Like most modern day people who try to be philosophical but can’t cut it (Oprah’s bestie Gayle King comes to mind), I decided to take a moment everyday to list a lesson I have learned in my life, seeing as how I was mere weeks from turning 30. About two days in, with 28 to go on my quest of listing 30 things I have learned in as many years, something hit me: I was counting down to something that I was petrified of. So I stopped.
Sure, my stoic pre-imaginary Obama Clint Eastwood-esque persona was telling me to do it; to face 30 with dashing bravado and a true sense of ownership. The whole idea was that I wouldn’t let 30 get to me if I could beat it to the punch first. This bizarre death-cheating tactic would save me from the typical anxiety attack that only a milestone birthday could give. I wrote #29, and when I closed my laptop, I actually dreaded 28, 27, 26, and so on. I dreaded counting the days until I no longer had a pass to be young, frivolous, and live with twenty-something abandon. Something about hurling myself toward the bottom of a fire-spewing volcano and giggling the whole way down just seemed so Pollyanna and not quite like me.
I don’t think I will wake up on September 18 feeling different than I do today, or last week, or in comparison to how I felt on September 18, 2011. I don’t see much of a difference between 29 and 30 aside from it being a marker and a reminder. People say I’m still young, especially people who remember that Ford was president on their 30th birthday. But there is a silent death that happens when you exit your twenties that not many people feel comfortable discussing. Most will lament that 30 just means you become more established; you love the skin you are in, and you know your choices and have learned enough from past mistakes to navigate life with more ease than you did in the previous 29 years. That’s the chief anecdote given to me by people both older and younger than I who feel the need to comment on my three decades stored, sealed and archived. I’m 30 now (or will be soon), and it all gets better at 30. But what about your twenties?
Sitting on the precipice of a decade of mistakes and carefree actions, I remember feeling afraid on September 17, 2002. I would no longer be a teenager. In retrospect, that was fine. I am sure my family was happy they wouldn’t have to deal with a hormonal little shit in college anymore, but rather a grown man in the making. Someone who could actually make and act on well rooted decisions as opposed to thinking impulsively like most invincible children with drivers licenses do. But I realize now that with each passing decade, you lose the ability to blame shortcomings on how old you are. Maybe that’s what is frightening me about this epic change in my age. I can still be part of the marketing and public relations driven 25-34 age range in consumer surveys, but even that is winding down. Maybe what’s frightening is that I thought things would be different.
I’m not doing anything for my thirtieth birthday. It could be that I always assumed I’d have a boyfriend/partner/husband by now who would do that sort of thing for me. But I don’t. Maybe I thought I could have a party in the comforts of the piece of real estate I owned by now. But I don’t own real estate by now. Or maybe I thought I could escape it all and go to an island. But instead of springing for a pricy vacation, I gifted myself a synthetic leather jacket. At least it’s flame retardant.
Then there are the lessons. Those little items I meant to spew onto my blog daily until I realized I was wishing away the last few days of my twenties with trite sayings. I’ll tell you what I have learned in a nutshell. First off, many things don’t matter, aside from the notion that everything is worth a shot. One of the “maybes” smacking me in the face within the past few weeks of introspection is the thought that I was so sure that by 30 I would have a savings account. Instead, I traded that for making it day to day in New York City, traveling, and trying to have experiences. My friends save, and are careful, and cautious. Once in a while I wish I were like that. But overall, I guess it’s better to just get by. By the skin of nose, the seat of my pants, barely able to see beyond a week from now, it’s all less predictable. You can’t take it with you, so why store it all away for a rainy day when you may or may not get hit by a bus tomorrow?
It’s true that we shy away from the things that absolutely frighten us. Someday your worst fears will come to reality, and by this point in time, mine already have. Older people have this beautiful freedom of mentality wherein they just can’t care anymore. Whether they left a good impression on someone or a slightly bad taste in their mouths simply doesn’t matter anymore. I guess that I have that quality now, and it’s a fun and free feeling. But I’m still shitting my pants about turning 30.
With that little uptick, that entrance of the number three into your age, possibilities become a little more limited. Attractiveness dwindles. Cognitive ability, fertility, agility – they all drop off. But then, people are proving that you can start something new anytime. My uncle started bodybuilding at 50. My co-worker changed her profession at 60 after three and a half grueling years of school. People start things over or up again and find new opportunities all the time, regardless of age, so maybe I should calm the fuck down. But if I calmed the fuck down, I wouldn’t be so fun and neurotic. Right? Maybe?
In summary, 30 is a pile of horse shit. We can wax poetic about the passage of time like it gives us wisdom and knowhow and makes us better. You can tell me my thirties are going to be fantastic. But like Steve McQueen traveling to Mexico to take experimental drugs with Stage IV cancer, I’m probably going to do everything I can to stop time from passing by at alarming and breakneck speeds.