Ages 30 And Up: 5 Things I’m Still Not Ready For After The Big 3-0
(Image via Flickr)
So I just turned thirty and my mom sent me, among other girlish gifts, a small bottle of bubbles—to subtly remind me, I’m sure, just how far I am from being young enough to enjoy them. They’re not the kind you’d use in some lavish and womanly bath, but the kind you’d blow and get a kick out of and entertain yourself with for an entire afternoon if you are a kid. A kid far younger than thirty.
I wanted to add a little zero on the side of the bottle. “Ages 3+” it read. Well, I definitely surpassed that cutoff… twenty-seven years ago. I suppose then, it’s twenty-seven times more OK for me to blow these bubbles now—that I should really be some kind of bubble-blowing expert. I’m not bad, but after all these years, I should really have the physics down pat. I should know just the right amount of bubble solution to dabble on the yellow, plastic wand. That the diameter of my lips should measure no more than, say, eight millimeters—tops. That if I slip and let my teeth and/or tongue get in the way and start to whistle, then my bubble is truly screwed.
Of course, I’ve learned a thing or two in these twenty-seven years since clearing the bubble-blowing benchmark—though I thought it’d be totally unfair to tell you about them.Hey you, ages three through thirty: Learn your own damn lessons. You’re welcome.
Instead, I’m going to tell you what I haven’t learned, what’s yet to come. Because, while I’ve done and discovered a whole lot in these thirty years, and pretty much thought I would be dead by now, there are some things I haven’t yet been ready to do. Because there are limits for these things—like blowing bubbles—you have to reach a certain age before you’re really ready for it.
1. Being comfortable in my skin.
Being comfortable in your skin is a myth that gets perpetuated by everyone in junior high school on up through your 20s. It’s the thing to pretend to do. From TV, movies, and pop stars, we all learn the look of “cool,” of being unphased, confident, and having a personality that is completely unshakable.
The fact is that life and yourself in it is never at a constant: your values and who you are will change so much that you’ll hardly remember who you were or why you thought or acted that way. If anything, you learn to be comfortable with shedding that skin. With change and growth and being imperfect. You become more self-loving, vulnerable in a good way, and human.
I know 50-year-olds who aren’t 100% comfortable in their skin. Why? Because they’re changing and growing still; life is shifting, and they have to adjust. Having it any other way would make life pretty boring.
2. Getting married and/or having kids.
This is a big one for those caught between Baby Boomer parents who keep reminding you that they were married, had three kids, and one more on the way at your age, and your fellow peers who have every relationship, marriage, parenting, and child-rearing option at their disposal. I have friends my age who have been married, divorced, one even twice already. Friends who got pregnant before getting married. Some who separated, while one parent raised the kid alone for a bit, then got back together. Some who want more than anything else to get married and have kids, but can’t seem to find the right partner. Some who just want kids. Some who want to adopt because there are already so many children in the world who need help. Then there are the “classically” married: in their 20s, have a kid or two. And me: a little anti-marriage, though warming up to it and even the idea of being a mom.
Just as our generation has been gifted a “prolonged adolescence,” where we can explore what we want and who we are (see Girls, New Girl, any show about mid- to late 20-year-olds), we’ve also been gifted “delayed parenthood” or “deferred monogamy.” That we’re living longer and longer these days, and have so many choices in partners, career, where to live, etc., we simply don’t have to choose and settle down right away.
And since the Earth is pretty, damn well-populated, there’s no species-preserving obligation for us to have kids at all. Still, the big 3-0 does start to hone it in for you biologically; I know it’s helping me decide what I really want in making my own family. But do I have to decide just yet? Naw, I think I’ll wait ‘til I’m like 35.
3. Making peace with my past.
Maybe I’m different. I like to talk about the past. I like to own it. I try my best not to forget it. I don’t care much for the expression “the past is in the tomb, the future is in the womb…” blah blah. The past isn’t dead. We feel the effects of personal, political, and historical blowback every day. So why would you want to erase your precious experiences, good and bad? Of course I live in the present—but I also think about the past. Why would I want to forget the details of this wild adventure I’ve been on? How can you truly know yourself and where your future is heading without knowing where you’ve been?
As Socrates said best, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Of course, don’t mire yourself in the past in a negative way, but definitely don’t forget it. The past is simply far too rich with knowledge, understanding, and clues to who you really are. Sometimes it takes awhile to catch up with it, especially when your hyper-active 20s seemed to go by in an instant. Who was that person? Who I am now? Where am I going? These questions never cease: so, don’t make peace with your past. Not fully. Hold onto your prolific history and you’ll hold onto you.
4. Saving for my future/retirement.
I’ll do this after I travel to Europe, India, South America, and a few more places I’d like to go first. Ha, just kidding. Kind of. While I do have a few zeros in the bank that aren’t merely to the right of the decimal, I am in no way shape or form currently saving for my retirement. Is that bad? According to nearly every financial article I see on the subject: Yes. Do I still have time? Certainly.
Like many in our generation who struggled to find gainful employment during the Great Recession, I will at least have learned how to get by on a little, and save some in the process. I’ve learned to live in accordance with my income, and have meanwhile still traveled and pursued things I love—solid skills I’m shoring up for a quality life, as well as that of a future retiree.
5. Not being selfish.
In our teens and 20s, we are pretty selfish. It’s not entirely our fault. We’re going to school. We’re working jobs. We’re still figuring out how to stand on our own and support ourselves. This is not every teen and twenty-year-old. Some are incredible giving. They volunteer, they launch ambitious community projects. They go build houses in rural Africa.
This, admittedly, has not been me. I’ve given back some here and there; I’ve volunteered to help those less fortunate than me, but it hasn’t been an ongoing and consistent effort in my life. Exercise and eating healthy, I’ve gotten down, and I want giving back to be like those practices—as vital to me as nutrients. It’s not hard. Everyone can find their place to volunteer and give back, even for just an hour or two a week.
Maybe I’ll go volunteer with kids… it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for awhile. I could join an afterschool program that helps young students with their reading skills. Maybe I could even bring some bubbles on the first day as a gift. And a share a life lesson or two.
It’s something I think I just might be ready for.
Melissa Ann Sweat is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician behind the indie, dream-pop project, Lady Lazarus. Her writing has appeared in Dangerous Minds, Impose Magazine, End of Being, and more. Find her at www.lettersfromtheempire.com and www.ladylazarus.net.