I had a pretty big birthday happen this week… that’s right, I turned 30! And I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that this birthday stirred up some pretty unsettling feelings for me. Turning the page to a new decade seems to have given me a lot to contemplate about life, about time and about the impermanence of it all.
I vividly remember a warm October day some 25 years ago when each of us in my kindergarden class was partnered with a grade 7 buddy to carve a jack-o-lantern. I remember my grade seven partner heeding the task at hand and taking charge of the situation and I trusted and regarded him as though he was nearly an adult, a big kid, practically a grown up. It’s amazing how quickly this perspective changed. A few years later I became the “big kid” with my own kindergarden buddy to share projects with but as I stood in these new shoes I certainly didn’t feel like a grown up, jr. high and high-school still loomed ahead where all the really cool and super mature teenagers were and I still felt so small. It wasn’t long before I made it through those tumultuous years of high-school and stood with the world set out before me. At 18 I knew it all… thank gawd I was an adult now and I could do whatever I wanted – whenever I wanted! It was at this point I reassessed what getting old(er) was and I felt like the world was my lobster. There were so many amazing opportunities and adventures to be had, things to learn and places to explore while I was still young and able to do so. I felt like I needed to seize every opportunity before I got to old, before I turned 30 and had to settle down.
With all this said I find it almost laughable that 30 somehow seems to be hard to swallow. Obviously as I have grown with life I have shifted my perspective a thousand times. Now that I am sitting at the door of 30 I don’t feel like a switch has been flipped that will prevent me from continuing on my path of exploration and adventure but I have definitely not become the 30 year old I thought I would be and this somehow leaves me with a strange lingering feeling. The societal benchmark of yore was that at 30 good girls would be settled, with a nice little house and husband and a child (or at least one on the way). As the decades have passed we have also added an education and a career to that list… Now even as I write this ridiculous check-list of 30 year old validation it makes me smile because my life journey has definitely taught me that the things on that list in no way, shape or form are a sure-fire recipe for a happy and fulfilling life. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, would not trade my life with all it’s ups, down, lessons and enriching experiences with anyone for anything else, BUT STILL…. 30 feels heavy.
So what is it that is bothering me about 30… am I scared that 30 suddenly makes me frumpy or less attractive? That entering this new decade prevents me from being sexy or even worse that as a 30 year old maid I can not longer be cute? Well obviously that’s dumb… I am cute. I know scores of women of all ages I think are heartbreakingly cute. Am I concerned about what people may think of me being 30 and un-wed? Not really… I could really care less what other people think about my love life. Maybe it’s that I have fallen into the same trap that so many people of my generation have. After pursuing a certain career avenue through the better part of my twenties I discovered it truly didn’t fit for me and in order to seek a more fulfilling life I now have to try a new direction, even though this ultimately means walking away from years and years of hard work and a pretty decent pay cheque. Does this make me a 30 year old failure? Again… I don’t think so.
So here’s my finally analysis of this whole situation. I feel like my apprehension of turning 30 really has little to do with actually getting older and what society might expect from me as a matured 30 year old woman. I feel like at the bottom of it all I may honestly just be mourning the fact that I am moving on from my twenties the same way you have a hard time heading home from an epic vacation… it was a really damn good time and though I knew it was never going to last forever there is something bitter sweet about moving on from something so great.
I feel like we have become a culture of people that is really good at recycling and repeating beautiful quotes and ideas, but not so good sometimes at really digesting their meaning and living by them… for example, “Life is too short”. It is too short to not do what makes you happy, to get hung up on the small things that at the end of the day don’t matter and to live with regrets. I have jam packed the last 30 years with nearly every great opportunity that has been presented to me because I don’t want to live a life of woulda, shoulda, couldas… does that mean I’ve had a perfect life? No, not at all. But I have had a wonderful and interesting one full of so much love, and since it seems to be a recipe that works well for me I figure I’m going to say on that path. After all, why should my age be the greatest deciding factor of when and how I’m going to “settle down”… it might never happen. I may just continue to float from one amazing adventure to the next and I suppose that might be the most important lesson this 30 year old could learn.