Fourth Decade Serenade

So, I’m turning 30 tomorrow. Never done that before.

Thirty is a big one. It feels bigger than 20 or 21, even if there’s some “I finally get to be an adult!” associated with both of them; it feels bigger than 25, my official quarter-life crisis, or 27, which felt scarily close to 30 at the time. At each of these birthdays, I think I expected to have more of my life figured out by then. I’m pretty sure that’s never going to change, and I’m equal parts frustrated and excited by that.

Three and a half years ago, I wrote up a list of things I’d like to accomplish by my 50th birthday. Some of them have happened: photography classes, swing dancing, trying more music; whale-watching, putting up less with bullies, the vague-but-aspirational “find a career.” Others are still to come: Dating is still an undiscovered country with me, and I absolutely need to get better at planning so I can take those extravagant, far-flung trips I want. But it’s still a good list. I’m pleased with that list, and with the person younger me wanted to become.

I’m also pleased with the person I am now. I don’t have it all figured out, of course, but I’m less anxious about certain things than I used to be, and I’m working on scrubbing myself of the unhealthier strains of perfectionism that hobble me. I can’t find the exact quote at the moment, but there are many variations on the theme that I want to take with me into the future: The conditions will never be perfect, so you might as well do it now.

This knowledge feels pretty hard-won. I often feel like I lost or gave up my twenties: At 23, my mom got her brain cancer diagnosis, and at 28, she died. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to do a lot of the stupid and reckless shit you’re “supposed” to do with this decade, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve missed my window for exploring or experimenting with the world. This is not true, of course, but — I’m not going to miss my twenties. I grieve sometimes for what they could have been, but they weren’t, so there’s not much else to say.

Esther & David 4
Me and Dad at my Medill graduation ceremony, an A+ day and weekend in general.

So, gosh, who am I on my last day of my twenties? I love my city; Chicago is so beautiful right now, milder than July usually is. Sometimes it staggers me that I’ve lived here since 2002 and still don’t feel like I’ve found everything I love about it. I really like my work, and the people I work with. I am stupid invested in Captain America in ways I absolutely never saw coming, and thanks to a man who got in trouble with convention staff for giving fans too many hugs, my primary qualifier for a boyfriend is that he must be a goober. I feel energized about art and storytelling and fiction; I want to keep trying more. I am someone who gets annoyed when she can’t go running or biking. I am addicted to Whole Foods’ pita chips and frozen palak paneer. I am throwing a birthday party this weekend primarily centered around using art supplies. I want to spend tomorrow pampering myself — maybe some dresses, maybe some shoes, maybe even a manicure! — before hanging out with my friends and bringing them to my favorite comedy in the world.

I’m doing okay, all told. Thirty isn’t looking like I expected, but heck, it’s looking super good.

July 4th on the beach at Union Pier, MI. A really good way to watch fireworks.
July 4th on the beach at Union Pier, MI. A really good way to watch fireworks.
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