I sit here in my pajamas on a couch handed down to me in an apartment chosen for both it’s convenient location and moderate rent, on a warm Sunday afternoon with the window open allowing the sunlight in to remind me that, even on my only day off, I still need to be productive… at least to a certain degree. In the background is the low hum of the dryer, dishes clanking in the washer and Roseanne reruns on the TV. This is a typical Sunday for me – a girl 21 days from turning 30.
Age truly is just a number, but it’s “just a number” in the same sense that money is “just paper.” Whether we like or not, numbers and paper control our lives to an extent, however neither can control our happiness. That, my dears, is completely in our hands.
Turning 30 is one of those cultural milestones that we all face. Some handle it better than others. 29 felt very much like 28 and 28 like 27, so what’s the big deal about 30? Nothing. I’m not dreading it or feel the need to try to turn back time – I may not be where I want to be, but chances are I’ll never arrive there. That’s okay. I hear the day you stop dreaming is the day you die, so in that sense, I’m as alive as ever.
However, one thing my upcoming commemoration has afforded me is a moment to take stock in my life. What have I learned? Where am I going?
1. Your parents were right.
About what, you ask? Basically everything. From “don’t touch the hot stove” to “life isn’t fair” – as completely ridiculous as your parents sounded when you were a teenager, they were correct. Funny, it’s like they’d been there before and had all the answers to questions you hadn’t even thought to ask…
2. You could’ve made things easier on yourself.
This can mean a variety of different things to different people depending on the life you’ve lived, but it’s true for everyone. I could’ve got a degree in something useful and maybe I wouldn’t be working four jobs. I could’ve chosen who to love more carefully and saved so much heartache. I could’ve eaten a salad for lunch and not feel like I need to run 100 miles to burn calories off. The good news for all of us is that there’s still time to get where we want to go. It might take us longer than expected, but no goal timetable exists for your life.
3. Who you are is okay.
It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s opinions. Over time, you may find yourself defining who you are through someone else’s opinion. Hopefully by the time you are approaching 30 you’ve begun to realize who you really are and that whoever that is is okay.
I’m a bit odd. I’m a movie elitist. I have a Britney Spears song on my workout playlist. I prefer to spend my Friday nights watching Breaking Bad alone than going to a crowded, loud bar. I buy clothes at WalMart. I can’t tell you the name of one Nicki Minaj song. I had to look up how to spell “Nicki Minaj.” This is who I am. If that bores you, that’s fine. Others opinions have begun to matter less and less to me.
4. Life is fragile.
This is one of the most painful lessons you’ll ever learn because there is not an easy way to learn it. Watching your friends die, relatives become sick and your own body begin to age, it becomes crystal clear that from the time we are born, we have already begun dying. It seems like a morbid thought, but it’s reality. Treat life as a gift and be conscious that your good health and the good health of those you love are more important than anything else. It can all be taken away in an instant and there is no amount of money or pleading that can give it back.
5. Love is…
…well complicated, I guess? I mean, it’s definitely complicated, but it’s so much more than just that. It’s necessary. It’s, at times, unbelievably painful. At other times, it’s pure joy. It’s selfless. It requires work and commitment. It’s unfair. It’s unearned. It’s elusive. It’ll take away what’s important to you. It’s humble. It’s optimistic. It’s kind of… everything. And while you may become more rational about love as you grow older, it’ll still rule your life.
Maybe these lessons aren’t that revolutionary to you, but they’re among the most important of the thousands that 29 years have taught me. I’m sure I still have many more to learn… after all, my parents told me that you’re never done learning.
Looking forward, maybe it’s best to set some goals… ones that really matter:
Spend more time with things that matter in the eternal. Face every situation with the knowledge that it’s survivable. Protect my health. Give more love. Forgive more easily. Cherish the present. Trust my instincts. Never stop dreaming. Spend time with my family. Don’t change for anyone but myself. Work hard. Do good.