Things I’m Thinking About As I’m On The Verge Of Turning 30

I turn thirty years old in approximately two months. It’s a progression ameliorated by two factors: First is that, aimlessly riding the concourse of my twenties I’ve increasingly drawn parallels to the progression of my teens. I’m pretty sure that in bar conversation I’ve said the exact phrase: “The twenties are like the teens except with more information.”

Like, crossing the threshold of legal drinking age is a lot like hitting puberty, whereby suddenly your body has become a weapon full of urges you don’t know how to use and you’ll shoot yourself in the foot with them if you don’t get practiced at your new freedoms, and fast.

And like, it follows: The mid-twenties, say twenty-five, is a lot like fifteen, in that you’re simultaneously feeling accustomed to the rules of your generation while also being highly anxious about the future. Fifteen year-olds are pretty good at high school, at masking the angst that categorizes that time in their life with the sort-of ruse of maturity, aggressively expressing themselves as if they had ‘finally figured it out’, while privately ending up alone in the evening a lot of the time, or worse than alone.

Worse than alone is silently migrating alongside others in one’s half-accidental motley crew, gliding like an invisible ghost along with the group as they discuss something you don’t care about. Fifteen year-olds have a lot of friends who are older than them and a lot of friends who are younger than them. They don’t know what they’re going to do when this arc of their lives is over. Twenty-five year-olds are precisely the same.

Eighteen year-olds who are about to graduate are obsessed with their age. There is an anecdote that has struck its way into my personal history like a sliver of bamboo under the fingernail of a hostage, and it goes a little something like this. When I was eleven or twelve and a year behind everyone else in my seventh grade class and I brought novels to school, a little current of laughter, a mean-girls titter, would arise every time I volunteered to read a book report out loud in class. Because, I mean, duh, huh-llo, you didn’t volunteer to read your book report, titter-titter! I know now those bitches were probably envious of my much further-advanced titters, but I digress.

Flash forward: Senior year. Everyone is turning eighteen. Everyone is applying to college. Everyone is very serious about their future adulthood. Everyone has bought Catcher in the Rye and it is changing their lives and then one day in English I say something like, “I think that book is pretty lame” and this one girl in soccer socks turns to me and she has the gall to go, “you’re so ignorant, Leigh.”

I mean, really?

I can remember what livid tasted like in my throat. Congratulations, doll, you read your first big-girl book! Ten years later I would decline her Facebook request.

Um, so, anyway. Just like at eighteen, at twenty-eight you are ready to leave behind everything you thought was true before and you’re so stupidly aggressive about it. You are all of a sudden ‘wise about the ways of the world’. You’ve ‘seen some shit’. It is time for a ‘real job’. Your emotional stalwart party buddies are ‘sad’ all of a sudden. You’re graduating.

Probably in a few more years I’ll understand the analogue between twenty and thirty and I’ll be able to write about it somewhere or other. But for the moment, it seems like two months away is as good as being thirty, and so even though I’m twenty-nine – holy shit, this is the first time I’ve publicly declared it, I’m twenty-nine, bitch is ‘busted’, I’m almost un-dateable, even – when people ask me how old I am I say, half proud and half grim, “I’m thirty.”

Which brings me to the second factor (remember how in the beginning here, I said there were two?) that makes turning thirty easier: aside from the relief, the sort of catharsis of graduation, of knowing I can leave behind things that were approval-dependent and regimented by others, there’s the fact that everyone always cards me, always feels the need to announce they would have taken me for another twenty-something age, I don’t look thirty. Sometimes I lie to see what is the lowest age people will unflinchingly believe [it’s twenty-four].

My cousin – who coincidentally shares a name with Salinger’s Bitch from high school – is twelve I think, and she asked innocently of me a couple of weeks ago while we were playing, “are you considered an adult or a kid?” and I said dryly, “oh, I’m supposed to be an adult, Honey,” and she says innocently, “oh, because you seem like a kid.” My mother and my aunt eyed me wryly and laughed, because I shouldn’t want to seem like a kid anymore, oh, that Leigh.

