There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about age. Some people in my life are celebrating it gracefully, some really don’t care at all, and others are fighting it tooth-and-nail.
I fall into the oblivious category. I’ve never given much thought to how old I am and once 21 came and left, birthdays haven’t been that celebratory, except for an excuse to gather all of my friends together and pretend calories don’t count for an entire day…or week, sometimes.
Because I’ve never been one to make excuses for myself because I’m young or believe I’m too inexperienced to accomplish what I want to accomplish or go where I want to go, I’ve never made my age part of my opinion of myself. At fifteen, I had my first internship, I graduated college a few months after reaching the legal drinking age, and I interned in New York, without knowing anyone for three months at 19. I’ve dated guys my age, ten years older than me, and a year young than me. My friends range from freshmen in college to early 40s and I get along with them all the same. For all intents and purposes in my life, my age has been just a number based on the day I was born, not by my maturity level or experience.
But with a dear friend turning 30 today, I’ve found myself thinking more about what age has to do with it.
As a child, being in my twenties seemed like it would be so glamorous – I’d be a real adult. I’d have my own place. I wouldn’t have to listen to my parents. I would be able to walk around in pretty dresses and high heels and I’d actually have that curvy figure I always wanted. I would make real money and could buy whatever I wanted. I would work at some fancy magazine or The New York Times and people would love my articles and I’d be admired and filthy rich. I would go out on dates and I’d meet the man who made my dreams come true and we’d live happily ever after, in a beautiful home following an exquisite wedding, and we’d be happy for all the rest of our days.
Needless to say – my twenties haven’t been quite as rose-colored as I imagined them being and they are far from fabulously sensational, most of the time.
I don’t have my own place, but I rent with three other lovely girls and through mid-May, I’m sharing Mr. P’s place. I don’t have to listen to my ma and pop, but I take their advice closer to heart than anyone else’s. I do walk around in flowy and tight dresses with heels, but I also know the pain of frolicking on my tippy-toes and the reality that most of the clothes I want the most, I simply can’t afford. I do have the figure I hoped I would, but like most women, it is never quite up to the intolerable standards of beauty I’ve set for myself. I don’t quite work at a prestigious magazine and I’m far from qualified (or talented enough) to work for The Times, but I have no doubt my career will continue to excel. I have gone on dozens of dates, some dreamy and some quite the contrary. I’m not engaged or married and thrilled about it.
Maybe my expectations of what this age, this decade would look like were far-fetched and idealized, and though before I knew what being a 20-something was all about, I thought I wanted that picture-perfect existence. I wanted all those ducks-in-a-row and my future settled in stone by 25. But maybe that’s the thing about expectations, you expect to want something until you get there, and then you discover while your expectations weren’t met, you’re glad they weren’t. Though I thought I wanted more of the Upper East Side, heavy left-hand life in New York with bylines on demand, I’m enjoying my Upper West Side barehanded and constantly challenging city journey in ways my dreams could never predict.
Turning 30 doesn’t freak me out and I’m not sure I have a scary age, as some do. What I have about my thirties are the same ill-conceived notions I had about my current age, so how can I tell how I’ll feel about the decade change until I’m actually there?
What I can say, though, is while there are certain things I’d like to do by then, certain people I’d like to meet, and certain places I’d like to add to my traveling Rolodex, if my twenties have taught me anything so far, if those things don’t happen, if I don’t meet those people, if my passport doesn’t get those stamps – I’m sure I’ll be fine. And more than likely, I’ll be better than fine, but happy.
Because when it comes to learning to accept the place you are in your life, wherever that may be, with or without someone by your side, and find happiness in what you have instead of what you wish for – age has nothing to do with it. But maybe if you’re lucky, the older you get, the more comfortable you grow in your skin, and the happier you find yourself because while aging is inevitable, finding happiness isn’t. It’s a choice you have to make all on your own – at 20, at 30, at 40, and every decade that you’re blessed enough to reach.
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