On Turning 30

Today, I turned 30. Now, to some of you who have seen the milestone come and go, it might not seem like a momentous occasion. Age is, after all, just a number, and what we consider “old” has changed drastically over the centuries and across cultures. Thirty, at this point, is still pretty young.

But thirty is still one of those ages that we expect to see people doing certain things by.Β I see lists all the time about “30 things to do before you’re 30” or “20 things to do in your 20’s.” Now many of these are lighthearted, and many of them revolve around life experiences rather than getting married and/or having children. But they’re still expectations. Now I’m not saying that goals and expectations are inherently bad things. On the contrary, goals are often ways of categorizing what we most want to achieve with the finite amount of time we have, and expectations can be powerful motivators. It’s basing goals on an age that I dislike.

Considering that, at 30, I am: about to travel to Las Vegas to marry a wonderful man; the mother of a beautiful, smart, and emotionally astute almost 5 year old; finished with coursework for a PhD and studying for comprehensive exams; I own my car; and even if I do rent my home, it’s a lovely one in New Orleans; I’ve had the chance to travel in Europe and throughout much of the U.S. So what if I don’t own a home, and I haven’t begun a career outside of being in school? I’ll get to those things.

And now, I offer you the things that I think you should do before you’re 30.

1. Stop internalizing what the lists say. You’re never going to completely stop caring about that stuff. Recognize that because of culture you’ll feel pressured by lists, by film and media and even people you know, to be something by a certain time. Listen to those voices, but don’t let them become your voice.
2. See number 1.
3. We’re done here.

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31 Comments

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  1. Excellent posting, it is fantastic to finally find insightful writing on the internet, I am genuinely pleased to come across a blog that is not full of the usual rubbish, thank you.

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  2. Happy Belated Birthday!

    Nice Post. A friend recently suggested a new way of thinking about all this – at least new to me: everything is a phase. With this there are no particular expectations associated with any particular time; in fact the linearity of time (an illusion anyway) that generally drives our thoughts into notions of ‘progress’, is taken out of the equation.

    A little wish-washy, but there’s something to it. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks!

      And yes, I quite like that. We tend to think of time in the way we measure it, but that doesn’t really account for how it works. Not a bad way of looking at things.

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  3. Happy Birthday! I’ll be 28 in a few weeks so have been doing my own thinking. I just finished my master’s (so I hear on comprehensive exams, I had to do one of those), I recently bought my first car and plan to pay it off as soon as I can, and I have yet to start my career and unfortunately still live at home. I think the fact that I finished my degree is a great achievement, so what if I still live at home or aren’t getting ready to get married? I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring, and I’ll get to what society thinks a woman my age should accomplish when I’m good and ready. Societal norms be damned.

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    1. Hear, hear!

      I lived at home for 2 years while I was doing coursework on my PhD. It just made sense; I could avoid paying rent and bills on a TA salary, and my retired mother was able to keep my child while I was in classes, meaning she got more time with him and I got to avoid yet another bill. Win/win. I just moved to NOLA a few months ago after finishing the coursework.

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  4. Happy birthday. You are almost entering the best time of your life. I’m a list person because I love that sense of achievement when I cross things off. I use my own items and not those set by others and I always forget the list if it is going to stop spontaneity. Congrats also on your upcoming nuptials. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks!

      And yes, I find that self-made lists are the best way to go. Mostly, though, it’s the getting to something by a certain age that I react to. I remember all sorts of things that I thought I’d be and do and have established by 30 that aren’t quite there, but I think that’s just par for the course.

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      1. I still don’t have some of the things people expect to have by the time they are thirty (and I’m hitting 60)- but I have other things that they will never have. The secret – just enjoy where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. You never know where that will take you but enjoy the journey. πŸ™‚

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  5. Happy Birthday! I hope you did something fun today, even if it’s just eating a cupcake with ridiculous amounts of icing. Or having a glass of wine. Or both. I kind of stopped noticing my age after 25. Now I’m 35 and it does feel strange to still / again be in school when most of my peers are married, have a career and / or children, and own cars and have established households etc. On a fairly regular basis I remind myself that this isn’t a race. And you’re right, of course — these lists are ridiculous. They may apply to a handful of people, but the rest of us just need to make our own, personalized lists of what we hope to achieve.

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    1. Thank you! I was lucky enough to have red velvet cake for breakfast after it was brought to me in bed. That made the comps reading I did bearable.

      And I think that “this isn’t a race” is a pretty good way to think of it. πŸ™‚

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  6. Happy Birthday!! I’m a beyond-late bloomer Boomer (say that 3 times quickly) and wish I’d had your list when was your age. Have a momentous time in Vegas, too,

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    1. Thanks on both accounts. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable disregarding the “should-dos,” and I still work at it every day.

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  7. Happy birthday!

    I will turn 30 end of this year, and struggling with all all of society expectations, as well as my own, can be tough. I guess it’s always about how we have to focus on what we have actually done, what we’re doing and try not to obsess too much about what we will/should do.

    I’ve embarked on my current path the year I turned 28. I don’t know why but 28 was a weird milestone for me. I’m far from having accomplished all I want, even in the short term, but I’ve done more than I expected for other things, so I’m getting there.

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    1. Thanks, Natacha!

      It can be difficult not to focus on what we’re supposed to have done, especially as we near milestone birthdays. Moving into a new decade of life makes it seem as if there should be some big sweeping change, but it’s really just another moment in a string of moments.

      I started working on my PhD at 27. I’d hoped to be finished with exams by now, but due to various circumstances, most out of my control, that just didn’t happen. They can wait. πŸ™‚

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