Recently, I experienced my first feeling of dread at being in my thirties.
The moment was short-lived, but profound. Typically, I’m not one who obsesses over age. Hell, I still look like I’m in my early twenties. </HUMBLEBRAG>
But that’s a farce. Mentally and biologically speaking, I’m not in my twenties. I can no longer stave off hangovers with a simple combo of greasy food and Gatorade. (I don’t even drink much anymore.) I’m out of that stage where I can get away with making some stupid mistakes because I’m still learning what it means to be an adult, but let’s be real, I’ve never been a fan of making mistakes.
In my twenties, I was a grown-up, but not too grown. I was still free to be capricious and playful as I gradually evolved into a full-blown adult.
Now that I’m in my thirties, the time for trying-and-failing (and consuming copious amounts of booze) is over. I have to have it all figured out now. I have to be an adult. That’s what society says, right?
I suppose this dread was inevitable.
The Internet is littered with articles such as “Do These Things Before You Turn 30 [Or Else You’re A Giant Failure].” We read them, share them, and — even if we’re otherwise happy with how things are unfolding in our lives — compare what we’ve accomplished against what some anonymous “chic millennial lifestyle blogger” expects from us. Rarely do the two ever align perfectly.
Then there’s social media, where everyone puts their best foot forward. Keeping up with the
Joneses has existed long before Facebook, Twitter, Ello, or what-have-you, but those platforms make it easier than ever to see just how fulfilling their lives are on the surface. It’s hard not to draw comparisons sometimes, especially if the party in question is younger than you are.
They’ve done all of this amazing stuff at 25? It makes the things I accomplished at that age look meager and pointless!
During my mini pity party, I took a brief trip through the last decade of my life, those glorious twenties.
Glorious? Not that I didn’t like my twenties, but they were not always glorious, especially my early twenties. What a rough time that was. I was very naive, shy, and stupid. To me, graduating a semester early meant I was entitled to a job out of school right away, even in the midst of a poor economic climate in a rapidly dying industry (print journalism!). I learned the humbling lesson that schooling meant shit if I wasn’t willing to put in some sweat equity and, as they say these days, “build my brand.”
I got my act together in my mid-twenties, when I slowly grew out of that naive-shy-stupid phase (mostly). By my late twenties, I felt like I was in control of my destiny. That period wasn’t without hardships, but I didn’t let them bring me down. I felt stronger for having endured them. Plus, my late twenties were really a lot of fun, chock-full of amazing life experiences.
I would say I accomplished quite a bit in my twenties. No, I didn’t settle down and start a family, or found some amazing tech company, or become a YouTube celebrity with a zillion followers. But I did hit plenty of personal milestones, things of which I should personally be proud.
In the weeks after I turned 30, a common refrain from me was, “No, it doesn’t feel different than being in my 20s.” And it didn’t. My moment of panic notwithstanding, it still doesn’t.
It’s one thing when you leap from your childhood to your teens — more freedoms await, such as being able to attend R-rated movies without a guardian or registering to vote. Moving from your teens to your 20s officially pushes you into adulthood, which means you can (or have to) do more things for yourself. From that point forward, not much changes, except your own personal situation. It’ll likely remain that way until you hit retirement age. Maybe a little sooner than that.
I used to work with a woman who refused to acknowledge her birthday, or the very fact that she was turning another year older. (Bonus: The year I worked with her was supposed to be a milestone birthday — 40!) I was advised by my coworkers to not utter “happy birthday,” lest I wanted to feel her wrath. The office did buy her a nice vase of flowers, indicating on the card that it was for a “momentous occasion.”
How weird, I thought. Of course, back then, I was only 23, just getting started with my adulthood.
Thinking of that woman is what pulled me out of that recent spiral, however. I realized that I didn’t want to turn into someone who would rather be viewed as some ageless specimen. I don’t want to shun what’s only natural. Plus, I like celebrating my birthday — it’s my own personal holiday. I sure as hell don’t want to take that away from myself, or make it something as bland as a “momentous occasion.”
As sad as I was to leave my glorious (late) twenties behind, I was looking forward to my 30s. I still am. I mean, I’m only 31 (and one month!). I have a whole lot of decade left to enjoy. Instead of getting myself caught up with what Chic Millennial Daily says I should be doing at this stage of my existence, or comparing my life to those who are in completely different stages than I am, I should just live, and focus on making my situations as ideal as possible.
Do I have it all figured out? No. Will I ever? I’d like to. But in reality, who ever does, at any age? And is anyone outside of Chic Millennial Daily ever truly keeping score?
The Monday Question
Have you ever feared getting older? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Til next Monday!