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. 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.