When I turned 20, one of my best friends from high school sent me this message:
“So, now for my Oh My God you’re twenty speech. I had a little reality check when I turned 20, so I will try to induce one in you too. I believe that this is the most important and influential decade of your life. First of all, you’re an adult. Moreover, in this decade you will: Graduate from college. Get a job. Probably determine where you will live the rest of your life. Probably get married and maybe have kids. Basically this is the real deal now.”
At the time, it’s had made me waffle between the slight panic of ‘Oh my god, goodbye youth’ and laugh because it all seemed farcically out-of-reach (particularly given my current concern of the evening was where were we going to drink wine, and, as Facebook kindly reminded me, something called ‘Squashed Frog’), but it’s been one of those silly things that I’ve flashed back to over the course of the past decade.
The funny thing is, I wasn’t horribly far off from that list; and while I never thought of it in these terms, it’s really the checklist of the ‘things you should technically do when to grow up’. In reality though, it’s almost like that list is a series of rest stops (that the world says you should stop at), and all of the in-between is this road that meanders through these windy, uphill, flat, beautiful, and grey mountains and valleys. I graduated from college and got a job (several jobs), but in between I spent those few years getting a PhD. I lived in Scotland and thought I’d stay there; I migrated back across the Atlantic to Charleston and thought I’d stay there; I headed further west to San Francisco and couldn’t see myself ever leaving; I headed back slightly east and landed in Tahoe (…and have no idea where I’d go next). I got married, and then not married. I don’t have kids I birthed, but I acquired a somewhat-fully-baked child-who-is-not-my-child (and then pretty much skipped a decade overnight).
But somewhere, in the midst of all of that, I subconsciously realized that all of those little rest stops were meaningless if it was hollow, and I uprooted. And overturned. And tornado-ed. And despite it all, I still landed at the end of the decade, in a life that makes me laugh that 7 out of a 10 is such a low number of days to want to be alive.
And for the first time ever, I feel like I’m exactly in the age and place I need to be… because this is 30. It’s flying halfway across the world to see the same people you rang in 20 with and realizing that while time passes and people age, they inherently don’t change. It’s finally being able to look in the mirror and not assess every flaw, and see your legs as just legs, and not something that could be better.
It’s staying in on Wednesday nights wrapped in onesies, and not feeling the slightest bit of guilt for doing so. It’s having a job that’s fulfilling, and starting to have more days where you feel like you know what you’re doing than not. It’s admitting that there are things and people you like and things and people you don’t, and unapologetically avoiding what makes you sad and surrounding yourself with what makes you happy. And it’s the feeling of ‘wait, am I supposed to be an adult?’ and realizing that all of those years you thought all of these older people really had their shit together… they’re actually all struggling along and enjoying the same journey you are, and you’re not alone in it all.
… And if this is 30, it’s okay.