And really, fine lines and gray hairs are not an imminent threat to me. I have friends who’ve already celebrated their 31st birthdays, and they didn’t spontaneously combust into a decrepit heap of loose skin and varicose veins so I knew I was safe. Plus, I’ve been blessed with the anti-aging Asian gene. I’ll look 21 until I turn 60, at which point I will instantly look like I’m 109.
|Image via Buzzfeed|
My dear friend G had a theory about our 20s that I think sums up why it is so scary for a woman to enter her 30s. Your 20s are the decade when things happen. From the time you turn 20 to the time you turn 29, you theoretically would have graduated from college, entered the workforce, fallen in love, gotten married, bought a house, and had children. It’s not a far-fetched notion, but it is daunting when you consider how many landmark events happen in your 20s, and how almost all of them are foundations for a “successful” life. How exciting is this time in your life, when so many life-changing things are happening. And yet, by some twisted train of stereotypical thought, it leads us to believe that life – real, meaningful life – won’t start until these things are accomplished. What happens if you haven’t had all these experiences by the time you turn 30? Then you’re a failure? And what happens if you have already checked the box on all these to-do’s? What, then, is there left to look forward to in your 30s? I, like the majority of Millennials, don’t subscribe to this strict chronology and will probably argue until we’re blue in the face that a formula for success doesn’t even exist, but that doesn’t mean the pressure goes away.
The crux of my aversion to entering my 30s is that I don’t feel like a real grown-up yet, even despite having achieved most of the things listed above. I don’t cook (thank you Seamless.com), I don’t really clean (thank you Homejoy), and sometimes we run out of dog food and feed Chunk leftover pizza. Real grown-ups have pantries stocked with raw, organic ingredients. Their multi-room, multi-level homes are spotless and they know how to get stubborn stains out of every possible fabric. And they certainly would scold me for giving my dog cheesy, grain-filled table scraps. (Don’t worry, we paid the price in dog poop for that one.)
When I try to explain to anyone why 30 is so bad (“I’m not an adult, I’m not ready yet!”), they (especially the over 50 set) all tell me, “Well I don’t feel like an adult either! I look 62 on the outside, but I feel like 26 on the inside!” So then I’ll never feel like an adult? That sort of makes this whole aging thing somewhat anti-climactic, no?
But, lo and behold, in the span of writing this blog post, I think I’ve figured it out. When I think back to my 20s, I was always chasing something and I realize now it was this notion of who I am supposed to be when I grow up. It was like I had to prove myself to myself. Job security, money, single digit clothing sizes, credibility at work, more money, career paths, an apartment, a house, designer clothes, designer accessories, status symbols, etc. There was always another rung on the ladder to jump for, another standard by which success was measured.
And yet now, on the day of my 30th birthday, I can decidedly say that I have everything and everyone I need to be happy. Whether it’s because I have “arrived” as they say (doubtful), or because self-validation has finally won out over external validation, or because I am just too tired and too ::shudder:: old to keep up with the game, I don’t know. But I don’t want to, nor do I have to, play it anymore. And I’m totally fine with that.
It’s not that I’ve lost my ambition. I still have career goals and life things to accomplish and I will always enjoy the finer aspects of life. But the need to survive and win the rat race that pretty much defined and fueled my 20s is gone. I am content – with myself, with what I have (and what I don’t have) and who I share it with. And this confident, quiet peace didn’t come to me overnight – it’s only now that I even recognize that I’ve had it for some time. So I probably shouldn’t spend my 30s waiting around for the Grown Up Fairy to finally get here because, as it turns out, there is no magic adult pixie dust that will instantly transform me into Rachael Ray or the editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping magazine. There’s just another decade of experiences to live, happiness to pursue, and stories to tell. And perhaps, somewhere along the way, most likely without me even knowing it, a little bit of growing up too.