on turning thirty
I had myself convinced that turning 30 wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t going to freak out or have a meltdown or bemoan my age or what have you. I was a mature, confident, almost-30-year-old woman, and what was such a big deal about that?
And then February happened. My birthday month. It was no longer, oh, in a a year I’ll be 30, in 6 months, in a few months, next month. Now it was: at the end of the month, I will be 30 years old. I don’t even actually have a birthday this year, which is only adding to my new-found anxiety. Also, to the fact that what I thought would be a clean move from twenty-something to 30, is quickly becoming exactly what I didn’t want it to be: a freak out or a meltdown. I’m on the verge. I’m at the precipice. I’m teetering over the edge, and I don’t want to make the jump.
But this is how it is: February happened and I started to realize just what that meant. 30 years old. 30 years old. Of course, I always knew it would happen, but weren’t there supposed to be a dozen things (or more) that were going to happen before this? Didn’t I have plans and ideas and dreams about all the things I would accomplish or do before hitting 30 years old? What happened to them? Where are they? Why didn’t they happen?
There are just so many things I thought I’d have done, have accomplished before turning 30. These things that haven’t happened. Things like publish a book, travel though Europe, get married, have a baby, feel settled, know what’s next. Sure I got a little abstract there at the end but the point is the same, especially those huge life milestones that I expected to pass before my 30th birthday. It’s hard not to feel sometimes like I’ve failed at part of life, especially these days when Facebook’s newsfeed is pretty much a glowing neon sign blinking that everyone else around you is getting married and posting sonogram photos.
That’s not fair of me, and I know it. I don’t define my life by my singleness. It’s just that I assumed that’s not where I’d be anymore by now. I’ve tried to come to the conclusion that it’s fine, and it’s even fine if it never happens, and most days I’m capable of that. But with 30 so close I can taste it, it was hard not to think about.
The bigger life accomplishment though that hasn’t happened yet is that whole pesky getting published thing. It hasn’t happened. Every day I’m reminded and frustrated of this. It’s often made 110% worse because I work in the industry. Maybe this is an entirely separate post, but still being unpublished at 30 is a huge freaking deal to me. A deal breaker, if you will, and something that I truly didn’t expect. Now I wasn’t expecting to be one of those 17 year olds who get published. Heck, I hadn’t even written a novel yet at 17. But when life has been defined for me for over a decade as a writer, it becomes harder and harder every day to put pen to paper when everything has been followed by a no. I guess I always just figured that 30 would be a celebration of books behind me, not looming ahead in a murky future.
As I was writing this, I realized 30 is hitting me hard. No surprise, right? How obvious was that from sentence one? 30 is 30 and there’s nothing I can do about it. No one has invented time travel, so I can’t go back and changed things (uncertain as I am of what exactly could be changed that wouldn’t end me up exactly with what I’m lacking, just maybe in another city). I can’t call a redo and try again. I can’t manipulate life or other people or events. But there is something I can do, and it’s something I have to do.
I can’t look back on my 30 years with a list of hasn’ts and didn’ts because what’s that really even going to do? I’ve done a lot. A LOT. Maybe I haven’t done anything fame-inducing, or haven’t been an Olympic champion, or haven’t (yet) hit my list of a few life goals, but I’m surviving. I’m even thriving. I have accomplished a lot, and I’ve got years ahead of me to accomplish even more.
I graduated high school, then college. I completed my first full-length novel. I got into graduate school, moved across the country, got two Master’s degrees, including an MFA and the MA I was told I’d never manage. I have lived in southern California and now New York City. I got a job in NYC against all odds and moved in a quick less than 3 weeks. I work in publishing. I’ve written more than just one full-length novel. I’ve tried to find an agent. I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, the UK, Germany. I’ve met a lot of amazing people and had a lot of opportunities. I’m really good at my job, I’m learning a lot, and I’ve really proven myself (I think) in my field.
That’s a lot of things. I know this. I’m not disappointed in my life or very unhappy. I’m just having trouble believing that I’ll be thirty. I know it’s inevitable. I know I don’t have a choice. I know that it’s really not that big of a deal, but I feel like it is. It’s staring me in the face and I’m trying very hard not to freak out.
So I’m turning 30. So what. It’s just another year. Another year to do more things, try new things, get a book deal, meet someone new, have a good time. Right? Of course it is. How is 30, really, any different from 20 or 21 or 25 or 29. It isn’t. I just have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t, and then I have to make plans and set goals and take things one day at a time until I get to 31. The more I think about it, the more I just have to keep telling myself to be excited instead of anxious. It’s only a number, only another year, and really, even better: it’s the rest of my life.