[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
On Monday, I stood beside a table at a tradeshow in the lower level of a Marriott in Austin, TX. Outside, sidewalks were littered with downed trees from a recent ice storm, "I've never seen anything like it," one woman told me, her eyes widening, "Texas isn't built for ice." At the trade show, I drank two lattes, pet a puppy, and chitted with anyone willing to chat. Later, I celebrated my 30th birthday by eating a small package of Swedish Fish while watching Firefly Lane on the plane ride home. Thirty was feeling a lot like 29.
People who are "getting older," always say things like "age is just a number," or "I don't feel like I'm 60, or 50 or 77" or "back in my day..."
And, as the last days of my 20's slipped into the past, people kept telling me how this was a big deal.
"Your thirties are the best decade of your life," one person told me, "it's like your 20's, but with money." My twenties were wonderful and horrifying and embarrassing all at once. I wasn't sure what I wanted out of life, but I gained a pretty good idea about what I didn't want, which is just as important. While many of my friends were getting married and having babies, I was spending weekends running, weeknights writing, and building friendships that have, and will continue, to endure. I'm not convinced that marriage and babies are necessary in order to live a happy life, but I am enjoying spending time with all the babies my married friends keep producing.
I learned that dating is a horrific societal practice, and that it is, quite often, a waste of time. I learned to rely on myself to solve problems, find my way, and fix whatever I'd broken.
I learned that stuffy, dated office environments will never suit my demeanor or aid productivity, and that innovation and creativity are not always welcomed. "This is how we've always done things," is one of the most damning sentences anyone could ever utter, and yet, we hear it all the time.
In my early twenties, I was studying English at a small, private university in Central Illinois. I barely understood social media, and frankly, didn't care to understand. As my friends were all downloading Instagram, I thought to myself, "What's the point?" In 2015, I downloaded the app and the first few photos are of a table I decoupaged and my cat. My cat is still here, waking me up too early and scratching the back of my couch. He's been with me over a decade now, and he wouldn't give a damn if I was eighty, wrinkly, and bedridden. He might actually prefer that I were bedridden.
I have noticed fine lines around my eyes and in my forehead, and if I were to listen to whatever media is being targeted to women in their early thirties, I'd have pumped Botox into my face at least a dozen times already. I don't, because I've seen what happens to women who can't stop fixing their faces, and it isn't pretty. It's inauthentic and (sometimes) horrifying. Probably, that's the best thing about getting older; understanding what and who is authentic, and learning to live authentically, too.
Older people will forever decry younger generations, lumping each of us into categories, insisting we are lazy, soft, or stupid, or believing, inexplicably, that the younger generation will save-the-world. I'm not convinced the world can be saved by any of us. The world is a complicated thing, and most of us are still drooling into our pillowcases at night and screaming at each other in rush hour traffic and spilling coffee on white blouses and misquoting Proust in an attempt to look smart. The world is a big place, and it does no good trying to fix it you can't even fix yourself.
Thirty years is no time at all, and I hope to have another thirty (or two) before I succumb to the curmudgeonly nature of my forefathers and perish soon thereafter. Things I have learned in my first 30 years:
Invest early, even if you don't have much.
If you don't know what you want, try everything.
Go to therapy.
Read more books.
Spend more time with people who like you as you are.
Drink less. Sleep more.
Nobody owes you anything.
Be nice to waiters.
Be nice, period, especially when you want to be mean.
Spend as much time as possible doing what you love.
Tell people you love them, but only if you mean it.
Live below your means if you can, and always keep an emergency fund.
Examine the darkest parts of you, so they don't consume you completely.
Say yes to things that frighten and thrill you.
Listen to people who know more than you.
Learn to fail gracefully.
Consistent hard work can outpace talent.
Chasing big goals requires sacrifice, and you get to decide what it is you're willing to let go of.
Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
Grudges are heavy, and hatred a dead and burning thing.
P.S. I love you all so much. Subscribe to my Medium page here, donate to my birthday fundraiser for Bigger Than the Trail here, or watch a video about my mental health journey and Bigger Than the Trail here.