Why is that when you’re five, you wish you were ten? When you’re 13, you want to be 18? When you’re 21, well, you’re obliviously in a state of drunken happy for a good long time, but then you wish you were 25? But when you’re 30, you just wish you were five again?
I am in my 362nd day of being 29, and I must be totally honest and say that I’m nervous and scared, but mostly I’m sad. I’m sure the day after my 30th birthday I will wake up and it will be like nothing’s changed (kind of like the last four birthdays), but the build-up to this “momentous” milestone feels like I’m waiting for the black plague to strike or I’m preparing for a grueling Chemistry exam.
Being sad about turning 30 does not make me a proud woman. In fact, I so wish I could smile and believably utter the age-old cliche: “Age is nothin’ but a number.” But I’m emotional about the passing of another decade – a really effing good decade! A decade when I defined myself (and then undefined myself), only to define myself again.
There have been countless lectures of reassurance on the topic of my turning 30. My dad told me his 30s were his best decade (but then proceeded to point out a photo of himself at 30, holding a four-year-old me, donning a mustache that could easily land him an audition-less role in any top-notch porn film). My 23-year old co-worker told me that “30 is the new 20” (then asked me if I’ve seen Sex and the City and unknowingly started comparing me to Samantha). My husband told me 30 is “just another birthday” (and went on to curse the man who decided to landmark decade birthdays because, without him, he wouldn’t be having to deal with a crying wife right now). But, the one thing I heard that made me feel a little better was from a surprisingly-sensitive, often-sarcastic male friend:
“Getting older is an involuntary activity. It’s not like you chose to open your eyes every morning. It just happened. So birthdays aren’t necessarily even worth celebrating. It’s like celebrating breathing. Instead, concentrate on celebrating anniversaries, or the birthdays of your children. THOSE are REAL accomplishments. Those you’ve earned.”
So, yeah. I’ve simply opened my eyes every morning and have consequently gotten older. This concept made me rethink the outlook I had on the future, even if it was only for a few seconds…
My early 20s were spent gussying up for bars and eating ramen and granola bars to save enough money to pay for the rusted-out car I had to have to drive to the part-time job that made me work holidays and sell credit to rude customers who tipped me just enough to buy another round of ramen noodles and a pitcher of kamikazes at Grandma’s Sports Garden. My late 20s were devoted to establishing myself as an employee in the “real world” while trying to figure out taxes and health benefits which helped me return to my doctor, only in time to find out I was pregnant with the guy I had married after determining that he was the one for me – the real me – the me that took 27 years to actually pinpoint.
After this brief reflection, I decided that maybe 30 won’t be so bad after all. I have practice raising children now, and though the sleep deprivation with number two won’t be any easier, I’m sure there will be less panic when he won’t roll over at four months or walk at twelve. I have a bank account that steadily streams cash into accounts for mortgage and credit card payments, retirement funds, and college savings. I have a house that keeps me warm because we can pay for heat and a job that makes me feel like my college degree has (sort of) paid for itself. I can sip wine while comfortably chatting with my husband over an episode of American Idol and go to bed at 9 in sweatpants without caring who I do and do not impress. I can be me – this person I’ve worked so long and hard on finding, creating, editing, gussying up, ridiculing, scolding, loving and appreciating. 30 years, and I think I found her.
My best friend sent me a blog of her favorite writer today that was written the day the author turned 30. She listed all the things she had learned in her 30 years. Things like, “I’ve learned that photography helps me express myself” and “I’ve learned that I really like the taste of sushi.” Well, that’s fine and dandy, and I like me some sushi too, but I’VE LEARNED that I’ve got a LOT MORE to LEARN! And that is all-encompassing. So, THERE. I just beat your blog in one sentence, fancy author lady! (Oh, and I’ve learned that I teeter the line of competitive and just down-right mean. Unintentionally, of course.)
Instead of focusing on that pit in my stomach that reminds me my life could be 1/3 done assuming I make it to 90, I think I’ll focus on the important things. Things even more important than sushi. Things like: my KIDS. my HUSBAND. my JOB. my DREAMS. my GOALS. my HEALTH. my FAMILY. my FRIENDS. my HAPPINESS.
A harsh reality is, yes, I’m a decade older than I was a decade ago (did I do that math right?). And unfortunately, you can’t turn back time (it’s true – ask Cher). But, what I CAN do is wake up on my birthday – involuntarily of course – and scoop up my baby boy and promise him a sister some day and kiss my better half and make flavored coffee in my nice new coffee maker and take it to work in a car that has four hubcaps only to look forward to a weekend with friends and family and heaps and piles of love on top of love.
And if all that blubbery blub gibberish wears off before my big day hits, I’ll simply remember the last part of the conversation I had with my dad. After I was finished laughing at his X-rated mustache, he looked at me and said, “Whenever you get frustrated with your little guy, know that I would give my right arm for this picture to have been taken yesterday.”
That’s just it. Time marches on, and we march right along with it. I’ll never have my first child again. I’ll never have another first kiss. And I certainly will never get my 20s back. So, suck it up. Embrace a NEW day. A new DECADE! I’ll be damned if I’m not going to remember every minute of it because I’m too busy living in the past.
So I say, “Bring on 30.” (Just do it with grace, please.)