The scary part of turning 30… That I’ve sort of held back on
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Turning 30 hasn’t really gone exactly the way I thought it would.
The big Three-Oh, as they call it, has been both much better and much worse than I ever could have imagined.
I remember, years ago, when I realized that this age was on the horizon, thinking that it was a scary time. But that’s okay, because that scary time was very far ahead of me. Then as the years got closer and closer, I came to this realization that turning 30 was Supposed To Be Scary.
It was! There is not a single person that I’ve heard from who was actually excited to hit this mile marker. And I think I know why.
As teenagers, we seriously can’t wait to grow up. I couldn’t wait to finish high school, go off to college, get out of my parents house and start my new life. Then as a young adult, I was living the life I had always dreamed of as a teen.
I was successful in my career. I was living in the city that I loved. I had wonderful friends and I was constantly making new ones. I even had some sort of a love life most of the time. It was great.
My 20s were wonderful, really.
They were exactly what I had always hoped for and imagined, and then some. It was a time of discovery and appreciation. A time when I grew into my personality, lost weight and gained the self confidence I always knew was deep down inside of me.
The reason why turning 30 is seen as a scary thing is because, as teens, that’s when the fun seems to stop.
There isn’t necessarily a concrete age where everyone wakes up and decides “Holy F, I guess it’s time to be an adult now!” but 30 always seemed like just about the right number for that.
When we turn 30, we’re no longer the young people that everyone talks about. We’re not allowed to just be silly and have fun, to need time to find ourselves, to admit that we still haven’t figured it all out, to need a seriously drastic change in our careers or our homes or our relationships (like I did).
This is the age when we supposedly Have It All Figured Out. And despite the fact that I intellectually know that this is all BS, that there isn’t a perfect age to know everything about yourself or the world or your place in it, that feeling is still somehow there, in the back of my mind, taunting me with its anxiety about why I haven’t done those things yet and fully become The Person I Was Meant To Be.
In our 20s, it’s easy to say that we still have time. When I was 23, I was just out of college. At 25, I was having a quarter life crisis and adjusting what I truly wanted in my career. At 28, although I was well aware that 30 was just a couple years away, it still felt like I had the world ahead of me.
And then I turned 30 and somehow… I don’t know, there just wasn’t something extra there.
I don’t know exactly what this piece is that I was missing. I’ve been told that turning 30 is scary. I’ve read articles about all the things I should know or do or read or have by the time I reach this age. I’ve also been reminded that it’s not a big deal. That turning 30 doesn’t really change anything and that plenty of people, both friends and those of the famous variety, have lots of growing up to do even after this age.
But yet still it somehow affected me.
And I still haven’t even figured out how, to be honest. Turning 30 was simultaneously not at all a big deal to me and also the biggest deal on the planet. I know that it’s fine that I’m not quite There Yet, but I also know that plenty of people are.
So what if I have friends who are only now starting to pair up? So what if I have friends who are just barely starting grad school? So what if I have friends who just decided to quit their jobs to travel the world? Their choices are amazing and wonderful and I admire them – and at the same time it all still scares the F out of me.
This evening I lay in bed and read the first chapter of what I am coming to appreciate as a very important book in my career, Writing Is My Drink. Although there are lots of awesome tidbits and nuggets I’ve already obsessively underlined in the book (yes, I’m one of THOSE people), there is a particular sentence that stood out to me: “Why don’t you try writing about what scares you the most?”
It’s something that is suggested to the author, Theo Pauline Nestor, and prompts her to write a story about her abortion. As I sat there marinating on what that sentence meant, I realized that she was right.
Writing about what scares me the most is the key to good writing, and in particular the key to good memoir writing. As I begin this new life as a full-time freelance writer and seriously start working on my memoir, Moscow Chica, there are lots of things that scare me… But one in particular that I am honestly just not ready to write about.
Yet as I lay there, I realized that’s not really the biggest thing that scares me. The thing that scares me is that turning 30 is going much better than I thought it would a couple months ago, and somehow much worse than I thought it would a couple months before that.
I’ve spent many days over the past several months (and, to be honest, the past year) telling myself that it was all going to be okay. Turning 30 didn’t mean the end of anything and it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to grow up, be an adult and know what the heck I want in life.
And although I know that’s true, it still doesn’t scare me any less that I am not where I thought I should be at this age.
In many ways, turning 30 has allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate my life. It’s why I started the Map Your 30s blog in the first place. But I realize now that I haven’t really been very honest here, and I haven’t really been writing as much as I know I should be.
Before you take a step back and warn me about using the word “should” in the past two paragraphs, I KNOW.
Nobody is quite as good as I am at giving myself way-too-high expectations that I am sure to fail. I’m only now, at this age, learning where that feeling comes from and what damage it has done in my life.
For right now though, I have to admit that this isn’t really going the way I thought it would. I think it’s going very well, actually… Maybe. But at the same time, there is a fear in me still that I can’t seem to calm. I don’t even know if I can put a name on it yet, but it’s there.
This whole “turning 30” business has really messed me up somehow. And I don’t know if it’s because of the ever present societal expectations or just my own, but what I do know is that I have a need to write about these things.
I promise to try to write about them more often. And a little bit more honestly. Because it’s really easy for me to talk about the awesome parts, like meeting the love of my life or moving out of the city I called home or how I’m eating healthier these days. But it’s harder for me to talk about the painful or confusing or scary parts, like what to do when tragedy strikes or why I have issues accepting generosity.
I know I need to, though. I wouldn’t be up right now, sitting in my very dark apartment while Adam sleeps in the other room, typing away at my computer about The Thing That Scares Me The Most. And I’m not even sure what that thing is yet, but I’m here writing about it anyway. Maybe if I keep hitting the keys long enough, I’ll figure it out.
For now, though… I’m just going to say that being 30 is weird. There are a million amazing things about it, yes, but it’s also really, really weird. It’s not an age I ever had a plan for, despite absolutely being the type of person who’s always planning my next step in life, and so now I am a bit aimless and confused.
And I guess that’s okay. I know that I’m not the only one feeling this way. Perhaps when I wake up tomorrow, this will serve as a catharsis and that whole number will seem a little less scary to me.
But for the moment, I’m just going to crawl back into bed and try to fall asleep… Scary oh-my-god-am-I-actually-thirty-now thoughts and all.
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