Up until a few weeks ago, I believed that life ended when you turned 30.
I spent months writing atonement letters to friends and loved ones in an attempt to cross over with an unblemished karma. I gave away my favorite dress, and bequeathed all $49.72 of my savings to my parents. I was ready for the end.
After all, I was balancing on the cusp of a decade that, symbolically, signals an end to unfettered youth, believing that the best and most important part of my life would soon be over. Turning 30 carries with it the burden of maturity, and for some reason I mistook maturity for the apocalypse. I blame it on television. I can remember, as a teenager, watching the show, “Thirtysomething,” thinking the characters indelibly old and boring. They seemed so grown up with their houses and children. They balanced checkbooks and drove Jeep Cherokees.
As a fresh-faced 30-year-old, I still have no clue what I want from life, but I know it doesn’t involve an SUV with luggage racks. And, frankly, I prefer to have an unbalanced checkbook. It makes me feel careless and youthful. Even more, it reminds me that it’s okay not to have all my ducks in a row. I believe it’s okay to be a little wobbly.
When the clock hit midnight, my parents sang to me and we lit sparklers. There was no lightening, no loud clap of thunder. I remember lying awake for hours, pinching my cheeks and feeling my arms. Nothing had changed. In the morning, I checked my eyes for wrinkles. There were none. No grey streaks in my hair. No extra handles on my hips. Thirty, it seemed, was just like twenty-nine.
But maybe that’s the grace of aging. We don’t notice the subtle changes. We grow into our new skin silently, all of a sudden becoming someone different, someone better. I spent most of my twenties rushing through life, frittering away years at a time, trying to build something. I had no clue what I was trying to build, but was under the impression that everything I wanted to accomplish had an expiration date, and if I didn’t achieve my dreams by some socially imposed deadline, I’d be a failure.
Only a mature thirty-year-old like me can see the foolishness in such a thought process. Now, I believe that thirty is just a starting point. I say rubbish to the misguided ideas about when we should become who we’re supposed to become. I can spare myself a lot of grief simply by changing my way of thinking.
What way is that, you might wonder? Simple. Figure it out as I go along. There will always be things I don’t have answers for, like why I ever thought leg warmers were cool or why anyone likes Spam, but I now believe the not knowing is okay. Believing in the unknown is far more romantic anyway. Besides, there are plenty of things I do have answers for, like what do you get when you cross a thirty-year-old with a great big world?
Someone more alive than ever.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.