Guess what, I just turned 30. I really don’t think much about the significance of birthdays, but with the number of times I heard things like “wow, you freaked out about turning 30?” or “Yeah, that’s a big moment. I can remember my 30th like it was yesterday,” I really had no choice but to ruminate a bit on the transitional moments of life.
I definitely don’t think being 30 makes me feel like I have to be a grown-up. I think I already turned that corner when I finished grad school and started doing real work. In the last year or so, I’ve definitely made major changes in how I address and deal with my financial life, so much so that I would no longer consider myself fundamentally bad with money. In the last month or so, I’ve dealt with more stress at work than I’ve ever had, even during the dissertation-writing period, so I’ve learned how to just ignore my feelings and keep working. So I think many of the big “growing up” things have definitely happened lately, but by no means the minute I turned 30.
After much consideration, I think that turning 30 for me symbolized a celebration of having started a new phase of my life. Obviously this is perspective is hugely influenced by our upcoming move-in to our new house. All the skills I’ve belatedly acquired in the last year or so – working hard, managing money, staying positive even on a negative day – have a completely new significance as a homeowner, ‘husband’ (one day those quotes are going away. I can’t help how I was raised, but I can help how I end up) and pet dad.
If I asked most of my friends if they think me at 30 is any different than me at 25, I bet most of them would say not really. They’d probably say I drink less and somehow, inconceivably I have less hair, but fundamentally I’m the same person only better. That’s a total cliche these days with Stacy and Clinton, Carson Kressley, et al making women into ‘themselves, only better’ on basic cable every day. But it’s true really. I am better now as a total package than I was at 25. There’s no room for debate on that topic. Hopefully the upward trend continues for quite a while because I don’t want to go backwards and end up at the 19 year old version of me again. Worse yet, the 17 year old version of me. Am I the only person in the world who when thinking about their former selves feels predominantly embarrassment? Not regret, but definitely embarrassment.
I included a picture here of the 17 year old version of me. This is me and my brother after getting first place in a Knowledge Bowl “meet.” Yes, they make competitive trivia for nerdy high school kids to compete in. You can even letter in it (for your letter jacket, duh). And we both did. This is also one of very few photos where the resemblance between me and Mike is pretty recognizable. I was such a dork in high school, and I think that’s plain to see. What you can’t see through those giant Angela Bower-style glasses is a kid who had no clue what he really thought about anything, and just about the smallest conception of what his life could be. The guy in that photo could have never connected the dots to the guy sitting behind this keyboard now. NO WAY. Fortunately I can still connect the dots back to him. If I ever can’t connect it back to him, I might just lose track of my childhood altogether. I think it’s important to maintain some kind of internal timeline of your own life. I don’t have a lot of linear or emotional memory much earlier than when that photo was taken, and I kind of wish I did.
Anyway, I think I’m truly happy with the current version of me. That’s something the guy in that photo couldn’t have said honestly. Of course I know I’m not perfect, and I still have bugs to work out. I don’t really have a significant savings. I don’t answer the phone enough. I procrastinate invariably. My mind wanders in the middle of conversations sometimes. My wardrobe kind of sucks. And many other personal things that I would never write about on the internet. Hopefully 30 more years is enough time to figure all of those things out. Then when I’m 60 I can write a blog about finally reaching self-actualization.
By the way, the celebrities that share my birthday are pretty lame. The most famous ones are (in no particular order of famousness): Sandra Bernhardt, Paul Giamatti and Robert Englund (aka Freddy Krueger). My friend Margie has truly awesome celeb birthday mates including Camilla Parker-Bowles, Phyllis Diller AND David Hasselhoff. I gotta tell ya, I’m jealous.