Turning 30

Making sense of a milestone

On a recent Saturday night, my husband and I went to a concert for an Irish punk band he had been following for over half a decade. We arrived at Columbus ‘ PromoWest Pavilion at 10:15pm, a deliberate move to bypass the opening acts. I stood on a bench behind Jim in the back of the dark, cavernous room, quietly grooving as I looked out over the luminous mass of sweating, moshing, grinding twentysomethings. As I checked out the shoulder tats and lingerie-and-jeans ensembles, with absolutely no desire to be a part of the action, I came to a realization.

I am old. Or at least semi-old. I have just turned 30, and this milestone birthday has caused me to reflect on such things. Yes, I know that 30 is not pass-the-Ensure or buy-a-Buick old, but it means that I am mature enough to openly acknowledge that a few things are already well beyond my reach:

a) Fitting my butt into a pair of low-rise Old Navy jeans;

b) Identifying myself solely by my college alma mater;

c) The ability and the desire to party like a rock star until 2 a.m. and work a full eight hours the next day.

I never used to think twice about any of these choices, but now I think of them as privileges of a bygone era.

Shades of Gray
Some other strange things have been happening too: Gray hairs, though still few and far between, have started to sprout around my temples. Isn’t it too early for this to be happening? I start to ruminate over various future camouflaging options: Highlights? Do-it-yourself-dye? Go au naturel
and hope I look like Lauren Hutton someday? I briefly lament the genes from my maternal grandmother, the same one who gave me nice legs, who went almost completely gray in her thirties.

Since in our culture gray hair is associated with wisdom, perhaps I should welcome its presence. I’m reminded of a commencement speech given by Goldie Hawn a couple of years ago that was excerpted in the Chicago Tribune. In the speech, Hawn lamented the passel of 22-year-old-recent-college-grad consultants in the workforce. She said something to the effect of, “Excuse me, but what can a 22-year-old consult about?”

I’m no consultant, but I feel like 30 years of life experience has given me a right to comment on a few things, on both a professional and personal level. I’ve voted in a few presidential elections now and can offer eyewitness accounts of certain election years. After a few gaffes, I have a better sense for when to speak up and when to be quiet at a work meeting. As a writer, I have a few tried-and-true feature-writing tips to share. As a married woman, I have some things to say about the ups and downs of the early stages of engagement and marriage. As someone who has endured the death of a sibling, I can comment on the grieving process.

Life in the 30’s
Now that I’m looking at my twenties in my rearview mirror, I’m curious about the road ahead and my mind is bombarded with questions: Am I too old for a complete career overhaul? Am I still allowed to admit to be trying to “find myself?” Are my husband and I too young to be too exhausted on a Friday night to go out? Are we supposed to be wanting kids now? How much money are we supposed to have saved up?

It’s not like I think about these things all the time, but a milestone birthday like this does make one stop, take pause, and reflect for a while, and that’s a good thing. But I think it’s important to remember that, above all, 30 is much more of a description than a prescription, thank God. Far be it from me to try to talk a fellow thirtysomething out of wearing the low-rise Old Navy jeans. If you can still do it, go for it. I’ll be with you in spirit.