Just the idea brought on such panic just a few months ago.
You see, 30 was my ‘scary age.’ And believe me, I’m totally not alone in having a ‘scary age;’ just ask some of your friends, and you might be surprised at how many of them have one.
A few months ago, I turned 30, and dealt with it by running away to Canada for the weekend. I figured if it didn’t distract me from the fact that 30 was coming, I’d at least have something different to look at when it did.
When the clock turned to 11:59 pm, I took a moment for myself and closed my eyes. My 20s were coming to an end, and what a whirlwind they were.
I had this grand master plan of what I wanted my life to be from when I was a teenager, and thought of all of the things that I believed I needed to be truly happy: Some of them, I had gotten, and some, I hadn’t. But this ‘ideal’ and ‘wonderful’ future was certainly not what I had as I sat in my Canadian hotel room, staring at the clock on my phone. The memories of 20 hours of studying, collecting soda bottles to return so I could afford a cheese burger, struggling to get out of bed for an 8:00 am class after only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep…that feeling of barely hanging on seemed so far away. Instead, I had new struggles, changed career paths, and simply didn’t value the same things that I did when I was 20.
That may be, in part, why I was so scared of turning 30: I was still in school (studying something completely different than I had intended to study), not even close to buying a house, and certainly not making my own money. 30 was nothing as I had pictured for myself in my 20s.
The clock turned to midnight, and I turned 30…and to be perfectly honest, it didn’t feel much different, but somehow, I knew it was.
One cold morning, a few months later, I was walking out of my bedroom and an image came to mind.
I was sitting in this tiny, one bedroom townhouse that I’d seen for sale online the night before in the old village in Italy my great-grandmother came from staring at my computer screen with my headphones on. The sun was shining brightly, but it was slightly muted by the sheer, white curtains and partially closed shutters on the meager window. I think that I was just wrapping up my day of telecommuting work (part-time), and was relaxing.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the old, wooden front door (which I somehow heard with my headphones on). After getting up from the computer chair, I walked over to the door and opened it to find a handsome stranger.
I greeted him in a friendly way, and he greeted me, as well, in perfect English.
He asked me if I was the author of a certain book I had recently gotten published, and I confirmed that I was, and he smiled and asked if he could talk to me for a bit. I smiled back and said that I’d love to, but wanted to know if we could take a walk; I would’ve invited him in, but my house was a bit of mess (my maid was on vacation). I very quickly found my house keys and a pair of shoes, and exited the house.
As we walked, I asked him what his name was, and he told me. After a bit of an oddly comfortable quiet moment, he remarked that he was surprised. I asked him what he was surprised about, and he said that everything surprised him: The fact that I chose to live in such a small, economically depressed village in the middle of Italy, my tiny house given the relative success of my book, how I lived alone, and that I would agree to talk to him, seeing that I don’t know him.
Looking down at the stones on the sidewalk that could very well date back to the ninth century, I shook my head and laughed. I explained to him that I chose the town because of my family history and how relaxed and convenient it is, I chose the house because it was all I needed and close to everything, I wasn’t concerned about being alone because I was content with myself, and I would talk to him because whatever he needed to tell me was important to me if it was important to him and I loved to hear people’s stories.
He looked at the street, smiling a sad, contemplative smile, not saying anything for a few moments, and even though it should have been awkward, it wasn’t. I patiently waited for him to speak, just enjoying the warm weather.
And finally, he spoke. We both came to a stop, turning toward each other. He said that he just wanted to thank me for writing my book; he said that at long last, he was finally able to find somebody who seemed to understand how he felt and expressed it with compassion.
I watched on as his eyes filled with tears and mine did the same. I understood exactly to what he was referring.
He then said that most of all, he wanted to thank me for having the courage to write about something that everybody else ignored, despite how it may be received by society, as it made him feel that he was no longer alone.
Not being able to help myself, I reached forward and embraced him, and we held each other, not saying a word.
At that moment, a feeling of wholeness washed over me.
As I came back to reality, I realized what was different about being 30: Everything.
Everything I thought I wanted when I was in my 20s, everything that people use to measure your success as a human being (owning a big house, being married, having money), everything that we think that we need to have…it all means practically nothing to me now. All of the years that have brought me to the age of 30 have taught me that what I want most is to have meaning in my life, intangible meaning. I want to be able to touch somebody’s life with my words, show compassion to other living creatures, and express the beauty I see in our everyday, mundane lives. I want to just write whatever I think is important, and not alter my integrity in the pursuit of a paycheck. I want to define my own life, and not allow anybody to define it for me. I want to refuse to allow others to shove me into the status quo mold when I know it’s not what is right for me. I want to be so distracted by the wonder of every passing year that I don’t care about the wrinkles around my eyes. And I want a maid, damn it, because I don’t want to waste my life cleaning!
I just want to be happy.
Now that I’ve managed to figure that out, I’d like to figure out why I was so stupid in my 20s.