Que Sera, Sera
The morning of September 27th, exactly one month before my birthday, on a work trip to Florida my phone ding-a-linged: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” read the text message, followed by cute cake and candle icons.
I think the friend who sent it to me felt bad for being a month early, but the thoughtful gesture, and the realization that my birthday was coming soon, was a pleasant diversion in the humidity and dreck of Orlando, America’s armpit.
A year ago, angsty anxiety about turning 30 had overtaken my life: everything – good, bad, and in-between – got entangled with how old I was, what I had and hadn’t accomplished, and what I felt needed to happen before becoming 30. The odd thing was that I never had subscribed to an immoveable timetable before. Being good at school and at work was my thing, and I figured the rest – the fairy-tale true love and subsequent cute family, the acclaimed novel and/or manifesto, the travels through Europe, the adoring but unobtrusive fame for something awesome I had said/done/created – would happen in time.
I’ve always been obsessed with the age at which people do things. Inexplicably, I feel it’s a measuring stick specifically for me. I experienced a period of mourning when, at 10 or 11, I became aware that I was too old to begin Olympic gymnast training.
Then came the writers. Carson McCullers wrote The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter at 23? I’m behind! I fretted in my early 20s. That nebulous timetable was never so clear as when I felt myself blowing past its arbitrary milestones without having achieved anything. So, 29 was not a great year.
Thirty was much better.
After I turned 30, I began to loosen the stranglehold that unfulfilled dreams had on my life. Over this year, slowly, quietly, things began falling away, some intentionally razored out, others fading from existence – notions of what my life needed to be fulfilling, people whom I liked but who made me sad more than happy, feelings of frustration and regret and purposelessness.
(Ah, feelings! This past year, people have given me lots of advice, much of it solicited and most of it well-intentioned, on how I feel about various things. But I let go of that, too. No amount of ignoring or wrangling or indulging feelings gets them to do what I want. At 30, I accepted that sometimes you just have to feel what you feel until you don’t feel it anymore.)
Texting with my friend, I realized with only some surprise that I am happy about about my birthday this year. I am still very much obsessed with everyone’s age, though. Drew Barrymore is having her first baby (twins!) at 37. I’m not even sure anymore that I want kids, but … Whew! I’ve got time.