Thought Catalog

The Maddening Art Of Turning 30

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Carmen Jost
Carmen Jost

I remember being 25 and lightly judging people who were stressed out about turning 30. “Age is a state of mind,” my naive mid-20s self would pompously declare while cradling a bottle of two buck chuck. I thought those almost-30-year-olds were bitter, jaded, that they’d somehow lost their zest for life, their belief that anything was possible. I’d tell myself, “I’m never going to end up like that. I’m never going to let anything hold me back from what I want! I have one life to achieve all my dreams and I’m not going to let anything get in my way!” Cocky. Self-assured. Untouched by life, for the most part.

I drank the millennial Kool-Aid for a while. I had that sort of brash naiveté that was infuriating to anyone even the slightest bit older than me. It’s hard to realize that—at 29 years old—you’ve become almost the exact person you set out not to become. But, maybe that’s okay. Maybe the dream or illusory self I needed to be was bullshit. To be honest, a lot of stuff I believed when I was 25 is bullshit now. I wanted to be special, exceptional, the best. I wanted to live a life that looked brilliant from the outside. I wanted to do impressive things. I grew up on the internet and my life needed to look good enough from the outside.

Now, I realize that lamenting over turning a certain age is lame and cliché, at best. But, I don’t know, I’ve never really moved forward in my life by shaming myself into not feeling a certain way. That has just never worked out very well for me. The feelings always come thundering back. If there’s one thing that’s true about emotion, it is going to force itself to be felt no matter what the fuck I do to try and stop it.

I think I just did not expect to feel this weird and hopeless and lightly miserable over turning 30. I think that when you’re in your 20s, you are given almost this sort of carte blanche to be figuring things out, to be indecisive, to be flighty and flaky. It’s not like it’s great to be those things necessarily, but it’s more easily forgiven. It’s easy to quit a job or fly across the Atlantic or set your life on fire, simply because, the general idea is that “you’re still young.” The world still seems at your feet, your habits less fixed, your limiting beliefs less of a stronghold on who you are and what you do. No, I don’t have to be anything by the time I’m 30, but I want to be. I want to have done more. I want to have been young and reckless and stupid just a bit longer. Or, maybe not. Who knows?

I shouldn’t care about turning 30. I never thought I would. I couldn’t have expected that the prospect of June 15 looming around the corner would send my heart into beat, beat, beat palpitations. It’s kind of embarrassing. Sure, I know it’s a number, but it’s a number that is representing to me how much I’ve fallen short of who I thought I’d be. Those high hopes fueled by nothing but cocky self-assurance, but the same hopes that still come rushing into my mind at midnight while I’m trying to fall asleep. Regret. Where’s my bestselling book? Where’s my passport filled with stamps from dozens of countries I dreamed of visiting? Where’s my savings account? Is it too late?

Of course it’s not too late. That’s ridiculous. The problem is that rationally I know it’s not. Rationally I’m like, you’re being dumb, Jamie! But, emotions, misery, depression, these are not rational entities. These are not rooted in Truth.

Because, I can get to thinking. The truth is I have let myself down. That is true. I think I can admit that now. I think I’ve found enough inner strength to say that, yes maybe some of my big dreams were ridiculous, but some of them could have been here had I put in the effort. And, maybe that’s the disappointment. Maybe it all comes down to the fact that—no matter what I said I wanted—I let myself down by not going for it. I didn’t meet my dreams halfway. I don’t have a bestselling book because I never even wrote the book proposal, never mind the book itself. I don’t have a hard drive filled with photos from all the countries I traveled to, because I didn’t save my money and buy the tickets.

I’m not who I thought I was, because I thought it would just happen. I thought if I wanted it enough, it would all unfold. And, maybe that’s a freeing thought. Maybe I get to release who I thought I would be—all these dreams I thought made up my identity—and I get to just see what’s really here, what I really like, what desires I have met halfway. Maybe letting myself down—and admitting that I have—releases me from the pressure to Be Someone and instead invites me to just Be.

I want to be free. That’s it. I want to create things that people connect with. I want to laugh. I want to love and be loved. I want to learn endlessly. I want to be the kind of person that gets genuinely excited for another person’s success. I want to cook delicious meals. I want to write. I want to visit beautiful places, even if those places are ten miles from my apartment. I don’t need my life to look big or beautiful or shiny or pretty, because all I really want is for it to feel that way.

And, perhaps most importantly, I want to ease my way into my life, not force things out of it. I want to connect. And love. And be free physically, but also emotionally, mentally. I want to tell the truth about my life, because I know we connect with realness and authenticity, rather than the aspirational, glittery, perfect lives of people we realize we don’t even truly know. I want to be known and to know others deeply. I want to get to the heart of the matter: be it with humans or with life.

If the legacy I leave is that others know me to be empathetic, understanding, kind, and compassionate, then I will consider my life well-lived.

It’s simple. And, 25 year old me might have cringed at these declarations. She might have said I’m settling or that I’ve given up or I’m jaded or I’m just not being positive enough. But, I don’t know, I think 25 year old me just didn’t understand enough about life yet. And, I don’t think I understand it fully yet, but I know more now than I did then and that’s all I can work off of. And, that’s enough. Enough for now, at least. TC mark

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