stronger relationship with God

-- Focus more upon physical fitness and health

-- Be open to new romantic relationships

-- Develop a legacy of giving to others

-- Maintain the pace of your career

Those seven things add up to "having it all" for me. For a person who not only teaches at a top-50 university, but also writes for two major news organizations, how do I balance all of these things so that I can become whole in my own eyes? As my mom has always said, "Practice makes perfect" and "patience is a virtue."

It takes time to become whole. Being whole is another way to say, "having it all."

Just because you spent the entirety of your 20s focusing upon one or several of the things on your "having it all" list doesn't mean you failed. But, to gain it all, you need to reassess where you are with each item on your list. Is it time to refocus your energy from one item to another? Can you take a break from something to build up another area of your life?

One of my favorite childhood books, The Velveteen Rabbit, perhaps sums it up the best:

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.'

I may not be a mother by the time I'm 30. Heck, I may not even be a mother by the time I'm 40! (Luckily, my maternal grandmother didn't give birth to her first child until she was 41 -- and that was in 1945! So, with the help of good genes and improved technology, that may be feasible, albeit not preferable, for me.) Chances are, I won't dance my first dance with my husband by the time I'm 30. The state of affairs now says that I might not even know him.

But, I'm becoming. I'm becoming closer to "having it all."

And it's only because it doesn't happen all at once. Understanding that, my friends, is the key to having it all.