Items of media extolling the virtues of being ‘forever young’ seem cool when you really are young. And they seem fine when you’re so old you don’t need to care. Eternal youthfulness is admirable when you have wrinkles, I guess. But thirty is a strange transitional zone in which I can’t make up my mind; the old-world concept that I should worry a lot about ‘what I look like’ to others still tugs at me, even while most of me yawns lackadaisically, is busy with something else, knows I’m only pretending to care for the sake of social acceptance, a crumbling, dusty ideal.

But, I mean, okay. A little part of me is freaking out a little bit. I’m here to admit it, I’m chill and I’m scared at the same time. Like starting college, probably, where your parents are buying you hip, economical dormitory furniture from Target but you are operating under the extreme delusion that you’re buying everything yourself with the money you made from your little summer job. I mean, of course my parents aren’t supporting me or buying me anything besides dinners and a couple bottles of white rum when I visit, but it’s that kind of ambivalence.

Yesterday I thought about my upcoming birthday [which is going to have exclusively 1990s music and demand people dress as if we were filming My So Called Life] and before you’d known it I’d fallen into a bizarre Google-Ebay-Wikipedia black hole whereby I connected to the following facts about myself: I once owned a ‘Charmkins Whippoorwill Flower Mill’ inhabited by a Rosie Raccoon that smelled like perfume.

I had had two Fashion Star Fillies, Chloe and Calla, I liked the show ‘Moondreamers’ and I had aspired to an entire collection of Fairy Tail bird toys which had stars painted in their eyes, like, I maybe had one or two of those into the eyes of which I would gaze adoringly and sigh intensely. There’s something really primeval about looking at pictures of toys you used to either own or want really badly. I had a moment of considering that maybe the present I should buy myself for my birthday isn’t renting a karaoke machine for my party but is, in fact, a Fairy Tail or a Fashion Star Filly.

Oh my god. This, this is how older women become sad. Can you imagine going to my house and seeing Twilight books and Fashion Star Fillies? Maybe the only definition of ‘maturity’ that is really objective is that when you grasp, frantic, for childish things like some regressive underwater sea creature [clear-white, blind, atrophied] , you now possess something in you that can calculate, correct, and go, “uh, nah, you know what? Let’s not.”

Other things I’m thinking about: Gish was a sick record. Mazzy Star was underrated. My childhood was not nearly as bad as I have spent most of my life thinking it was. Where is Evan Dando these days? Remember Our Lady Peace? I’m so glad they’re bringing back Beavis and Butt-Head. And I’m pretty sure I’m doing okay over here. I mean, at least I didn’t have babies, because that would be, like, omg. So uncool. Kind of like an adult thinking about their birthday two months in advance, right?

Or not, I mean, I dunno. That’s kind of the point. When you don’t know whether you need to laugh at yourself or cry about it, probably those are the best times in anyone’s life no matter what the calendar says. TC mark

image – Will Clayton


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  • Tim Donnelly

    I SAW Our Lady Peace, and it was DOPE. WIll not divulge who they opened for, though. #30in2011

  • Tim Donnelly

    I SAW Our Lady Peace, and it was DOPE. WIll not divulge who they opened for, though. #30in2011

    • Leigh


  • Tim Donnelly

    I SAW Our Lady Peace, and it was DOPE. WIll not divulge who they opened for, though. #30in2011

  • Guesty

    “I said dryly, “oh, I’m supposed to be an adult, Honey,” and she says innocently, “oh, because you seem like a kid.” ”

    A child asked my boyfriend if I was his daughter at a party recently.  ~youthful exuberance~

  • lulzno

    For someone who thought Catcher in the Rye was lame, you sound a lot like Holden….

    • Xmickeyphoenix

      Agreed. Unfortunately less endearing. I really did like the “worse than alone” paragraph. Keep it up, maybe try writing when you are more relaxed. What do I know though? I’m just a troll.

  • Stephanie Georgopulos

    The ending was great.

    I turn 25 next month, the parallel you drew is pretty perfect. Blech. 

  • AliceW

    How ironic. I just turned 30 today.

