Anytime before the age of 25, if someone mentioned turning 30, I felt truly sorry for them.
30’s. That’s like real adulthood. Gross.
Then something started happening, maybe around 28. I started looking forward to 30. And I wasn’t the only one. My friends were throwing huge 30th birthday bashes and going on expensive vacations to celebrate. Some were jumping out of airplanes for the first time. These people weren’t quietly turning 30 in hopes that they could still claim 29 for a couple more years without too many people calling their bluff. They were celebrating 30, confidently.
And so it is with confidence and thankfulness that on Sunday I, too, will join the ranks of 30-somethings. Thankfulness, because 30 is a privilege. Really, it is. (I’ll be the first to admit it’s a miracle I’m still here after all the things I thought were a good idea in my 20’s.)
I have no qualms about leaving my 20’s behind. I enjoyed them – I did some things right, I screwed up plenty of others, and I had a lot of fun in the process, but I won’t miss them. My 20’s, much like everyone else’s, were about growth and self-discovery. Some discoveries made me proud, others, not so much. But it is with this knowledge that I hope to be in my 30’s everything I wasn’t yet prepared to be in my 20’s. (I’ll let you know how that turns out at 40.) But for now, from someone who is just on the brink of this incredible new decade, here are my thoughts on turning 30.
30 is not the new 20. If 30 were the new 20 we’d be back to pretending we know things just because we’re in college, and it wouldn’t be a successful Friday night without making an appearance at a minimum of five different places. Instead, now we actually do know things, and the discovery that a Friday night is approaching with absolutely no plans in place evokes a level of euphoria even drugs can’t compete with. An evening with the DVR? Don’t mind if I do!
30 is an opportunity to say thank you to your body for putting up with the health risk that was your 20’s. It is a freaking miracle mine has survived what I’ve done to it. In college the best sleep I got was in the tanning bed, a pop-tart and a Xanax would hold me over until dinner, and walking from my classroom to the parking lot counted as a day’s worth of exercise. Penance for these sins shall be paid over the next decade in the form of sleep, exercise, real food, and good gracious – a minimum of SPF 30!
Speaking of bodies, there are a lot of changes that happen around this time that can cause your confidence to waver. My breasts only sit high on my chest if I’m wearing a good enough bra. The lines around my eyes stay crinkled long after the laughter has subsided. And under no circumstances do I weigh myself anywhere other than the doctor’s office, because it’s been years since the scale and my idea of what it should read have been one and the same. At this age I can safely rule out a cover feature in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition, but my body is still small and strong and perfectly capable of both running for 13 miles and turning my husband on in the bedroom. Bow chicka wow wow. Be proud of what you’ve got at 30, and if you’re not, by all means, do something about it. The cool part about 30 is, by this time you’re (hopefully) bringing in a steady paycheck, so if your wrinkles put a kink in more than just your face, Botox those babies. Or do what I did and marry someone who doesn’t give a &#%!@, and then you can both laugh about all the changes happening to your bodies. It happens to all of us. (Except Gwyneth Paltrow. She appears to be the exception.)
Even as your body starts to age, other things may be just beginning to blossom. The self-confidence that comes with growing older has been one of my happiest discoveries. It is okay to be yourself, even if other people don’t like it. Accept that life has been and likely will continue to be one big popularity contest. Just remember, you don’t have to enter it. It’s okay if people don’t like you. You just have to like yourself. And you’re only going to do that if you’re actually being yourself. Quit trying to meet everyone else’s expectations and just concentrate on your own. There is no better time to do this than in your 30’s. And for goodness sake, stop taking yourself and everyone else so seriously. We all screw up. Laugh at yourself and move on.
At 30, your social circle is probably growing smaller, particularly if you’ve already joined the ranks of married folks and parents. This is a good thing. Use this opportunity of having a smaller circle to make it a tighter one. And choose wisely. The friends you cultivate relationships with now are going to be the ones you call when your marriage is troubled or you just can’t handle your kids a single minute more. You’ll want the advice of someone who knows you inside and out and has your best interests at heart, not the friend who was super fun in college but was conveniently unavailable when you needed her most.
Don’t worry, we’re coming to the end here. And I mean the end of this post, not “the end”. Thirty does not equal certain death. Although, even if this whole aging process hadn’t already made me acutely aware of my own mortality, Lexie would have done that for me yesterday when she tearfully admitted she didn’t want to me to turn 30 because I might die. From the time she can remember, I’ve always been in my 20’s. To her, 30 is old. And to an extent, she’s right – 30 does feel a lot different than 20. Gone is the perceived invincibility reserved especially for the young, where ideas immediately lead to action, without a single thought about consequences. But does that mean you stop taking risks the minute you turn 30? Of course not. The moment you start living like that you might as well die. Instead, you live more deliberately. Living deliberately just adds an extra, very essential step into the same equation: idea – thought – action. You’re 30, not 15 … or 85. Live like it.
The only hint of sadness I feel as I turn 30 comes from the realization that I’m not going to be able to do everything. I was a big daydreamer in my teens, and many of my dreams centered around what I was going to be or where I was going to live. At that age, I was pretty confident that I’d be able to travel the world as a host for a hit show on the Travel Channel, be a marine biologist working with dolphins in Australia, a news reporter for a network in a big city, an actress in Hollywood, and run an animal rescue on a big farm in Tennessee, all in one lifetime. (You gotta shoot for the moon, right?) The process of accepting that life is too short to do it all has not been an easy one. I know I won’t be able to live everywhere I want to live, meet everyone I want to meet, see everything I want to see, or do everything I want to do. But the important thing is, I’m never going to stop trying to.
Bring it on, 30!