On 30

I turned 30 this year. Well, not this year exactly, but within the last year. I know this level of detail is unimportant. It’s as if I’m a five year old, vehemently insisting that “I am five and a half, thank you very much!” Perhaps I’m marking the smaller increments of time because it’s suddenly going by quickly, and I want to measure it, to control it. 

Any age ending in zero seems to invite some level of crisis, celebration, or renaissance. These ages are the ones that prompt special greeting cards and bigger birthday parties. They are the ones that elicit teasing, the ages for which “over the hill” was created. 

The first of the zeros, passed me by without much pomp and circumstance. At 1-0, every birthday was fun, and I greeted every chance for endless attention and copious amounts of sugar with open arms. Well, this may also be true twenty years later. Truth be told, I can’t even remember what I did for my 10th birthday. Were there cards harolding my entrance into double digits? Did I get a new Barbie or (less-desirable) new clothes? Were there clowns, monkeys, and a bouncy house? I don’t know. (But no, I’m sure I would’ve remembered a bouncy house.) What I do know of myself at 10, however, is that I felt joy. I sang. I lit up in the presence of love and merriment. For me, I’d like to remember the big 1-0 as a celebration of the purest kind.

Next, came 2-0. A college sophomore with freshly cut hair and grayish lowlights, I started differentiating myself, albeit ever so slightly, from my family and friends. My two roommates and I would cruise down Snelling Avenue, occasionally rolling down our windows to yell something intended to be completely embarrassing, yet was mildly amusing at best. We’d celebrate birthdays by drinking bubble tea and going to cheap concerts. I traveled to Guatemala that year. I changed my major three times that year. I gave up theater that year. Many mini changes and minor crises that crescendoed into becoming a Resident Assistant on campus, taking on the trials, both physical and emotional of everyone I could…somehow, transitioning from a time of finding myself to losing myself in the problems of others. 

So if 1-0 was celebration and 2-0 was crisis, it would seem, at the dawn of 3-0, I found myself expecting renaissance. 

And on September 25th, a.k.a. my birthday, I began spouting off reflections and mantras accordingly. I had aspirations of seizing the day, embracing my inner warrior, blah, blah, blah. 

At eight months in, although I feel slightly more confident and a bit more self-aware, more than anything, I feel limited. In my 20s, time was on my side. Even if reality and perception didn’t always see eye to eye, I thought that, as I opened up my hands to ideas and experiences, so life would open up to me. At 3-0, however, I’m swapping lofty possibilities with strict time tables; spending little with saving much; waiting for the future with clinging to the present. For the first time, I don’t want to get older. Well, in someways I do. I want the perspective of age, but I don’t want the limits. 

In the next five years, I will have more scans, less eggs, more pains, and a few more wrinkles. My body feels like a hotel lobby, checking new visitors in and long-time guests out with increasing frequency.

For all of us, choice and options are limited as our context changes. Speaking from a privileged place, I know there are many others who have much less say in the trajectory of their days than I. Perhaps, I’m just waking up to this reality in a more tangible way.

And perhaps this realization, however small, is renaissance enough for now. Because it’s okay if doors close. Others may still crack open—just as I knew they would at 2-0, and I can face each with joy I had at 1-0. 

Change is seen as something evil only by those who have lost their youth or sense of humor. – Cookie Mueller

So hello 30s. We will be in each other’s company for a while. I will try not to fight you, and I will try not to blame you. I want to make the most of you, and I don’t want to run from you. Limited I may be, I’m still me at any age. And for now and for every age, that’s enough.

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