When you’re in your twenties, it’s easy to feel like you have your whole life ahead of you. There’s no rush to get that career promotion, settle down with one person for the rest of your life, or start thinking about how many viable eggs you may or may not have left. You can drink more and still get up in the mornings, eat spicy food without the heartburn and plan leisurely weekend brunch dates with your girlfriends to talk about all of your latest heartbreaks.
Life is good.
But then the thirties creep up, and suddenly life seems a little more…pressing. Every weekend is suddenly spent at a wedding or baby shower. People filter the crap out of Instagram posts and Facebook pages are suddenly filled with pictures of children from friends whose last names you barely recognize.
If you’re single, perhaps you’re stressed out wondering when your “soul mate” is headed your way. If you’re in a relationship you start dropping hints about marriage. If you’re married you worry about babies and if you have babies you’re probably house-hunting for a bigger place. Do you rent or own? And how are you supposed to cobble together a down payment in today’s market? Then suddenly, that promotion you’ve been working 60-plus hours a week for suddenly goes to someone else. That’s when all shit hits the fan.
And so on and so forth. The point is, your thirties can be a time of great self-learning, but it’s also a stressful time for the best of us. Making it through can be a definite journey.
It’s one that Benched star Eliza Coupe is all too familiar with. On the new comedy (which debuts Tuesday on The Comedy Network and on the USA Network in the U.S.), the former Happy Endings star plays Nina, a high-strung lawyer in her 30s who seems to have everything together. That is, right up until she finds out her ex-fiance is engaged and she’s been passed over for a promotion that was supposed to be hers. What follows is an epic meltdown and spectacular resignation that we’ve all dreamed of pulling off at one point or another, but would never, ever follow through on.
Or maybe they would. Who are we to judge. Before you get to that point though, Coupe offers several tips for getting through your 30s intact:
Reevaluate, reaffirm and reestablish
If you’re one of those positive people who can spin any bad situation into a ray of sunshine, then good on you. But sometimes there’s something to be said for addressing a bad situation head on. If you’re not happy with your current job/relationship/life goals/whatever, then be honest with yourself. Figure out steps that you can take to be happier or to alleviate some of the stress. Talk to your friends or keep a journal. Plan a trip or a night out to let loose. Just take some time for self-reflection and reevaluation, otherwise you could wind up having a complete meltdown at the worst possible time.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘GOD I wish I could do that at my work,'” Coupe says, referring to her meltdown scene in Benched. “They were like, ‘But I didn’t realize that until I saw how you pulled it off. I’m like, ‘Yeah, but calm down. I did that for the cameras. Don’t go do that!”
Stop holding shit in and trying to do it all
Even if Coupe was performing for the cameras, there was an element of method acting to her breakdown scene — especially when Nina starts letting her co-workers know what she really thinks of them.
“I have had moments in my life that I had to go to for this,” she reveals. “It was just like, OK. I remember when that was a really terrible time and this is what I wanted to say to this person, and that person, and that person and then I just let it rip.”
Instead of doing that in reality, take the time to communicate with the people in your life and let them know when their expectations are unreasonable. Otherwise you could wind up as someone’s doormat, and explode at the wrong time.
But don’t take it too far
In the first episode of Benched, there’s a broken-telephone inspired running joke that stems from Nina’s resignation, and follows her everywhere she goes. Remember that while it’s important to communicate your feelings, do so in a healthy, calm way. And never, ever burn bridges — especially at work.
“I don’t think that you live that down — I mean, there are all of these career pockets out there. People really do know each other and you don’t live down something like a big public meltdown,” Coupe says. “It’s like Hollywood. When an actor does something, everybody knows and you don’t ever get to live that down.”
Remember the stuff you actually learned in your twenties
It might have been a decade ago, but you had to go through some tough stuff in your twenties, too. Perhaps those lessons don’t feel as relevant or important now, but you should hold onto what you learned from them.
“I feel like when I hit like 30, things started happening and then I was like, ‘Ohhhh now I’m old enough to understand why that’s not a good choice,'” Coupe remembers. “I’m like, ‘OK so now I get it.’ My thirties are about learning but also applying and going through these experiences. I think in my twenties it was all about getting all this information and not knowing what the hell to do with it.”
Find balance, especially in a partner
As with any good comedy, opposites attract. The comedy of life is no different. Recognize your personality type, and try to find someone with similar values and life goals who also balances you out. It’s what Nina does to varying degrees of success on Benched.
“Phil, Jay Harrington’s character, is so opposite of Nina,” Coupe says. “It’s really great. He’s laid back, he’s drinking and he’s always eating or doing something with his feet up on the desk. Nina is the total opposite, but then I think she influences him too, where she’s the workaholic but he’s not. Maybe if they were put together they would be the perfect person.”
Celebrate how far you’ve come
Life is obviously full of ups and downs, so while it’s OK to sometimes dwell on the bad (so that you can improve yourself later, of course), try to celebrate your mini achievements along the way. When we first meet Nina on Benched, Coupe likens her to the “before” in a tampon commercial. But she won’t always stay that way.
“Nina is the kind of character that you’re always like, ‘Oh is she going to get it now? Is she going to understand?'” Coupe poses. “But I think she definitely learns things. The thing I love about this show is that you actually do see her change throughout the series. A lot of TV shows, especially comedies, reset at the end of every episode and the characters never make any progress. But here we see this woman becoming a woman, even more so than she already is. She will be the ‘after’ woman in a tampon commercial at some point. At some point. Let’s give it a few seasons though.”
Benched debuts Tuesday, Oct. 28 on The Comedy Network.