So this is it. I’m thirty now. I’m officially an adult, supposedly. People keep asking me how it feels to be thirty and honestly, it doesn’t feel any different. My life is definitely different than it was just a short while ago, but I still feel about the same. Perhaps it’d be different if I hadn’t cleaned up my act, so to speak, almost two years ago. How my life is now has been two years in the making, not a miraculous overnight transition because now I’m an “adult.”
Yes, I do feel more mature, whatever that means, but I also feel pretty dang immature. I’m more grounded and responsible, somewhat, but I also feel much more curious and childlike. I’m definitely not a wise old sage now that I’m thirty, but I’m also not a girl who dances on the bar and gets sassy with anyone who tries to interfere with her good time. I feel a little immature in the way that I’ve been approaching the world, with my naivete about the recent election and the ways of this world, but I’d rather be childlike than a wizened cynic.
Cynicism used to be my forte, my way of maneuvering through life, always a raised eyebrow and a wry smile. It was much easier to be unimpressed than amused, quicker to scoff than to laugh. But then I quit booze and the cynicism I’d maintained for much of my adult life seemed to fall away, an item of clothing suddenly too large to fit into anymore. Though at first this sudden sea change threw me for a loop, I learned along the way to embrace it, to surrender. Much like I have surrendered to being thirty.
Thirty. To say it sounds old, to think it is surreal. But it’s also just a number, an arbitrary figure that supposedly dictates where I should be in life, what I should want, what I should do. The old picture of thirty that’s been ingrained in all of our millennial minds: kids, marriage, career, house. I’ve only been focusing on one of those things, my career, and it’s so new that I’m not quite “set” in it. I have a career now, something that’s rather surreal in itself. I have business cards, a fancy email signature, responsibility. But I feel like a kid at the same time. The idea of having kids? Laughable. Marriage? A house? Not too high up on my totem pole of goals.
I have goals for my thirties, but a lot of them are perhaps the goals of a twenty-year-old. I want to travel. I want to have more fun than I ever have. I want to dance on the regular. I want to go to more concerts and meet new people. If that sounds immature, I’ll take it. Maybe because I went to college in my mid twenties, a time when you’re “supposed to” be done with school, unless you’re going to grad school, is the reason for these goals. A lot of friends my age are getting married, buying houses, having babies. And more power to them! That’s just not where I’m at right now. And that’s okay. More than okay.
I’ve surrendered to my version of thirty looking perhaps wildly different from the version of my counterparts. I’ve embraced the idea of being a little more free than those with mortgages and diaper changes. My version of thirty entails a concern with mostly just me. A concern for expanding my own horizons and having more adventures. Also concern for building and fortifying my fledgling career, of learning more about the industry I work in and making connections in this new world. But mostly a concern for living as wildly and as freely as I can within the constraints of working a 9-5 job. This is all new terrain for me, which can be a little scary because it’s unknown, but the fact that I am thirty is not what’s scary to me.
I say this because there seems to be a fear that surrounds the age of thirty, an idea that once you’re thirty the fun is over and full adulthood sets in. An idea that you have to let your dreams go or that if you haven’t achieved your dreams by now, then you probably never will and you’re a loser. That if you aren’t married with children or well on your way to that life, something is wrong with you. I disagree. The only thing that could be wrong with being thirty is that if your life isn’t what you, truly, as an individual, want your life to be. Or knowing this and succumbing to this idea of the “right” way to live, to either beating yourself up and spinning down a guilt spiral or putting your dreams aside.
The dream of traveling the world doesn’t have to be a pretty idea up on a shelf that you look at wistfully but never take down because it seems too high to reach. The age of thirty doesn’t mean that you have to have a child right now because you’re settled down and it seems like the appropriate time to do it. The age of thirty doesn’t mean that you should own a house by now and that if you don’t, you’re a hopeless mess. The age of thirty means that you are now in a place where you can take stock of your life thus far, see what hasn’t worked for you, see what’s working for you now, and take it from there. Thirty’s when you begin to feel at home in your body, when you begin to lose some of the insecurity and fear, when you begin to become more settled and free simultaneously. At least, that’s my view of thirty.
I feel settled in having a new career, in going after what I want and working hard to get there. I feel more free because the doubt and fear of my teens and twenties is dissipating into the air like mist. I know that I will never be doubt-and-fear-free, I’m human after all, but the worries of what others think, the doubt in my own capacity and character? Going, going, gone. The fear that I will never be good enough? Gone. I will be as good as I can be, which is pretty damn good because I’m trying my best and I quit the thing that was holding me back from doing any good at all. So I feel a settled freeness, a free settledness, and this is what I associate with being thirty. Not a fear of wrinkles and a doubt in myself because I don’t have the house, the car, the marriage, the kids. This is thirty.
I wish you a wild, free life.