It is not much of a secret. I am turning thirty in twelve days. Unlike forty or fifty, I am still relatively young and am by no means “over the hill.” Still, I know many people who get a little depressed about birthdays. Another year older and reassessing all that we have accomplished or hoped to have accomplished. For many, they feel that their best days are now behind them (I don’t.)
A generation ago, by thirty you were married, had kids, a house, and a career. Today that is not necessarily true and is more often than not the case. Because of increased educational attainment levels, people are putting off having children and marriage until later. Women are increasingly becoming educated and working outside the home. In fact, many women are now the sole breadwinner and there are more women than men graduating with degrees in higher education.
Let’s not forget the economic downturn of the past few years. You now have twenty-somethings who are living with Mom and Dad after college and thirty-somethings with roommates. Recent graduates have been unable to find work or are underemployed. Young professionals are having trouble paying rent, no less obtaining mortgages for their own first homes. Regionalism has a lot to do with it. In New York City, where I live, you pay the same in rent for a studio apartment that you might pay for a mortgage elsewhere in the country.
Basically, things are not like they were thirty years ago in 1983 when I was born.
As I count down the days until my third decade on this planet, I am increasingly interested in others’ experiences turning thirty. I am spending a lot of time assessing and reassessing my life thus far, where I am career wise, and socially. I have been googling bucket lists and completing my own. Looking specifically for lists specific to the soon-to-be thirty year old, I found 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30, which was originally published in Glamour magazine in 1997. This of course spawned an entire book with the same title about turning thirty. I have not read it and am not entirely sure I want to, to be completely honest.
I can’t help but feel a bit depressed by this list. It makes a lot of assumptions and holds women to a standard that may no longer- or ever have been- completely realistic. Less than inspiring, it makes me feel like, What have I been doing for the past ten years of my twenties? I spoke to a friend who has just turned thirty about this (who has read the book) and she’s gotten some of the same feedback from other young women.
Despite what I’ve already said, I am actually quite excited about being thirty. For me, my teens and twenties were definitely not my best years and I believe the best is yet to come. In fact, I’d say the best year I’ve had thus far was twenty-nine. After twenty-five or so you become a lot more comfortable with yourself, confident, and know what you want. I can imagine this only becomes increasingly true with time.
If I were to give advice to someone younger and reflect on my life so far, I’d say that time really does march on. After you get to be a certain age the days just fly by. I am in amazement and it’s almost surreal to be that my twenties will be over in a little more than a week. And as adults told me back then, even though I still wear some of the scars, most of what happens in school- the popularity contests, the peer pressure, the teasing and bullying barely matter now (in fact, most of the so-called “nerds” I knew are now happily married.) In retrospect, I am happy that I learned this at a young age and moved past it.
What was your favorite age? What did you hope to accomplish by a certain age? Did you meet your goals? What would you have done differently?
Ah, and about that list…
By 30, you should have:
1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.
8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.
9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.
12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
13. The belief that you deserve it.
14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.
By 30, you should know:
1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.
2. How you feel about having kids.
3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend with-out ruining the friendship.
4. When to try harder and when to walk away.
5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8. Where to go—be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat—when your soul needs soothing.
9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.
10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.
13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
15. Why they say life begins at 30!