In exactly six months from today I’m turning 30.
Back when I was in my late teens and early 20s, it would irritate me how so many adults would talk about turning 30 like it was a death knell. It was the end of youth, where the metabolism would drop and weight would creep on, where existential angst would take the place of optimism and joy. There would never ever be any fun to be had ever again.
And of course for all the ladies – if you weren’t married and on your second or third kid, you might as well call it a loss, surround yourself with cats and boxed wine, and hope to die young, because it’s not like you’re going to be happy without a man and kids running around.
For the record, no one has said or implied that to me. Mostly because I’m an animal lover and “cats and wine” sounds pretty good. Well, mainly the cats part – I would turn my apartment into a zoo if I could get away with it.
Physically I feel great. Mentally and psychologically though, I’ve been feeling the shift.
It started slowly after my 29th birthday, and over the past three months has accelerated. The first I’ve noticed is that I’m becoming hyper-aware of how things look on me and how I present myself. I’ve found myself thinking in total seriousness, I’m too old to be doing that.
For example, clothes. I see a lot of outfits that look fashionable, but if the shorts stop at mid-thigh or the midriff is a little short, the first thought that comes to mind is I’d look trashy if I tried to wear that.
Mind you, I don’t have any insecurities about my body, but over my 20s my composition has evolved from skinny girl in college to runner to desk job sedentary and returning back to runner. A lot of the popular summer fashions would look great on women in their late teens or early 20s, but on the old girl (I’m being facetious here, by the way), it would look desperate, like I’m trying to cling to my youth at the expense of my dignity, or in denial about what actually flatters my body.
This also ties into social media usage. I wrote back in April about deciding to no longer use Instagram. I don’t want this post to turn into a giant repeat, so I’ll just say that almost two months later, I’m still glad I made that decision. Social media tends to skew towards young people, which is fine, but I’m not that late-teens-to-early-20s demographic.
Frankly, I wish more people would consider dumping social media once they’re in their late 20s. Teenagers dancing on TikTok or sharing heavily filtered selfies on Instagram is a very young thing by its nature, but once someone is pushing 30, living on social media screams that something is “off.” It looks as though the only thing our hypothetical guy or gal has going on is taking pictures and trying to convince everyone life is so wonderful all of the time when the truth may very well be something else.
However, with the changes to my psyche and hyper-awareness of myself, there’s also peace and acceptance I’ve never felt before. Since I know what doesn’t flatter me anymore – styling, behaviors, etc. – I simply can choose not to partake in any of it. Instead, I’m embracing the changes that come with getting older.
I’m enjoying dressing more conservatively but elegantly and feeling like a grown up, and having strangers and folks I interact with look at me as such. There’s no more of that “you’re such a baaaabbyy” everyone in their early 20s has to put up with when older adults (typically coworkers) first meet them. Granted, I never felt disrespected before, but comparing almost 30 to my early 20s, I’m definitely taken more seriously and I absolutely love it.
I’ve streamlined grooming and soul-care so I do what actually benefits me – running, resistance training, writing on here – and practice ignorance being bliss to what other people are up to. I’m finally accepting that there’s no shame in the physical parts of getting older, such as my digestive system shifting to no longer tolerate super sugary foods or a few soft lines in my forehead. My body isn’t “falling apart” and my face isn’t aging like sour milk. It’s just getting older and it’s on me to take care of myself and roll with nature, not get offended by it.
Most importantly, I know who and whose I am, and all the parts of me that used to bring about anxiety have been forgiven and unpacked.
In the United States, the obsession with youth is extraordinary. I can’t tell you how many folks I know who talk about their 20s as the one and only decade they were happy, the best of the best of the best, and then boom – sheer misery as they wait for death.
Frankly, now that I’m wrapping up my 20s, I think the people who insist the 20s are the best decade ever are either outright lying to others, deluding themselves or both.
There’s a lot that was thrown at me, and many other young adults when they’re trying to figure out who they are and what they should really be doing with their lives. I started out reading women’s magazines thinking I had to be this perfect woman – impressive career, great body, always fashionable, a girl’s girl who somehow managed to perfectly seduce men – which then lead to comparing myself to people around me who were in better mental places and happier.
Then I discovered social media. This ramped up the external pressure and feelings of inadequacy time ten. I anxiously awaited when I got to finally have what other people had, and thought that moving out of my parent’s house to the big city would finally give me that breakthrough.
Instead, I lost the dream job that really turned out to be the stuff high school nightmares are made of. But in the meantime I started attending church; working on the hang-ups that stemmed from my dad leaving and my parent’s acrimonious divorce and custody battle; got another job that showed me a career isn’t my end-all, be-all; started running and eventually got into a relationship that is forcing me to grow and evolve.
My 20s were a gigantic shift and for extended periods of time, they were not happy at all. I wanted to be someone I’m not – outgoing, super-confident and with no damns to give – and some disappointments along the way told me I’m none of those things. It took me a while to get re-introduced to myself and discover who I am at my core – no outside influences, no parental or social expectations, just me as God meant for me to be.
Which brings me to now. I don’t have all the answers to that “Who am I?” question, but compared to where I was almost a decade ago, I know who I am far better. I enjoy helping others in my job; I love to be active because it makes me feel alive; I write because it keeps me from going crazy (for the most part) and because writing is my way of feeling connected with the world. I love animals, I love nesting, and I know that very little actually matters or needs to be worried about. I don’t need to control everything, because that’s God’s job. My job is to listen to Him and do what He asks of me.
So my reader-friends, here’s where life has brought me so far. I hope you all enjoyed reading the old bird’s thoughts (still being facetious) and have a wonderful day ahead.
Yours in writing and running,