Turning 30 Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means (And What It Does Mean)


I woke up on my thirtieth birthday thinking “What the fuck am I doing today?” Not “What am I doing with my life?” Not “How did I get here?” I was honestly thinking, “Sweet, the sun’s shining. Should I go snowboarding or just have a quick slice of cake for breakfast and watch Friends?” In my experience, turning thirty is quite a smack in the earhole for loads of people. Kids feel it’s an evitable prospect. Teenagers are aware of the milestone, but only see it as a possibility if they live that long. Twentysomethings, on the other hand, see it as the endgame, the finish line — the age at which one is thought to be/have whatever the not-so-tiny voices in the back of their minds are telling them they should.

There are an abundance of articles, inspirational quotes, and videos for people in their twenties insisting “It’s totally OK to stay home on a Friday night,” or “who cares if you aren’t getting married like every other one of your friends,” or even “no one will know if you only change your sheets every other week.” But do you see any of this reassuring hogwash directed at people in their thirties? No, no you don’t — because we expect people in their thirties to have their shit together. We also, unfortunately, assume we’ll have our shit together upon crossing that reverential triple decade mark. It’s like everyone just agrees to a secret pact that if you’re feeling undone or don’t know what the hell is going on after thirty you just keep that shit to yourself.

The truth is, well – my truth is that all these constructs we build up around ourselves are complete and utter bogus and not just for the twentysomethings attempting to navigate their newly acquired adulthood. I think it’s true for everyone. The moment we can take a step back and switch off that ticking time bomb of a biological clock, and I don’t mean the “I need a reproduce” version, we can begin to see that thirty isn’t the endgame. If we’re lucky, it isn’t even close. It’s the beginning – the beginning of being confident in who you are enough to not think twice about the looks you get walking into Forever 21 with your newly purchased wrinkle cream.

Honestly, I’m probably not going to know what’s going on with my life when I turn fifty or sixty either. But I’m OK with that. I’ll be far too busy screaming from the mountaintops that “I’m alive! What are the chances?” And you know what? The chances aren’t really all that much in our favor. So we should burn that book of rules that tells us what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our lives and at what age, and write our own or – better yet – proceed unfettered by rules of any kind.

It’s entirely possible I’ve adopted this philosophy as a way to excuse my eating birthday cake for breakfast or thinking that getting my septum pierced is not too much to ask for a gift, but it’s what works for me. This way of thought keeps me sane when my family asks for the zillionth time when I’m going to have kids/if I think I’ve waited too late — or when my friends ask if I’m ever going to live in a state for longer than six months. Thinking this way calms me when I get sidelong glances while reaching for the last pair of leather leggings at the same time as a fifteen year-old waif with eyes; “You take it, sweetheart,” I say, then skip to the next rack in search of a cut-off Guns N’ Roses midriff that’s more age appropriate. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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