Category Archives: 30 something
I turned 31 recently (gasp!).
I am officially a “30-something,” and I’d like to share a heads-up with those travelling this way which came as a complete surprise to me- birthdays after 30 are completely different than those before. After 30, the event of adding one number to your age is rather nondescript and indistinguishable from the years surrounding it. I think that’s one reason for the “30-something” label. The 20’s are littered with milestones, from no longer being a teen, to reaching drinking age, being a “quarter century” old, and then marveling at the big 3-0 continually looming larger ahead.
Well, on the other side of 30, there aren’t any milestones nearby except maybe 40 sitting in the distance. For us Texans, if the journey to 30 is like taking I-10 through Houston to San Antonio, the journey to 40 is like continuing through to El Paso. Be prepared to make your own entertainment, because you aren’t likely to high five anyone to celebrate that you’re “finally 34.” You realize that TV commercials now address you with, “Are you between the ages of 30 and 55?” like there’s enough similarity across that range of ages that they can all be lumped together.
But birthdays in your 30’s are by no means bad, or boring. They just aren’t universally celebrated, and you have to make what you want of them yourself. I’ll venture to say the same is true of the decade as a whole. Just like there are no banners available at the party store announcing, “I’m turning 34,” there are fewer marked paths in the 30’s, speaking very generally. For many people, the preset degree plans and/or internships and/or entry level job tracks and/or the beginnings of marriages and/or children took place in the 20’s. The 30’s are like open water, comparatively. Personally, I think that’s exciting. Instead of universal milestones, you decide what method to navigate by, which landmarks are significant to you, and what you keep on the horizon. To way-WAY oversimplify, my navigational method is my faith, and this blog-of-my-30’s is like my travel notebook. I love figuring this journey out and working alongside others, both in person and in the ‘blogosphere,’ as they do the same.
At six months into my 30’s, I feel that I can provide a bit of information about what it is like on the other side of three decades. At least I can dispel a few myths about this era. I had always thought of 30 as a base camp before the final leg of the big journey “over the hill.” I imagined that crossing the threshold which left my 20’s behind would be a momentous event in my aging, and many things would instantly be different.
1. I’d take myself more seriously. I’d finally feel like an adult instead of a long-term extension of my 16 year-old self.
2. Others would take me more seriously and assume I have a reasonable level of competence in most areas of life.
3. My wardrobe would contain much more linen, like I was always just walking off the set of Mad About You.
4. My life would be a long-standing and comfortable routine, where the biggest adventure any given week would be buying new bath towels. Again, I think Mad About You served as my mental 30’s template.
5. In this comfortable routine, existential questions of purpose would have been resolved along the way, or simply evaporated with time.
Well. Let me tell you.
1. It’s partly true that I take myself more seriously, because I no longer feel that my teenage years were “not that long ago.” How could I when I recently realized that I started high school 15 years ago? But it still startles me when medical professionals ask my age (because those are the only people who dare to ask nowadays) and I must respond, “30,” suddenly feeling very like Neo waking up outside the Matrix for the first time wondering how in the world did I get here. And incidentally, I’m treated like a geriatric patient now. When I inquire about an ache or pain, the doctor makes a pinched, patronizing face and begins, “As we age….” This is especially true regarding my pregnancy, where the phrase “advanced maternal age,” has actually been thrown around a few times in my presence. (?!?)
2. It’s also partly true that others take me more seriously in that, on the rare occasions that I attempt to buy alcohol, I am never carded. But in terms of quickly being judged as competent in any situation, especially now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, no. The only place that people ever assume I am in my element is at the grocery store, where dazed-looking men ask me which of the 12 varieties of apples they should buy for their fishing trip snack stash.
3. About 50% of my clothes are 8 or more years old, and will never again be appropriate to wear, post child-bearing. I tell myself that I keep these items for upcycling sewing projects. 0% of my wardrobe is linen.
4. There is no long-standing or comfortable routine when rising small children. Maybe I’ll revisit the Mad About You template for empty-nesting.
5. For those of us with existential questions, the 30-year mark holds no special power to help answer or shed them.
However, what has completely surprised me about this time is realizing that I have well over a decade of my very own decision making behind me. Past the age of 17, my choices and my time were never governed by any person or institution. What at first may seem obvious and mundane to others- that I employed my own judgement and continually built upon the consequences of those choices over the last decade- was a surprising source of joy for me recently. Because I can remember some utterly discouraging times and difficult choices- the kind where even the right choice feels terrible. At the time the situations seemed unfair, confusing, and senseless. But looking back well after those storms passed, I know that not only did I make it through, but the choices I made in the midst of the difficulty were right. And I can start to see how pieces of the story- even the jagged ones- fit together, and it all makes a little more sense.
It is this act of looking behind me that hints at an answer to my questions of purpose. It encourages me to trust my judgment, regardless of the esteem in which others hold me at any given point. It reminds me to be purposeful in what I am building with my choices. Because in another 10 years, I’ll look back at what I am cobbling together with my time and resources right now.
Here’s to the next 30 years.
Here I am, 30 years old. I loved blogging throughout my 20’s, and I decided to start fresh for this new decade. I ended my 20’s in the middle of a puzzling spiritual journey. I felt like I was wandering the desert like the Israelites did in the Bible; as though God was with me the whole time, but I knew I wasn’t at home, at peace, and restful. I was confused and frustrated as this “season” of searching and wandering dragged on. And it continues still. But at this point, today at least, I’m much less confused and frustrated than I have been in recent months. There are a few things I know.
My Christian faith is my foundation, and I am continually amazed at how close and responsive God is in our walk together.
God created me with unique interests and talents to be used in his service, and figuring out “who” he made me to be and “what” he wants me to do will always be an ongoing, changing process in my life.
My 30’s are going to be awesome- the best decade yet.