When I was a teenager, I couldn’t see myself past the age of 30. In my diary, I routinely recorded that I would win my first Oscar by 23 years old, be married by 27 (either to Ben Affleck or David Duchovny) and push out my first baby by 29. Beyond that was just darkness; a horribly scary void that meant the end of supple skin, a high metabolism and acceptable irresponsibility masked as “just bein’ young, son.”
Well, I’m 31 now (actually, I’m writing this to you on my 31st birthday), and suffice it to say, I didn’t marry David Duchovny and pop out one of his kids by 30 (which is probably a blessing given he’s apparently more like Hank Moody than Fox Mulder. Ugh!).
But last year, I wasn’t nearly as cool as I am now. I got sad and mad about the things that I wanted for myself but didn’t have (my dream job, the dream husband, the Oscar, a real goddamn Louis Vuitton wallet). I had mini-meltdowns as I consulted those annoying “must-have before 30” lists that women’s magazines annually churn out, and thought: “what the hell is wrong with me?!”
Well, as it turns out, nothing is wrong with me. Or you, fellow thirty-somethings/almost-thirty-somethings.
Now that I’m freshly post-thirty, I can tell you, with a pretty large amount of certainty, that everything you’ve read and/or been brainwashed about turning 30, is utter bullshit.
Throw out your timelines and your “to do” lists, ladies. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out, despite what all those scary email chain letters say. This is what thirty really feels like.
- Less bullshit. Small talk with anyone can be brutal. But guess what? When you’re thirty, you don’t have to put up with that crap anymore. Suddenly you feel less of a people-pleaser and more of an adopter of the ‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That’ philosophy. Want to stop talking to The Annoying Person at the Networking Event/Party/Bar? Then, stop! This attitude also extends to those toxic friends, co-workers and family members you’ve been meaning to shake, but felt you couldn’t because of niceties and “what will people think of me?” syndrome. You’re not being unkind; it’s called finding your backbone.
- Yes, your body is changing; let it. Maybe you can’t eat a bag of Jalapeno Cheetos in one sitting anymore without witnessing the aftermath moments later on your thighs and butt, but that’s probably for the best anyway because of cholesterol and sodium intake – things you actually start considering in your 30s. You will also notice these annoying chin hairs that suddenly sprout rapidly like you’re some kind of Chia Pet; waxing or a good pair of tweezers will take care of them. Boobs start to sag (yes, even on us flat-chested gals) and “smile crinkles” appear around your eyes. Your back starts to hurt. Feet, too. Oh, yeah, and adult acne becomes this real, awful thing that usually spreads its wicked ugliness around that time of the month (treating it holistically with Sea Buckthorn Oil usually does the trick). I know this all sounds scary, but the cool thing about 30 is that you just sort of accept it; you start accepting yourself as is. Your awesome body is the only one you have and it’s gotten you this far, so it really does deserve major props.
- Dating, relationships and sex at 30 is better. Telling the truth when it comes to matters of the heart and being vulnerable becomes easier at 30 mainly because you’re not afraid to say what you want and need inside – and outside – of the bedroom. There’s nothing more refreshing or powerful than telling someone “I like you/that/it” or “Get out of my apartment, dirt bag!” All the truth-bombing is probably due to that pesky ticking biological clock, and the fact that you’ve been around the block a few times and know what’s up. You know what you like and what you don’t like, and because you’re no longer suffering from “what will people think of me?” syndrome, you’re more likely to speak your mind. Better to be hurt and validated than not having said anything at all and remain stuck in the same rut. I’m not saying it’s all roses and couples’ costumes, but things just become less dramatic. Hallelujah!
- You’re on your own journey. So you looked at Facebook recently and your newsfeed is a sea of engagement announcements and wedding pictures and baby bumps. Real grown up shit. When everyone is getting married and traveling and, you know, doing BIG things around you, it’s definitely easy to catch a case of the “have-nots” and feel sorry for yourself with visions of spinsterhood and a house filled of cats dancing in your head when you’re single and still living in your parents’ basement. But this needn’t be the case. The only thing you need to worry about is your own happiness. If you’re single, you’re single because you’re fucking single. Not because you’re picky or like to stay home and watch Netflix in your sweats and it’s definitely not because there’s something wrong with you. You’re single because you haven’t found him, or her. It’s not your time yet. And maybe it’s not your time to own a condo or give birth to another human, either. That’s OK, too. Thirty looks different to everyone. The best thing (besides not comparing your life to those on your Facebook) is to celebrate your victories. Maybe it was finally getting that promotion or paying off your student loan or winning a short story competition. Don’t categorize your victories as “big “or “small” – they’re yours and yours alone, and that’s what makes them dope.
- Wisdom, you got it. You suddenly become this Yoda-like deity of sage advice for people younger than you, like interns, and it’s weirdly gratifying. All the so-called mistakes you made in your twenties, all the woulda/shoulda/coulda’s? Well, they actually, finally, come in handy. Apartment rental advice? You got this! How to properly iron a shirt? You got this! Credit card debt advice? Unfortunately, you got this one too. But, it’s also oddly satisfying to tell someone in her early twenties that you saw Backstreet Boys live in concert when she was a toddler. Well, kind of satisfying, and also mildly depressing (I didn’t say turning 30 didn’t totally suck).
There’s a reason why I got “do you.” tattooed on my left arm last May (I included the period in the tat because, to have left it unstated, seemed to welcome all sorts of awkward connotations). I had quit my full-time editorial job without a back-up plan and, thus, received a lot of backlash from other people who didn’t understand my decision. Why on earth would I give up benefits, vacation time and a parking spot? They asked.
To the outside world, I was supposedly “living the adult dream” when, really, I wasn’t. I was miserable. The thing about turning 30 is that time really becomes of the essence. And, no, I don’t mean that aforementioned pesky biological clock. What I mean is, I came to the point where I had to look at myself in the mirror and ask: is this where I want to be in my life? Is this who I want to be? Am I on the right path to where and who I want to be, professionally and personally? When I couldn’t answer yes to ANY of those questions, I knew what I had to do: I quit my job and began this freelancing life, while pursuing my passion of writing for TV and film. I did me. And it was the best decision I ever made.
If there’s something you want to do at 30, do it. Try that improv class! Start writing that book! Plan that business venture you’ve always dreamed of! It’s not too late at all; it’s actually the best time ever. Forget about the haters. Fuck, Facebook. Remember: you ain’t got time for that. Because, honestly, you wouldn’t want return to your twenties for a million bucks (unless it was to pay off that credit card) and forty is just around the corner, which is when, I’m guessing, we figure all this shit out.