I have one sister who’s seven years older than me. She now lives out of Illinois with her husband, two kids, and a beautiful house. I’ve spent probably most of my life trying to catch up to her accomplishments, which can be pretty frustrating since she has a seven year start. There is, however, one life mark that I was happy to postpone: The “One Year Left Until 30” crisis.
Most books, TV shows, and movies focus on the big 3-0 as the year that everyone freaks about their age (See Friends, 13 Going on 30, or Turning 30: How to Get the Life You Really Want), but from my younger sibling observations, I concluded that 30 isn’t the scary number- it’s 29. Sure 30 marks a new decade, and you feel older but when you actually turn 30 it’s already done, there’s no going back. But what is scarier than the bomb itself? It’s the ticking clock, and 29 is the final countdown.
Now I’m not saying by any means that your life ends at 30. There are plenty of people I personally know in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and beyond that are way more adventurous and awesome than I ever was or will be. My observations are that of someone who believes they should have reached a certain…maturity, if you will, by a certain age. So let’s check your attitude and lecturing at the door, please and thank you.
When my sister turned 29 she just broke up with her fiancé, got fired from her job, and had switched from her amazing, high-rise, downtown apartment to our parent’s living room couch. I remember staying up with her at night while she wondered what had happened to her life. She had thought she had it all figured out and was about to start a new chapter in her life. But there she was, turning 29, and feeling no less closer to that next step as she was at 21. All she could do was look around her (aka: go through her Facebook feed) and see her classmates who had gotten married, had kids, hell even already gotten divorced. And she told me, “I went to college, I was with this person for over ten years, I had a plan. Now I have nothing, do I have to wait another 10 years to figure it all out again?” It wasn’t that she was scared of turning 30. She was scared of not accomplishing anything by the time she turned 30. She worked ten plus years and suddenly it felt like she had one year left to get it all done.
I told her two things. One: Life doesn’t care about our plan. We can do everything “right” like go to college, date a person, get engaged, and plan what we want next and life will literally crap all over that plan. But that’s not a reason to feel down and out. It’s about understanding that things in life happens for a reason and that we don’t always know what blessings may be coming our way, or when, but it will come in its own time. All we can do is to keep trying, learning, and bettering ourselves. The second thing I told her was that when she turns 30, she will be amazed at how much has changed in a year. One year may feel like an instant, but sometimes it can be a lifetime of a difference.
So fast forward seven years, and here I am facing the same fears with my 29th birthday just a few weeks away. Even now, as I write what I said to my sister all those years ago and remembering how wise I felt at the time, I laugh at my younger self. I count my blessings, I have a roof over my head, a job to go to every day, and someone to come home to every night. But I can’t help but look at the flip side too. My student loans feel like this large bulldozer dragging me back, preventing me from even thinking of leading a more comfortable life. Even with a decent pay I still live pay check to paycheck. My music degree, while completely self-fulfilling, did not help me find a job in music or in the workplace. I found someone that I can see a future with, but it hasn’t been perfect and sometimes it feels like we’re still learning to crawl, then walk, before we could run down any alter. And yes, I have looked through my Facebook feed and dwelled on the fact that I haven’t posted anything of bragging rights in months while everyone, literally everyone, has either travelled the world, gotten nominated for a Grammy (seriously), gotten engaged, or had a baby in the past year.
Anyone can tell me either which way, that I am doing something with my life, that I’ve grown up, become independent and am even doing halfway decent for myself. But this is what 29 does. It makes you look in the mirror and sees only your failures, your backwards steps, the bruises on your soul, and the little cracks on your heart. And somehow it makes you see yourself as still a child. Still helpless and dumb just sitting there in your awkward, adolescent, striped jean bellbottoms, your flower power shirt from Rave, and ugly chunky Spice-Girl inspired shoes- just waiting for the study guide with the answers to ace the test that is life. But it never comes.
So what do we do? Well even though I feel like that dorky little kid inside, I’m going to put on my best grown-up, millennial, edgy but still work appropriate outfit on and continue to fake it until I make it. I will wake up every day and try to write the song that can change the world. I will look up travel websites and continue to plan trips that I will one day book. I will own my body through the laugh lines, stress lines, pregnancies, weight loss, and weight gain. I will push myself every day to do more, learn more, and care more. I may never truly feel grown up, and I may not meet all my deadlines, or even some of my goals. But damn it, I’m going to keep trying. And if I have to do that until my grave, I will have no regrets. Hopefully in a year, I’ll look back on this and realize I worried for nothing. Either that or I’ll continue to freak out, but at least I have an older sister who owes me a life crisis pep talk anyways…Shit, no wait, I used that up last month. Oh well.
My “Turning 29 and I’m only mildly freaked out” Adult Look