Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thoughts on turning 30

Well, I’m 30 years old today. Feels about the same.

When you’re a kid, being an adult seems like something you need to cross a chasm to become. I even once asked somebody if being an adult was like standing atop your shinbones, and did that hurt?

But for me that chasm never came, despite all evidence I seemed to compile that it would. “One day, you’ll understand,” they told me. I’m still waiting for that one day where I learn everything I needed to know. Eh, maybe that’s 40.

Time was, when I would imagine myself at 30, kids came to mind. My dad was just shy of 31 when I was born, and I remember thinking that was old to have a child. When my mom hit 30, I was almost four years old and my brother was six. Unlike 20, which I eagerly thought about all through my early double-digit years, I never thought much about turning 30; it sort of crept up. And I don’t expect it ever to fit.

It’s interesting how different friends’ lives can turn out. My high school classmates and college friends are going forth and multiplying right in front of my Facebook-stalking eyes. Some of them have kids as old as they were when I first met them. I sometimes play flag football with actual high school football players who were born when I was IN high school. Wonder if they have any cute teachers?

In my mind, I’m still much younger. I’m single with no children. I don’t have many particularly adult tastes. I have a graduate degree and a full-time job, but I rarely dress up (indeed, my wardrobe consists of the same ratio of sports shirts-to-Transformers apparel that I had as a child). I have no desire to settle down and no sense of complacency when it comes to the future. I still have all my hair, too, no small feat given that my 6th-grade English teacher said I would be bald by 15.

Birthdays never were a huge deal to me. Having your big day on May 8 is a good way to get it lost in the shuffle — spring football in high school, finals and conference track meets in college, co-workers getting a head start on summer vacation. My last birthday party had nine candles on the cake.

Still, there’s a certain allure to that number when you’re young. It’s one of the few truly reliable things in life, and generally a positive one. They’re benchmarks. You graduate. You need to be 18 to buy cigarettes, 21 for alcohol and 25 to rent a car. Those are Big Deal Birthdays, even if you’d never touch any of that stuff, because they’re incremental steps into adulthood. After that, though, it’s an odometer. Once you turn those ages and instantly become mature, it’s up to you to stay immature enough to be happy.

Between 25 and 30, I stopped thinking about my age. I took stock of my dietary and exercise habits, and sought to improve both. The result is that I actually feel younger and more active than I did at any point in college.

In that timeframe, I developed a sort of cynicism about the world. In a way, that’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I used to think certain people and positions were invincible and infallible, which made it worse when I felt certain that they were wrong. But realizing that everyone’s only human liberated me. It took a lot of pressure off to realize that everyone’s like me, going through life imperfectly. I used to envy the people who knew at a young age exactly what they wanted, and those adults who seemed to be the epitome of what they wanted to be; now I realize there’s no virtue in simply connecting the dots and/or trying to be like someone else.

So here I am now, still acting 20-ish, connecting dots that may or may not actually be dots. If you’d asked me 10 years ago where I thought I’d be now...well, you know. The same will probably be true in 2020. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s the journey, not the destination. And I’m just getting on the bike.


Michael said...

It isn't 40, either. I think it's a myth spread by people who think it's actually possible to learn everything one needs to know. For me, I prefer Michelangelo's attitude (at age 87): "Ancora imparo," "I'm still learning."

Mustang Bobby said...

To add to the mix, it's not 50. Or, at my present age, 57. I keep wondering when I will grow up.

Of course, it was a little weird to go to the movies with my parents last Christmas and all three of us get in with senior citizen discounts.