Well, of course the first thing I did when I woke up on the dawn of my 30th birthday was check to make sure I wasn’t in the adult body of Jennifer Garner or Jamie Lee Curtis. One can never be too sure who you’ll wake up as in the morning following a wish made over candles and a round of suspicious midnight thunder. I’ve watched enough family-com movies to know this. For a moment, I did think I might have become Tom Hanks (not again!) but then I realized I was touching my boyfriend’s face, not my own.
Anyhow. I was officially 30, which meant everything else in my life was sure to change.
I’d been mentally preparing for this day for about two months, right around the time I started announcing the imminence of my birthday: a statement that, until you reach “a certain age” — which might actually be this one, come to think of it… begets the inevitable question, “How old are you turning?”
If ages 22-29 were met with sympathetic winces, “I’ll be 30” produced such responses as:
“Thirties are so much better than your twenties!”
“Welcome to the club!”
“Just wait until you are 40! That’s when the real party starts. ”
“GASP!” (Translation: “You either look much older or much younger — neither a compliment nor a jab; just an observation, really, and I am audibly shocked by it.”) (Alternative translation: “I’m sorry I actually wasn’t paying attention so a noise felt safer to produce than a verbal response.”)
*Wise, knowing smile.*
“This is the first day of the rest of your life!”
“Thirty is great; 35 is better!”
“You’re going to love the way you look, I guarantee it!” — Bearded man from Men’s Wearhouse
And so forth.
These positive reinforcements offered great relief, let me tell you, not because my 20s were at all terrible, but because around the age of 14 I began to keep track of the things I was sure I’d be by 30 (which is as far as your imagination will allow you to age when you’re still dealing with various teenage end-of-the-world dramas). The list is long and weirdly detailed — a lot of math classes were dedicated to my future endeavors — but the majority can mostly be summed up as either:
Or, the kinds of activities that require you “be rich.”
Strangely, though many of these items on said list involved grand, accomplished titles (Blue Ribboned Olympic Equestrian and The Next J.K. Rowling, to name a few) almost none predicted the day-to-day crawlings of life as an adult, like the work itself, or consistently-maturing anxiety, or rent bills, or “having” to go to the gym, or “real” problems and unforeseen stressors, or forgetting to mail important things. We all know that this is where the majority of energy goes — so much so that by the time you’re 29, I think it’s rare that your life perfectly aligns with the daydream you doodled over and over.
Add on the reminder that your parents had you by your current age (and a mortgage, by the way!) and a retrospective of your 20s can start to make your near-30-self a little dizzy…
So thank goodness for those assumedly-prescient well-wishers and their predictions of a golden path ahead in the dawn of 30. So far it turns out I’m none the wiser; I still have an absolutely impossible time declining invitations despite my preferences; I’ve yet to “stop sweating the small stuff”; I haven’t “gotten rid of toxicity” (as though it were as easy as cleaning out the office fridge); I have truly no clue what I’m doing — past, present or future tense, and though I wouldn’t say I’m insecure, there’s no metaphorical seatbelt strapping me to myself, or whatever it’s supposed to feel like.
The good news is that we’re just a few days in. You don’t just go and have a butterfly reveal without the whole cocoon phase (thank you, creepy-in-concept Grow-a-Monarch Kits), which means I can’t expect the bounties of an entire decade to manifest immediately. Certainly not first thing in the morning.
I will update everyone should anything change. In the meantime, I have a wrinkle to celebrate.
Feature photo by Edith Young.