Today is my 30th birthday. Yep. 30. Thir-teee.
People keep telling me I should feel something about this, but frankly? I don’t.
Part of it is just the arbitrariness of it all- every single day of my life I’m one day older than I was before- why fuss with marking any one of those days any more than the others? Why weight any one of those arbitrarily marked days with any more importance than any other arbitrarily marked day? If we had used an octal-base system, I’d’ve been thirty years ago. If I’d been born two hundred or more years ago, it’s likely I wouldn’t even have known my birthday, let alone cared about “entering a new decade”.
Part of it also is that I’ve got a not-small contrary streak to my nature. Society tells me turning thirty is a big deal, so I want them to tell me why, and as far as I can tell, there’s no answer. “Because it is!” is the best I can get. If you push further, you get into a lot of poisonous stuff about women and beauty in particular- “You’ll get grey hair!” (already have some, don’t really care) “and wrinkles!” (also don’t care, unless it’s an indicator that I need to up my sun protection) “and you won’t be young anymore!” (first of all, define “young”, second of all, if by “young” you mean “under 30”, then I didn’t really enjoy it all that much anyway, and I’m happy to keep moving forward). It’s like when people try to tell me that high school was supposed to be the best four years of my life. Or even college. Bullshit- it wasn’t, and it shouldn’t be. If it is, you’re doing something wrong, because you’ve got nothing left to look forward to, and what the hell kind of life is that?
I’ve had several friends turn 30 ahead of me, and several more will shortly, and one of the things that has come up in talking about this is that a lot of it is based on parental attitudes to adulthood. This applies more broadly to people’s attitudes about being adults in general, but it seems to tie in to the “big” birthdays, just because they are cultural markers of aging.
My parents, at least as far as I knew as a kid, didn’t attach any real importance to age. They still don’t. They didn’t follow societal proscriptions about how old you should be to have a kid, or go back to school, or travel, or learn new things, or change jobs, or any of that. They continued to have lives after I (and my siblings) were born, and don’t show any signs of quitting any time soon. There was little “settling” in my childhood, and while I could have used a bit more of that as a kid, as an adult I really appreciate that there was never any sense of “you hit a certain age, and then you’re done”.
For my friends who’ve struggled with aging, especially around “big” birthdays, it seems that there was a real sense for them of adulthood as a stagnant place. You get there, and then it’s all over, and you just wait to die. You’ll never have fun again, you’ll just work your job and have your kids, and be sad that you’re not young anymore. Some of them got messages about “you’re too old for that now”, or “be a big girl, not a baby”, things that taught them that things they enjoyed or wanted to do were bad because of age-related reasons, and they still retain the sense of both wanting to do “age-inappropriate” things, and feeling guilt and shame over “not acting their age”.
Conversely, I was always too young. Finishing high school at sixteen, graduating college before I could legally drink, I was always playing catch-up. I could drink at my own wedding, but only just- I was 21 and a month. Getting older has always been a goal for me, not something to dread. Getting older meant I wouldn’t be the youngest person in the room anymore, and people would take me more seriously. It meant I would get to decide things for myself, and not be dependent on anyone else. It was freedom and expression and an adventure, and everyone kept telling me I couldn’t start yet because I wasn’t old enough.
So, 30. Fuck yes. I am ready. I live in my own house, with my own things, and my own space, and my own husband and pets. I make my own decisions about what I want to do with my person, my space, and my life. I have my own money, because I work my own job. I am not beholden to anyone for anything (ok, the government for my student loans, but that’s it). I don’t need anyone’s permission to live my life on my own terms.
30s, I’m ready. Best decade yet. Let’s go.