Today is my 30th birthday. I’m still not sure how to feel about it. I have gone back and forth about this birthday since my last one. On the one hand, it’s just another year. On the other hand, it’s a reminder of how different my life is than I thought it would be at this point, and in how many ways.
Growing up, my mom told me that her goal had been to have all of her children (four, as it turns out) by the time she was 30. She made it by thirteen days. Because I have wanted to be married and have a family since the beginning of time, 30 always seemed like the finish line. Like the goal. Like a normal person should have all the things she wants by the time she’s 30. It’s a childish and immature thought, but one that has stuck with me no matter how I tried to logic myself out of it.
In high school, I was the girl who thought she would pick a major, go off to college, put in her four years, and get a degree. Somewhere along the way (or shortly thereafter) she would get married. She would buy a house. She would start a career and then start a family. It’s that easy, right? Ha.
I picked a major. I went off to college. And I struggled like I have never struggled in my life. After being a very good student in high school, college classes were hard. Being away from my family was hard. And having to be responsible for “grown-up” stuff was hard. After two years, I had had enough. I moved back home, got a part-time job, and took classes at the local college while I tried to figure out what to do. Eventually I moved away again and finished a different major at another school. It took me six years to get my four-year degree. I graduated with 208 credits when I only needed 132. Not really the original plan.
At one point in early college, I had been seriously dating my first boyfriend for several years. I was convinced we would end up married with a bunch of kids but we broke up instead. In the long run, it was (really, really, really) for the best and I recognize that. But that was nearly ten years ago, and I have been on ONE DATE. In ten years. At this point the husband thing (and, by extension, the kid thing) seems further away now than it ever has.
After I graduated from college, I got some great job offers from some great companies. I picked one and went to work. It was a fun company I could see myself staying with for a long time. But within three years, the economy had tanked, particularly in my sector. I lost my job and spent the next three months looking for a new one. It felt like an eternity at the time. Little did I know what was coming. I took a new job in a new city, which put me in a great position to buy a house. I was there for a little over a year and then was summarily fired without warning one Friday. Cue the next NINE months spent looking for a job, now with a mortgage hanging over my head. I ended up having to go to the fringes of my chosen profession to find something new. The job I’m currently in is only tangentially related to what I went to school for, but so far it has been a good place for me. Yet some days I still have trouble shaking the feeling that the other shoe is yet to drop. I’m not sure I’ll ever shake it entirely.
I don’t think where I am at 30 is bad. Just really different than I thought it would be. Temerity Jane wrote a post not long ago in part about what your twenty-year-old self would say about the things your thirty-year-old self is doing. It definitely got me thinking. I’m pretty sure my twenty-year-old self would be surprised and disappointed. But my thirty-year-old self is not. I have a really good life. I now re-live in the smallish town I grew up in and couldn’t be happier about it. Living here puts me close to (most of) my immediate family, and that’s a really good thing. It’s an incredibly beautiful place that most people only dream of visiting “someday” and I get to live here every day. I own my own house, which is something I thought wouldn’t happen until I got married and had a double income. I have a group of really close friends I wouldn’t trade for the world. I am part of an awesome church and am involved in really enjoyable ministry there. My job is interesting, different every day, and keeps me on my toes.
At the risk of sounding all sentimental and philosophical (because, please), I also know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of the things that have happened (or not happened) to me thus far. Twenty-year-old me wasn’t stupid. Just naïve. She had dreams, and that’s fine, but thirty-year-old me knows now which dreams were realistic and which weren’t. I’m less wildly emotional, more relaxed, and (I think) more fun than I was at twenty. I know a lot more about myself than I did at twenty. And I’m going to work very hard from this point forward not to let my thirty-year-old self be bound by the things that my twenty-year-old self expected.
So, thirty, let’s say I’m inviting you in for tea and seeing where this goes. I reserve the right to dislike getting older in general, but I think you and I are going to do okay.