would you like me to talk about being 30 some more? because i could go on.

I’ve been thinking about birthdays a lot lately, and not just because Sarah posted last month about her excellently awful unsweet 16th. A lot of people I know have birthdays around this time of year; one of them being my coworker, who recently turned 30. And she had a really, really hard time with it. I’m talking bad mood for days. She was sulky, inconsolable, crushed. I’ve heard of birthday blues, particularly in milestone years, but I’ve never witnessed anything quite like this.

Even though I turned 30 last November, I couldn’t relate to her. In fact, the older I get, the more I revert to acting like a kid around my birthday. Buried deep in some album at my parents’ house, there’s a picture of me at the head of a table full of little girls who’d gathered for my 8th birthday party. I’m wearing the frilliest dress I could find in my closet, I have a paper cone party hat on my head, I have a giant cake sitting before me, and I am sitting on a dirty clothes hamper. Why? Because I wanted to sit up higher than my friends, who were in real chairs. Higher = awesomer, in my young mind. And it’s still sort of the same way. I’m a quiet person who wants an excuse to feel special. When my birthday comes around, I want pomp and circumstance. I want to revel in the attention paid to me. I want a special dress and a cone on my head and a giant cake and I want to be high in the air, dammit.

I remain unapologetic about this.

Turning three with grandpa. Back when I was only 1/10th of my age.

But back to the birthday blues: outside of the waves of doubt and self-introspection that came to visit around my 30th — and are still coming — I’ve never really been unhappy about getting older. If anything I just feel increasingly, disconcertingly, out of the loop. The other day, I happened to flip the channel to MTV right in the middle of what appeared to be a commercial for a reality program featuring high schoolers. You know what it actually was? A commercial for the new season of The Real World. Which, okay, I didn’t even know it was still being produced, but more importantly: I remember when the people on that show were old. I was in middle school during the show’s first few seasons, and at that time its fluctuating cast of 20-somethings seemed to me like some exotic class of human — tiny gods glowing on the distant horizon of adulthood. I couldn’t fathom ever being that age. And now, at 30, I am even older than that.

Yeah, okay, that kind of bums me out.

When you’re in your early 20s, it feels like the whole world has its eyes on you. You are young! You are in college! You are ready to take over some shit! Now, those eyes are looking past me. Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of being invisible. But I think I can cope with that. After all, cultural irrelevancy is just one small hurdle to clear when grappling with the scope of aging. And honestly, who even cares about The Real World anyway?

Now that I’ve mostly come to grips with the fact that I’m of little consequence to the media and the planet at large, I’m peering further down the road. I keep looking ahead for clues about what’s coming next. Changes in my body, to be sure. Changes in my perspective. Will any of those changes be enough to completely knock me sideways? Will they ever cause me to forego the party hats, curb the unbridled enthusiasm, and let the birthday cake go uneaten? Will I really ever feel unspecial just because I’m older?

I don’t want to do this wrong. I don’t want to believe that it’s all downhill from here. I don’t want to become Uncle Rico, desperately reliving the golden moments of my past on continuous loop. I’ve only got one shot at this life and I want to wring all I can out of it.

I want to age gracefully, but I don’t quite know what that means yet.

Got any ideas?

11 Responses to “would you like me to talk about being 30 some more? because i could go on.”

  1. My thirties have been really difficult. I turn 38 this year. As I stare down 40, I have hopes that by the time I am in my forties, I will have found my groove and finally transform into functional adulthood.

    I am also hopeful that I will somehow manage to avoid the family curse and make it out of my 40s with my ovaries and at least one breast still intact.

  2. My mum has always said that at every milestone birthday, she never felt sad about it – she always felt like she was ready for the next decade to begin. Last year she turned 60, bald and knackered after weeks of chemo, but still here. A colleague asked me how she was feeling about turning 60. I was like, “um, delighted? Mainly just happy not to be dead?” (Kind of echoing Sarah’s point here.)

    I am starting to get The Dread a little bit about turning 30 in a couple of years’ time, mainly because of the what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-where-am-I-going-argh-my-head-is-about-to-explode thing. But I’m hoping, by then, I’ll have miraculously have achieved some sort of inner peace, and I’ll be able to glide gracefully from one decade to the next. That, or I’ll still be the stressing about the same pointless stuff no matter how old I get. Time will tell.

    Oh, and that Napolean Dynamite reference has just made my day. You are awesome.

  3. I cannot wait to turn 30. My 20s have been a mess, some sad times (although admittedly, some happy ones as well), and I’ve been all over the place — like most people in their 20s, I suppose — and I’m ready to start fresh.

    I actually take pride in being out of the loop. Bieber what? Haha, those idots on TV made a mistake, it says Ke$ha! Do you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? I know about 3% of the people who perform. It’s great. I’m too busy with my life now to follow that business. (Not that my life is particularly exciting, but still.)

    *hair toss*

  4. I work with college kids sometimes and they make me really glad to be in my thirties. I remember doing all these grown up things for the first time: living on your own, cooking, paying your bills, turning papers in on time, looking for jobs etc., and oh the relationships. It’s all easier once you know a little more.

  5. I love getting older. I know that aging doesn’t actually mean you are getting any wiser, but I think I have been gathering more and more experiences in my life and that I am slowly getting smarter. I like the idea that people respect me more — that they can’t just call me a naive young girl anymore.

    So birthdays are a mixed bag for me. I’m not one who’s afraid of attention. I like a lot of attention on my birthday. I like it when the waitstaff sings an embarrassing song to me. But I’ve come to realize my birthday isn’t really special to anyone besides me. When you are young you can get away with stealing the spotlight on your birthday. But when you get older, no one really pays any attention. That is what is depressing to me.

    • Oh yeah, I second that about the lack of birthday attention as you get older – *that* I am struggling with.

      In the UK your 21st birthday is a really big deal, you throw a big party and get loads of amazing special presents. I loved my 21st birthday.

      On my 22nd birthday, there was no party, hardly any presents, nobody made a fuss over me. So, um, I cried. Yeah. Not one of my proudest moments.

      Hopefully I’ll be able to hold it together better on my 31st.

  6. I don’t know if I love getting older, per say, but I do love birthdays 🙂 It’s a birthday month, not day. That’s how my ever mature 25 year old self sees it.

    I don’t mind getting older.. it doesn’t feel like I am, really, and that’s ok. But I totally get the Real World thing – hell, even at my age they still look young. It’s amusing to me!

  7. I like to have a Big! Birthday! Month! too, where everyone fawns over me and I get to do what I want. With the way everyone teases me about it, I thought I was the only one. I worry about aging gracefully, and I worry that by now (32 this summer) I should have my shit together a whole lot more than I do. I have a steady job that pays well, but I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life trudging away in an office! That is NOT what I thought adulthood would be. But it seems like adulthood doesn’t mean as much traveling the world all the time as much as it means going to work every day and worrying about one’s 401(k).

  8. turning 30 broke my husband’s brain so it makes me nervous to turn 30 (I have 3 years). I totally hear you on the real world wow-they-are-so young realization. I have that when I think back on the camp I worked at in high school. The other counselors were in college which meant they were so much older and more mature than me and I had crushes on all of them. what with their cool birkenstocks and hemp necklaces, how could I not? now I realize they were probably barely 20 and that makes me feel old. yikes.

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