Sunday, June 17, 2012

30 and proud!

Today marks a very momentous occasion: It is the 30th anniversary of my birth.

Yep, that's right—I am 30.

When my husband turned 30 a year and a half ago, I didn't think crossing this threshold was as big a deal as some make it out to be. I said to him, "You're only as old as you feel, and you, sir, are so not 30." I genuinely believed it. But then, a few months ago, I started to change my mind about getting older.

It's not that I felt old, exactly; it's that I didn't know how I was supposed to feel. Facing this milestone birthday actually made me quite confused. I thought a lot about it and realized that each decade in a person's life is pretty defined. The first is your childhood, followed by the adolescent and teen years. Then your 20's are where you become an adult and get the crazy stuff out of your system before you settle down and start to build your life. The older adult years are fairly straightforward as well: In your 40's your kids are starting to leave the nest (typically) and you are established in your career (hopefully), in your 50's you start to see your children marry and have their own families, and in your 60's you retire and take full advantage of the grandparent lifestyle, if you're so blessed. It's all pretty neat and tidy.

So what, then, defines the decade of your 30's?

The answer varies from person to person. Some are still single and hoping to settle down, some are headed back to school or finishing higher degrees, some are just starting families, some have older children and teenagers, some are respected in their careers, and some are still hopping from job to job. It's still a decade of personal evolution, but this is the point where your path and the paths of your peers can diverge quite drastically, if they haven't already. In some ways, it can be more tumultuous and full of change than your 20's, the decade that's supposed to be notorious for it.

And then there's the perception aspect. What does a 30-year-old look like? With such a prevalent youth culture in America, you can look and act as young as you want, it seems, without being called out on it. And yet, I sometimes wonder if I look more like the babysitter than my child's mother with my T-shirts and Converse sneakers and ponytails. While I certainly don't mind looking young (because I feel it), I don't ever want my authority to be in question—especially as a parent. As a female I feel you almost always have to prove your authority and worth, especially when you're under 35 (and short, have you noticed that?).

Then there's the other side of the looking young coin—the side where you look like you're trying too hard to be too young, so you just end up looking ridiculous and nobody takes you seriously. To me, this is far worse than getting old itself.

This is what brings me back to the no-man's-land decade of my 30's. I've thought a lot about this, as you can tell (probably more than is good for me). And then last night I was treated to a little birthday party and it all fell into place.

My sweet husband has been working on this for some time, I believe. He began the evening by blindfolding me and taking the long way to one of my favorite restaurants, where a few close family and friends were waiting. We then went to my parents' house for a pool party, where my sister had done an awesome job decorating the place in full princess style—yep, with confetti and princess plates and everything, because I will never be too old to be silly and enjoy the fun, girly things in life. My sister-in-law even made a delicious cake (German chocolate, my favorite), complete with candles and princesses on top.

It was a lot of fun, and I definitely felt loved and appreciated. And that's when I realized, I am more than OK with turning 30. I am happy to be here.

I've had a lot of wonderful experiences in my life. I have accomplished many goals in a way I can be proud of, and I've made it to all the major milestones I had hoped to at this age: I graduated from college, I got started on a great career, I got married, I am a homeowner, and I became a mom. I have also had a lot of devastating experiences in my life and been through a lot of strife. But you know what, I am just as proud of how I made it through those times as I am of my other accomplishments—actually, even more so. I like myself, and I love who I am working hard to become. And although the next decade may not be as exciting as the last, I have no doubt that it will be infinitely more rewarding as I continue to focus on what matters most: my family and my spirit.

As for the rest of the confusion, that's all gone too. I may not have a good idea of what my 30's are supposed to look like compared with the rest of the world, but that's OK. Instead of looking for comparisons, I am going to just be me. I vow to be 30 and proud, maybe even becoming some kind of role model (if I may be so ambitious) to others trying to figure this whole thing out.

So here's to getting older, wiser, happier, and more confident. Here's to being both silly and respected, mature and beautiful, loving and playful. Here's to 30 and whatever else may come. I am ready!

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