Photo by one of my favorite Schipulites, QCait.
A week ago, I turned 30. No, not tricks or vinyl records or seasons, mind you. Years of age, that is. I am 30 years old.
30 is a particularly perplexing and unique milestone, but not for the reasons you may think. No, turning 30 is much, much more than a single, solitary day of the year or the number of candles on a cake that will sit in your fridge until you’re 40. I knew that 30 – the build-up and the associated mental mayhem, not the actual date, you see – had been hurtling toward me for quite some time now. I thought I could navigate my way through the accompanying storm a-brewin’ with ease. After all, like Aaliyah said (and famously adhered to), “age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” Right?
But I was wrong. I couldn’t bushwhack my way through the impending dread, uncertainty, and discontent that would accompany the gale-force winds, and, even if I did, try as I might, I couldn’t locate the checkpoints. And to be perfectly honest, you are simply unable to enjoy much of anything about 29 with the monster of 30 looming on the horizon.
As soon as I conquered the salmonella that dominated the arrival (and departure) of my 29th birthday, I was already three million cognitive steps beyond the last year of my 20s. Indeed, there’s a great process of self-stock that you undertake when the end of anything is nigh, and the steep cliff of an era in my life was no exception.
I’d begun my 20s as an incurable, indecisive student, then passed the middle of the decade praying that Oprah would pluck me out of obscurity and near-poverty to magically erase my debt, with the end of my 20s spent wishing that higher education didn’t have a price tag or a recommended cessation point. The 29th year of my life was like a giant magnifying glass for all the missteps, disappointments, and shortcomings that manifested themselves in my 20s. It was safer underneath that lens – stagnating, rotting, and becoming entirely too comfortable – but the damaging glare was unbearable.
In between 19 and 30, there were countless weddings, mortgages, births, promotions, and relocations, wherein I mostly watched curiously and in a state of complete vexation from the outside (except for the relocations part, that is; I’m pretty adept at that). And even though I knew that we’re technically supposed to be capable of growing up and being adults, I still felt like everyone was playing dress up with their parents’ clothes and roles in this giant game of life.
Could we really be old enough to commit eternity to one another in holy matrimony? I was still tossing out last year’s model of my beloved camera as soon as the newest one was released, and zigzagging across the country every two months (or so it seemed) to set up an entirely new existence. Were we really mature enough to be responsible for the upbringing, health, and happiness of another human being that was 100% dependent upon us? I could barely keep my cat flea-free and without matted feces on his rear.
When I used to play Barbies with my sister, all of my Barbies would always die off by their 30th birthdays. It wasn’t because I was necessarily a macabre youngster or anything fatalistic like that. But to me, life ended when you turned 30. The age of 30 was simply the absolute stop to everything good that could possibly happen to an individual in his or her lifetime.
And now I’m 30.
And, for that matter, Barbie’s 50.
I feel that this number – 30, I mean – should somehow suddenly make sense of everything now. Either that, or I should lay down next to Loving You, Dream Date, and Day-To-Night Barbies in the graveyard of 30 year-olds. I realize I’m probably putting too much pressure on a mere turning of the calendar page, and yet, I feel that if any age deserved pressure, this would be the one.
I feel like I’m the only one left that still doesn’t get it. For example, there’s a man animatedly dreaming next to me, and he calls me his girlfriend. I call him my boyfriend. Apparently this is normal for a woman of my age (I’d posit a guess that women even younger than me have boyfriends, too), and yet, I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing with any of that. I really don’t. But I am trying.
And there’s more. My company recently hosted a conference, and I had the opportunity (and privilege) to speak to attendees on large and small scales. Some of these attendees stopped me in the halls to thank me for the information I provided in my presentation and to praise a job well done. But still, I don’t see myself as the purveyor of any great knowledge, nor the deserved recipient of any such commendation. I’m just a chick who does what she does.
To me, I’m still 19. I don’t know why 19, but I haven’t gotten any older in my own head than that. And a girl of 19, such as I am, is certainly not equipped to be a wife, a mother, a homeowner, or an expert. That’s poppycock.
Strangely, I am not actually 19. I am 30. I’m not sure how, but my birth certificate doesn’t lie.
It goes without saying that I have a lot of expectations for the onset of this thing, this 30. Supposing my 30s will thank me for all of the confusion and tomfoolery that characterized my 20s, that is. Experience is a great teacher. Now I simply have to take it all and learn from it.
But I really just hope that it all starts to make sense sometime soon. And that it clicks. And that I “get it.” And that I am at least able – in some small part – to figure things out. ‘Cause now that I’m 30, I intend to make it to the ripe ol’ age of Barbie. And then some. But I’ll never survive if I keep at it the way I did in my 20s.
Barbie, look out for me. I’m going to follow your line.