Essay: So You are Turning 30...Now What?

Jennifer at 30

What seems like a millennium ago, I turned 30.

That day in October 1980, I looked in the mirror and found a hint of crow’s feet. Sure, I still got carded at the bar, and my 10-year-old son was often mistaken as my little brother.

But I knew the awful truth: I was catapulting toward middle age, grim responsibilities, and sensible shoes.

I distinctly felt as though my youthful life was over.

However, I soon discovered that the number 30 was just a numeral designed by our culture to corral us into a specific target group for Madison Avenue, that I had a choice to approach so-called middle age in any way I wanted.

In truth, after giving birth at the tender age of 19, I had already long crossed the adolescent line. Raising children forces one to grow up relatively fast, or at least it should if one is to raise them properly.

Fast forward to present day: 30 looks darn good to me!

Generally, at 30, you don’t feel all that much different than you did at 21. If you concentrate hard, you may feel some minor aches and pains, but you have to be a total hypochondriac to notice them.

At 30, you might find a gray hair or two, but nothing noticeable (I remember I had one thick gray corkscrew hair, which nearly drove me bonkers; I plucked it out, and the corkscrew part of it never returned. Unfortunately, the gray did).

At 30, you begin to notice that you’re not quite up to date on the most recent pop and rock songs. Jonas brothers? Who dat?

I’m still waxing nostalgic about The Beatles.

At 30, drinking warm beer from a tube attached to a rally hat seems a bit gross, though you may not be quite ready to lose the bong just yet.

At 30, you begin to shop for shoes that don’t pinch your toes or cramp your in-step – function over form, although you’re not quite ready to abandon form altogether. No black Oxfords for you!

At 30, pink hair and tongue studs begin to feel slightly inconvenient on the job search, especially if you’re trying to find a decent job, which will pay enough to support a family.

At 30, you are likely to have at least one child; if you started procreating early (like I did), your child may be just two or three years from (gasp!) the terrible teens. Talk about an age group that will quickly make you feel irrelevant and creaky!

Looking back, I realize that 30 was the perfect age:

– Young enough to still have fun and enjoy unfettered physical activity.

– Young enough to own a relatively empty medicine cabinet – other than some over-the-counter pain medicine, cough drops, a thermometer, and one bottle of vitamins (largely ignored and often expired).

– Daring enough to take career chances that may or may not pan out.

– Old enough to start thinking about investing in a retirement account.

– Old enough to have acquired some wisdom along the way.

If you have just turned 30 or are way past 30, enjoy life, and feel superior to all those 20-year-olds who still think that spending a Friday or Saturday night puking into the porcelain throne is great fun.

I don’t miss those days, although my time at the porcelain throne often extended well into my 30’s.

I eventually figured out that weekly benders or other extreme youthful activities are not something that appeals to me anymore – although the rocking chair does not yet call.




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