    • Maggie

      Noun: The
      expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies
      the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

  • Patricia Novanti

    The Catcher in the Rye was not pretty lame………………………..

  • NoSexCity

    I’ve always really liked the things you’ve posted on TC & this is no exception. 

    Also: “Sometimes I lie to see what is the lowest age people will unflinchingly believe [it’s twenty-four].” — AMAZING.

  • Samie Rose

    I loved this, though it got a bit rambly at parts. +

  • Guest

    At least make the writting good if you’re not going to have any point.

    • Leigh

      hmm yeah that’s kind of a good idea
      please direct me to your archive of written work so that i might have some reference material from which to learn 

      • Navi

        I personally love the way you writt.

    • Aimee Vondrak

      You missed the point, I think.

  • Rachel Z

    Totally glad you wrote this since I’ve been over-thinking turning 20 in three months (yeah, yeah, I know that’s different than turning 30…)

    I thoroughly approve of your birthday theme, but that goes without saying. Expect a birthday video of me dressed as Angela and listening to Stone Temple Pilots.

    • Leigh

      Is this a promise and not a joke
      PLEASE say it is 

  • Seikel

    OMG I’m turning 30 too and SO GLAD I didn’t give anyone babies from my wiener. 

    • idoitfortheluz

      comment of the day

  • Aimee Vondrak

    “I can remember what livid tasted like in my throat. Congratulations, doll, you read your first big-girl book! Ten years later I would decline her Facebook request.”

    It’s only been 6 years since I graduated from high school but I’m still looking forward to those Facebook requests and have been since sophomore year English. There have been a scattered few in that 6 years, and although this sounds terrible, each is as satisfying as the last. It’s like finally saying “No” to all of that unnecessary, teen angst-y nastiness we dealt with in high school.

  • Camus' Viewpoint

    At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.Albert Camus 

  • Halo_Override

    Good stuff, as usual, with nice turns of phrase, as usual. (You’re predictable that way.)

    When I turned thirty, I was underwhelmed. I think it was because there was such cultural freight associated with it. It happened, and I didn’t feel any different and kept just being moreorless the same person, and I kind of felt smug about it all.

    Hubris being what it is, I expected forty to be the same. Around thirty-nine, I started to get the uneasy feeling that it wouldn’t be, but it was too late. I was woefully unprepared. Forty unpacked all my neuroses and weaknesses and doubts and regrets and failings as a human being and laid them out in front of me like the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at a sad hotel hosting a self-loathing convention. It’s three years later and I’m starting to get over it. (Mostly because I refuse to grow up and therefore have little choice in the matter.)

    Moral: everything fools me.

  • sava

    I’m a little older than 30. sigh. 
    but I felt some of those things you talk about. 
    and those feelings of oldness just keep making me feel paranoid about health and pain and things that go with being “old”. 
    I don’t “feel” old in the sense of how I live and who I interact with. I guess they call me “youthful” or “childlike” and I’m waiting for the day those are slung at me as insults rather than compliments. 
    my body is older. I creak. I prolly can’t and shouldn’t have babies in a few years. BABIES! EEEWWW! yeah, your body starts doing the whole “wtf, where’s that bebe, yo?!!”
    that feeling of immortality of youth fades so fast. 
    I’m hurtling towards my death. but I’m trying to have a decent time while doing it. 
    wanna hang out?
    (there are way too many quotation marks in this comment, sorry.)

  • Lauren Wilford

    “There’s something really primeval about looking at pictures of toys you used to either own or want really badly.” This is the realest of real. I went through the toy aisle in Target a few days ago and looked at the Barbies and had the weirdest feelings of longing or almost longing in my gut. It’s so strange to remember how really, wildly you wanted things back then.

    • Leigh

      i found this story i had written when i was like, seven, and it was a short story about how i saw something in a toy catalog and had to undertake a lot of extremely dramatic steps to get my parents to buy it for me. 

  • eff sox

    really enjoyed this.  i remember having a teacher who was thirty who was seemed very young and attractive, yet really old at the same time, because she was settled down with a permanent job and family.  thirty is a strange age.  

  • Daniel W

    “Ten years later I would decline her Facebook request.”


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