May is here again. That means I just completed another birthday and trip around the sun. I’m unsure where the time keeps going, but last week I suddenly stopped and thought, I’m about to turn 31…why does that sounds so much older than 30? Then it dawned on me, I am now officially in my thirties.
On the brink of my twenty-eighth birthday, I published a post about entering my late twenties. I remember debating ages often with my friends then. Some believed “late twenties” started at 26, others at 28 – all just proving the underlying reality that most twenty-somethings ride to 30 with a foot on the brake rather than flooring the gas pedal.
For our generation, 30 seems to be the age most frequently associated with “real” adulthood. We have less pressure to settle down right after college than generations past, so many of us spend our twenties exploring individual priorities – jobs, relationships, travel – expecting that by 30 we will have it all figured out. By then, we think, we’ll surely have found our partners, be settled in our careers and have savings accounts full of more than a few pennies.
I mean, we have a whole decade of our twenties to figure it out, right?
Thirty, for me, looked a bit different. This was the year that I finally started my career. I’m still single, still have roommates, still am nowhere close to paying off my education debt. In fact, I spent many nights of year 30 preferring to sit alone with Netflix, chocolate and a few glasses of wine pondering the questions, who am I? And, how did I get here?
Of course, I know the answer to this. The exploration of my twenties was less focused on work and saving money and more on seeing the world and wondering how I’m meant to fit in it. I’ve always known myself well, so I wanted to spend my twenties getting to know cultures outside the one I grew up in. To do this, I threw myself into every opportunity I could find from weekend trips to the Rocky Mountains to grabbing happy hour drinks with friends to starting relationships that didn’t always make sense, but somehow felt right.
I’ve grown a lot. I’ve experienced much. And, what I’ve realized most is that none of what we learn in life ever just happens. There are no magical ages or stages where any one thing is supposed to be accomplished. Instead, clarity tends to come in bits and pieces until suddenly we look back and realize we’re much closer to our goals than we ever knew.
There are no normal paths in life. Instead, we’re all creating our own paths to our own destinations. I’m a bit behind the age where I once expected to be with certain “adulty” milestones related to a career, marriage and a savings account that I don’t laugh at daily. But, I now know a lot about the world and how I fit in it.
I received a birthday text from one of my best friends on Sunday:
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you have a wonderful day being fierce and fabulous!”
To all my other thirty-somethings: let’s follow that advice every day and remember that for each adult-y accomplishment we still struggle with, there’s another we’re soaring on just the same. Regardless of where we stand, let’s continue navigating our own paths feeing proud, fierce and fabulous.