On Turning 30

I’m by no means an expert on turning 30 (I’ve only done it once!), but without a doubt, the magic 3-0 did serve as one of deep reflection and personal assessments, discoveries made through the course of well over a day, I’m sure, but of which I became aware of – all too clearly – just in time to officially welcome my third decade. This list is one I compiled as I gave thought to some of those “epiphanies” of sorts that I hope will provide some perspective (if you’ve yet to reach the milestone) or shared identification, if you’re already right there with me. Regardless of age, I hope you enjoy them.

You’re stronger than you’ve ever given yourself credit for. Every decade comes with its lessons, I’m sure, but this year brought me the toughest, most painful challenges of all. Never could I have been stronger. Never could I have imagined that I could endure the loss of my mom, so suddenly, so unexpectedly, so tragically early, and yet, there I was, carrying the role of daughter, caretaker, consenter, death informant, financial consultant, big sister, parent figure… Just three weeks after turning 29, I was forced to learn what life was like without my amazing mom in it. Just a month after turning 30, I’ve realized that it’s not one of those things I’ll ever overcome, but enduring it, surpassing it, standing strong despite it, is something I never thought possible. My 20-year-old self is undoubtedly proud.

Time is too precious to waste, and time spent doing what you deem precious is not wasted. So, enjoy days off (take them!), lounge in your PJs (or your underwear), read that next favorite book, reorganize your closet, book the trip of your dreams, take up a new hobby, keep a journal (or a blog!)… Whatever you enjoy, invest time in it. By the time you’re 30, you’re harvesting your life in newfound ways – no longer led by the Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO, for all you non-Millennials) or succumbing to peer pressures – so it’s more important than ever to invest time in you.

Mom will always be your best friend. And if you’re lucky, you’ll start seeing more of her in the mirror. Every so often, I catch a glimpse of my mom’s gestures, hear her words of wisdom, find myself thinking about things the way she would’ve, and I’m reminded how lucky I am to be her daughter. Whether she’s still here or ventured off to Heaven earlier than you could’ve ever imagined, be comforted in knowing she’ll always be Mom, and you’ll never be too old or too smart or too tough to need her.

The friends you have now will be friends forever. I’ve been blessed with long-time-tried-and-true friendships I can count in one hand, summing up nearly 100 years of beautiful memories, support, loyalty, fun, laughter, tears and shared successes and failures. To now have the chance to see them transform into strong, smart, sweet women is reason alone to convince me being 30 is A-okay.

Love doesn’t hurt. I remember strongly believing love came with some form of suffering. Blame the angsty teenage love dramas of the early millennium, but I associated crying with loving for a little too long as I navigated the path of falling in (and later, out of) love with Mr. Wrong. When Mr. Right does in fact show up, you realize just how far you’ve come in loving and just how truly loved you can be. And that’s a lovely lesson to learn.

Talk on the phone. Your thumbs will thank you; so will your soul. In this fast-paced world overtaken by information overload and at-your-thumbs access to multiple conversations in the form of likes, tweets and follows, I’ve come to appreciate the art of talking on the phone, kicking it back to my high-school days and nostalgically feeling old when reading the stats about just how little we’re talking vs. texting. With friends scattered throughout the country, nothing is more comforting than hearing their voices and literally LOL’ing, even if for just a few minutes at a time. My approach may not be as digitally hip, but I’m loving it more and more the older I get, and that’s just fine by me.

Looking in the mirror and acknowledging you’re perfect just the way you are is never going to be easy, but it sure does become more genuine the older you get, because let’s face it: if my nose hasn’t shrunk, if my scraggly tooth didn’t respond to nearly three years of braces, if my thighs haven’t dissolved and if my stomach hasn’t adopted a six-pack in the past 30 years, my chances are probably slim at this point (though I won’t reserve my optimism). Joking aside, there’s something wonderful to be said for self-acceptance – both physical and otherwise. It’s a realization I wasn’t all too aware of, but my 18-year-old self would probably be shocked. I used to be my own worst critic, and while I still am to some extent, I focus on critiquing those aspects of me that still matter, focusing on being just a little bit kinder, a little bit smarter, a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. Here’s hoping all of those things reflect from the inside out, as we’ve been told for so long, right?

Be ridiculous. No one cares. And by no one, I mean, no one who matters. I’m not sure where the notion that older means more serious came from, but it’s ridiculous – and you should be, too. With confidence, fulfillment and accomplishment comes the right to exercise your humor to the fullest, to laugh loudly, to sing/dance publically, to chant proudly! In so many ways, I feel more lighthearted today than I did at 21 and lucky for me, I can enjoy more than I did back then when I was on a student wage and schedule. For my 30th birthday, three of my closest friends visited me for a weekend of brunching, baking, movie-watching, laughing and drinking – all while my amazing husband played patient host and DD. The weekend involved a Halloween night showing of “The Rocky Horror Show,” a drag-queen show featuring the likes of Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire and a tiara. If you can’t have more fun as you get older, what’s the point of working so damn hard?

Playing dress-up has never been more fun. As a kid, I could be found wearing long sparkly earrings, pink lipstick and flowy skirts (until Mom reclaimed her items, that is). I’m sure that’s not a foreign thing for girls of any age, but at 30, I find myself exploring my fashion sense more deliberately than ever (okay, maybe my 6-year-old self was more liberal with lipstick application). While certain items definitely do have a shelf-life (note: no midriff-bearing tops, no mini-skirts, no body glitter, ladies-in-your-thirties), I feel that you can dress better than ever the older you get. Most importantly, you can do so without losing your personality, giving outfits a twist with a fun accessory that six-year-old you would’ve coveted. I’m still that girl who loves dangly earrings, colorful dresses and pink lipstick. I just dabble in them with more sophisticated moderation these days – and with some really adorable headbands to boot.

Kids aren’t on the agenda – because there is no agenda. If you had asked me at 18 where I’d see myself at 30, I would’ve said, “Married, two kids, a house, traveling, writing a book.” Thankfully, my aspirations didn’t include “recording my first album,” but I digress… I got married at 28 and just four months shy of my 30th birthday, my hubby and I were able to close on our very first home. A week later, we got a puppy (our “doghter”), and five months later, there’s no mention of puppies of other sorts, nor will there be for a while. This is another one of those notions whose origins I’m not privy to but has become so deeply engrained in women’s minds. Fortunately, there has been no rush in our marriage (we both would love to enjoy this newlywed phase, particularly given the last year’s rollercoaster ride), nor among our friends. While a few have become mommies in the past year to beautiful babies (much to my heart’s delight), seeing them in that new role has not prompted a sudden rush or desire. Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with at least one child in the future, but as of now, there are none on the agenda. Because there is no agenda, and that’s a liberating thought. Sorry, 18-year-old-me; I’ll be working on it…and on that book…and on all of those frequent-flyer miles too!

This isn’t a race. Stop running. We rush to get places, meet deadlines, reach milestones, but “all in due time” has never run truer for me. The past year has been testament to the fact that life happens on its own accord, without warning, without the convenient of a stopwatch. It just flashes by, in positive directions, in negative ones. In some moments, we become mere spectators. In others, conductors. It behooves us then to let time run its course, to live life, not race through it, to walk through the good and the bad and hopefully do so while holding hands with a loved one. Stop every once in a while to smell the proverbial flowers, forego the umbrella and dance in the rain and wherever and whenever you can, walk. The clock will continue to tick as it always does.