Our teens are for rebellion. They are for feeling superior even though we haven’t achieved anything yet, for knowing everything better even though we know nothing yet, for rolling our eyes at every adult because they are so lame and clueless. We pretend that we are cool and fearless, even though we are afraid most of the time. We pretend we don’t want to be like everybody else, even though we dress exactly like our friends. We pretend we are rebels, but we want nothing more than to be liked by others. Our teens are scary and confusing.
Our twenties are for experimentation. They are for trying and failing, trying and failing, and once in a while, for getting it right. They are for not knowing what we want, but being okay with it, because we have so much time to figure it out. So what if we don’t know if we want kids? So what if we don’t know what career we want? So what if we don’t know that the latest trend really doesn’t suit us and that we will bitterly regret over plucking our eyebrows? We are young! We have time! And none of our friends know what they are doing either. Life is full of promise and full of opportunities just waiting for us to grab them. But while time used to go so slowly when we were younger, it’s starting to speed up. One day we wake up, and we are suddenly 29 years old, and we haven’t achieved any of the things we thought we would have by now. No kids yet, no marriage, and is it too late to change careers? We can’t bear to spend another 30 years in our soul-destroying job, but we have no clue what else we want to do. How is it possible that we are almost 30 – THIRTY! – and we are still scared and clueless? Our twenties are also scary and confusing.
Our thirties are for growing up. We realize that the perfect life doesn’t exist – and for the first time in our life, we understand clearly that that’s okay. Even more than okay: it’s fabulous! What a relief! We have learned what looks good on us, and don’t care that much about trends anymore. If we want to wear a dress when everyone else is in yoga pants, we wear the dress! We have learned that the world doesn’t stop when other people see us without makeup because most of them won’t even notice; everybody is too wrapped up in their own life. We have learned that what other people think about us has less to do with us, and more with them. And the best part: we don’t care as much what they think anymore. We have learned that no life is perfect and that the trick is to make the best of what we have. Some of us make peace with our bodies, ending the decades-long war we fought with it. We have learned that being healthy can’t be taken for granted and that when we are, it’s a gift that deserves to be appreciated. We are a bit less scared and confused. Our thirties are a decade of revelations.
I am 38, so I have yet to learn what our forties will bring. This is what I imagine: We eat dessert unapologetically. We can cook 5-course meals and host grown-up dinner parties. We see someone in their twenties and thank our lucky stars that we are not in our twenties anymore. Doctors are starting to look like babies. We are being called ma’am more often than not, and it’s still annoying, but we can shrug it off. We get mammograms and pap tests regularly, without batting an eye. We take calcium and multivitamins religiously and work out not to get skinny, but to stay healthy. We get wrinkles and grey hair, and the brave ones will wear them with pride. We have been knocked around a few times. We know that we are capable. We know that we are stronger than we ever thought possible. We know that life is unpredictable. We are getting better at living in the present. Our forties are for reaping the benefits.
I can’t predict what our fifties, sixties, and beyond will be. But I hope with all my heart that I will be able to find out. Getting older is the wildest and best ride any of us will ever be on.