“No matter what age you die,” I read in the book whose title now escapes me, “You’re 30 in heaven. Thirty is the perfect age.”
I don’t remember exactly when I first happened upon this observation, but I know it was sometime during that seemingly eternal “puberty stage” when everything in my life seemed… inconvenient. (Homework, chores, mile-long runs for PE credit? Ugh.)
The perfect age. I dwelled on that prediction during my tween years, imagining what it would (could? should?) possibly mean to be 30 years old. I envisioned the adult version of me commanding a class of students as the teacher I was most definitely going to become. (Didn’t.) I pictured that older me reveling in the kind of freedom I was perpetually chasing after as a kid. And I hoped that by 30, my parents would mostly be barred from telling me what time to go to bed.
In a nutshell: Adulthood couldn’t come soon enough.
I wasn’t privy then, of course, to the inevitable fact that the winding path from young lady to young woman would alternate between slow-as-molasses and lightning quick. That the tempo of time would steadily accelerate after college, whisking me from teenager to 20-something without granting me so much as a polite wave goodbye. That 30 would eventually approach my front door like a smug guest unannounced – pretentious and uninvited. That the truth would be: The closer I got to “the perfect age,” the more apprehensive I’d be to arrive there.
I also wasn’t aware that my pre-30s would look a bit like the ominous backside of a pill bottle. Caution! Aging should be swallowed whole. Take with lots of water, as directed. Side effects include: Work. Dating. Debt. Forehead Wrinkles. May cause drowsiness. ALCOHOL MAY IMPAIR JUDGMENT.
In a nutshell: Adulthood came too fast.
The child in me could never have predicted that there’d be significant threshold birthdays ― 18, 21 and 25 specifically ― when I’d blow out the candles wearing a wince where my smile should have been. (“We’re ollllllllllldddddd,” I’d lament alongside my friends. And honestly, we believed we were.) With every passing year, the past and present looked like the best times of my life. The future? Not so much. Perfect 30 was the perfect oxymoron.
Over time, I learned to forget to look forward to the next stage of life. I loved every fleeting moment of the growing up, but wasn’t so keen on the growing older.
Despite my trepidations, of course, the days, weeks, and years would pass along anyway, whether I liked it or not. So on that looming day in June, when I awoke resignedly ready to face the intersection of 29 and 30 head-on, I couldn’t help but wonder: In moving forward, why did it feel so much like I was leaving something behind? Why, when I turned the corner toward an unfamiliar stage or age, did something inside me invariably whisper:
Make. Time. Stop.
Time was becoming an enemy – a relentless bogeyman chasing me into someplace unfamiliar, strange, and daunting.
But suddenly, juxtaposed with the piece of my heart that resisted crossing this threshold, was a part of my soul that gently reminded me: You’ve been here before. This is a growing pain.
Yes. Of course. Growth is the precious gift we get in exchange for age.
I sat on that thought on the night of my birthday as a pretty, pink cake was placed in front of me. Surrounded by the kind of friends I think my younger self would have been quite proud of, I mentally count the candles, close my eyes, and then actually smile, from ear to ear. Make a wish...
It occurs to me that wishes are looking to the future, not with dread or apprehension, but with hope and anticipation. We always look to a future that’s better, because we see ourselves growing. Wishes are dreams with a purpose, and I have a few for this year:
Let’s wish for our 30s the same audacious spirits we discovered in our 20s ― but while employing stronger hearts and clearer minds. Let’s wish that the priceless lessons three decades have taught us will be bottled up and stowed away for convenient retrieval when our own children face similar hurdles. Let’s wish for the kind of youthful naiveté that once led us to believe we could become anything and conquer everything.
Let’s wish for balanced relationships filled with authenticity instead of self-absorption ― and for the insight that discerns the difference. Let’s wish, in our 30s, to strengthen that muscle called courage ― the one that helps us move forward even when we don’t want to. Even when we are afraid.
Let’s wish for understanding as we continue to grow ― careful to remember that chiding future generations for being selfish, lazy or altogether unequipped didn’t feel good when it happened to us.
Let’s wish for the resolve to keep going and growing, even when everything inside us wants to pause... or go back.
Because here’s the thing: If life came with a rewind button, I’m quite sure most of us would overuse it (probably to the point of malfunction). It would be nice to go back and have a few redoes, sure. But what about all we have yet to meet, understand, learn, and love? If we spend all our time mourning what has passed, we miss what’s happening right now, when it matters most.
I’d like to think that at the very moment the nameless author penned that sentence about the perfect age, he was turning 30 years old. I’d like to think he somehow felt the same way I do right now ― that “perfect” feels less like flawlessness, and more like perspective. That he chuckled to himself a little, thinking about how, perhaps, a 13-year-old girl might be taking his words too literally.
Yes, 30 is the perfect age.
‘Till next year.