“How does it feel now that you’re 30?”
I’ve gotten this question a number of times since turning the big 3-0 two weeks ago. I think everyone expected (and some hoped) that I’d have a nervous breakdown over this milestone birthday. Sorry to disappoint, but I care more about what’s happening between Sam and Ronnie on “Jersey Shore” than I do my own age.
It could have something to do with the fact that I’ve never gone beyond the maturity level of a 5th grader. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with a mother who aged very gracefully, and didn’t freak out over each passing year. The most likely cause of my jubilation is that, like a fine wine, I get better with age…and when paired with a kickass cheese.
My 20’s were kind of legendary
I see the 20’s as the only time in a person’s life when they’ll have the resources and energy to do all of the things their heart desires. I lived this period of my life staying up too late, sleeping in too late, partying on weeknights, having random last-minute adventures, and since I never had children, was able to take a pee without someone asking me what I’m “doing in there.” I once lit my jacket on fire during a failed crème brulee experiment , and the only thing I remember about my 25th birthday was that I was drinking beer straight from the pitcher by the end of the night. I’m ready for this next phase because I’ve calmed down, and have figured out the things I need to take with me into my 30’s, and the things I should definitely leave behind in my 20’s.
I’m turning into my parents
This will come as no surprise to them if they read this, but I thought my parents were constantly blowing smoke when I was younger. I was pretty sure that every single piece of advice they dispensed was only meant to make my life harder despite their insistence otherwise. Did they really expect me to believe in the importance of a tidy room, or saving my money instead of spending it on useless garbage at the mall? If 1997Jen was here she’d say, “As if!” Fast forward to present day when I work hard, use my manners, don’t get behind the wheel if I’ve been drinking and no longer call my sister a buttface. None of that is by accident. While I still maintain that they were way off about certain things (sorry mom and dad!) most of it was solid advice that makes a lot of sense now that I’m older.
I’m a cougar
Okay, so technically I’m not a sexually charged middle-aged woman who likes to hook up with young men, but I am in a committed relationship with someone who is still in his 20’s. He’s intelligent, athletic, thoughtful, and respectful. He has a great sense of humor, is a good listener, gives me massages, cooks, cleans and buys me chocolate when I’m menstrual. The fact is, I’m 30 and I have a hot piece who will be in his 20’s for another couple of years. So yeah, I’m proudly displaying my cougar badge. RAWR!
Uncool is the new cool
There was a period of my life when I had a fierce unibrow, a mustache, braces, acne, a bad haircut, an even worse fashion sense, and possibly a hump on my back. There were also a few years in there when people thought I was either a small lesbian, or a really effeminate young man. Point being, I was beyond uncool growing up. In 5th grade there was a new girl who ate pencil shavings and picked her nose, and even she didn’t want to be my friend. While some things have changed since then (I’ve learned that you’re supposed to have twoeyebrows) there are so many things which haven’t. What once was gauche is now in vogue; basically, I was a loser and now I’m less of a loser! My serious love of Chuck Taylors and t-shirts? HOW VINTAGE. Loving music that is older than I am and/or really crappy? HOW UNDERGROUND. Wearing glasses? HOW ARTSY. As you get older you don’t have to play by the rules, and what once would have forced you to go to prom with your cousin, or eat your lunch in the bathroom, now makes you cool. Did you hear that, Desiree? I bet you wish you had taken a break from being a pencil sharpening booger eater so you could get to know me.
Nobody is the boss of me
Aside from my work boss and the government, I get to call the shots in my life these days. I can stay up late, eat dessert before dinner, and leave the house without a coat on. I can buy frivolous junk, skip my nap and watch scary television shows close to bedtime. I can smoke, drink alcohol, and gamble. I can leave my clothes on the floor, jump on the bed, or pick on my sisters. The irony is, after all the years of longing to get out from the oppressive regime of Mama and Papa Tonic, I don’t actually do a lot of these things. Still, the feeling of freedom that adulthood has afforded me is worth more than being able to make it rain at a seedy strip club.
I don’t have a life plan
I used to freak out over not being the person I thought I’d be at 20, and then 23, and then 25. I wanted to be a psychologist. I wanted to be taller, thinner and better looking. I wanted to own a home. I wanted to teach myself another language. I wanted to visit Ireland. I haven’t accomplished any of those things, and I couldn’t care less. At some point between that Jen and this one, I decided life was too short to beat myself over missed benchmarks. Sure, the life I planned for is not the life I have, but so what? I’ve found that going where the proverbial wind blows me always leads me to exactly where I need to be.
So what is in a number?
Your age is merely an accumulation of minutes which turn into days which turn into weeks which turn into years. If someone asked me to describe myself I wouldn’t tell them I’m 10,974 days old. I would tell them I’m obsessed with Polaroid pictures, love doing horrible impersonations, and social situations freak me out. I would tell them that my favorite scent is a newborn baby’s head, autumn is my favorite season, and my sisters mean more to me than life itself. I would tell them I am a sum of my parts, and not a sum of days on a calendar.
Age is all about perspective. Instead of focusing on losing your youth, focus on the collection of memories you hold in your mind and heart. Instead of lamenting over missed opportunities, be appreciative to have been given another day to accomplish them. Instead of being disgusted by the newly formed lines on your face, be delighted by living a life full of expression. And, if you’re my sister, instead of wishing you got to spend your youth as an only child, be grateful I’m not calling you a buttface anymore.