As a kid, I’m not sure what I expected this time to look like, whether I would have been married for six years by now or had kids already wondering what they were going to be when they “grew up,” but I’m absolutely positive I did not imagine this: Sitting at the window of my office, looking out onto the salt-crusted, barren- tree-lined street of my New York neighborhood, employed to talk about things such as the significance of getting older. No, this is not what I imagined at all.
“Just be prepared,” my friend recently warned me of her own landmark occasion. “I started crying at my own birthday, for no reason whatsoever.” And I thought, Me?! Cry! Ha! Cut to later that evening, walking towards my kitchen and being totally overcome by a weird, creeping sadness, tears beginning to well in the corners of my eyes. Whether or not I want to admit it, thirty is a big one.
Still, I recognize that there is absolutely nothing to be sad about turning thirty. Life, though infinitely more complicated and rife with more meaningfully difficult days, is better than it was ten years ago, specifically because it is more complicated and difficult. I am participating in life in a way I was incapable of as a younger person, and I can’t wait to see how absolutely silly this present, incrementally “enlightened” version of myself looks when I turn 40… and 50… and 60. Evolution is a marvelous thing and evolution takes time and time, as you know, takes its physical toll. Sacrifice and growth always go hand-in-hand.
For the first time, I now look at pictures of me from my early twenties and feel a distance more akin to a parent and their child. That’s not me, I think. That girl is a gone girl. A phantom that passed so quickly that no one told me loudly enough to use her to my advantage. (Though I am so very thankful for my absurd collection of short shorts, skirts I gamely wore as dresses, and all variety of sartorial missteps that accidentally put youth on display.)
Girl. Girl. Girl. It’s hard to get past the concept of this, having been a girl for so many years. Even on the precipice of 30, I don’t feel like a woman. I wouldn’t describe myself as one, even the term “young lady” sounds too dignified a term for a person who still swears in front of small children (accidentally) and sleeps on flights with a backwards jacket draped over her head like a corpse. I suppose what I fear most is to one day have to behave differently, to appear less girlish and more grown-up.
But somehow I get the sense it’ll never come to that or, actually, maybe it already has. I’ll have to wait until I hit 40 to be able to tell. Seeing the present for what it is is just as difficult as imagining what the future holds.