When I was in high school, one of my friends would claim she planned to kill herself right before her 30th birthday. She couldn’t bear the thought of growing old. She also said she’d go to Hell for wearing blue jeans in church, so I wasn’t sure how seriously I should take her. Nevertheless, her statement captures the sentiment that many young people still hold today. For some reason, many think your life ends at 30.
I know this is true of the students I teach. They often make comments suggesting that by the time you turn 30 you need to sit down somewhere. Where do they get that idea from, I wonder?
Our culture glorifies our 20s as the Golden Age of life. Apparently, once you reach 30, it’s curtains. It must be written in the Constitution or something. Just look at our favorite TV shows and films. People are having the time of their lives in their 20s.
Take HBO’s Girls for example. Most of the characters are around 24 years old. What do they do in their free time? They party, go to art shows, have sex with strangers; live life. Though Hannah, the protagonist, often dresses like someone’s great grandmother, she still manages to take advantage of her young age and have fun. Do you see many shows where people in their 30s do this? No, the characters often lead sad and empty lives that sometimes mirror that of the actors. (Cough, Charlie Sheen, cough.)
In contrast, movies give the idea that the only way the life of a 30 or 40 year old becomes exciting is if something supernatural, or downright far-fetched, happens. There they are, going about their daily lives, when their routine is disrupted by a spaceship crash, the end of the world, the zombie outbreak (Believe me, it’s coming!), or the kidnapping of their reckless teenage daughter.
Whatever the case may be, we hype 30 as a major turning point. Almost like the transition from high school to college. Some things will be different. Adolescents seem to think that we can no longer experiment, explore, or err. They think when we reach 30 we’re suddenly hit with a life sentence of monotony. Not a chance of parole.
Thirty means it’s time to put away the Pokémon cards and stop watching My Little Pony, they say. You’re supposed to have life all figured out by then, they say. First of all, who are “they?!” Are “they” like a collective “Him” from the Powerpuff Girls? Why does what they say have so much bearing on our lives?
One of the collective “they” is clinical psychologist, Meg Jay. She asserts that 30 isn’t the new 20, and that our 20s make up the most defining stage of your adulthood. I agree with her to a certain extent. You shouldn’t continue to make irresponsible choices when reach a certain age. However, I fear that as people in their 30s hear this, they’ll feel it’s too late for them. They might think they can’t change their lives or do anything different.
The long and short of it is numbers are arbitrary. I have a friend who’s 38 and who attracts women in their early twenties like the dudes in those AXE commercials. Except he’s smart enough not to actually wear AXE in the presence of females. Or ever, for that matter.
Another friend, an artist pushing 50, parties harder than any undergrad I know. Hell, I go out at least once a week and I still have a hard time keeping up with him.
Stan Lee didn’t start writing Spider-Man (don’t forget the hyphen!) until he hit 40. God forbid he decided his life was over when he turned 30. The world would be so much poorer for it.
A few years ago a man graduated college at 99.
The world’s oldest marathon runner is 101. He started running the event at the tender age of 89.
So, why do we feel the need to put a time frame on phases in life? If you want to get up and do something, it really doesn’t matter how old you are. You have goals. Do something about them. Who cares how old you are?
What’s the one thing I love about being 27? It’s that I’m 3 years away from turning 30. That means I can set some realistic goals that can be accomplished within that time period. I want to complete an Iron Man triathlon, travel to Asia, farm in Central America for a summer. I would have liked to have been married by 30 but let’s focus on outcomes that are in my control. Lately, I’ve been having rotten luck in the dating department, at any rate.
The truth of the matter is 30 is just an age I arbitrarily chose. It just sounds nice. When I’m 32 I’ll set goals for when I’m 35. When I’m 40 I’ll do the same.
American author Madeleine L’Engle put it best. “In my dreams, I never have an age.”
Dream on. And I mean that in a good way. YOLO doesn’t end at 29.
image – Girls