Monday, July 25, 2011

Musings of a Thirty Something

This weekend I celebrated my 31st birthday. Last year, hitting the milestone of 30 felt like a big deal and cause for a party, as I ushered in a new decade and a new number with which to start my age. 31 feels like the 1991 of ages. 1990 is still too much like the 80's to be distinct but '91 starts to really be "the 90's". Using this logic, 31 means I'm really in "my 30's" so I spent this weekend quietly reflecting on what that means, both to me and in the broader society. 

Some researchers talk about the concept of a "thrisis", a wordsmash for a thirty-something crisis. (By the way, what is it about the world these days that everything has to be combined....brangelina? speidi? Are we really in such a hurry??) The premise is that people have bought into an idea of happiness that includes getting married, getting a house, getting a good job, etc. but once they get those things, they finally step back and wonder if that's what they wanted all along. Unlike the mid-life crisis we grew up seeing in movies and expecting in our 40's, thirty-somethings realize there's still time to make changes and get life on track. The trouble then becomes defining what happiness means to you, as an individual. 

On the flip side, most people I talk to express that their thirties were the most fun. They often talk about being confused and figuring things out in their twenties and getting to sit back and enjoy their thirties. Many people relate to feeling more confident, less worried about what others think, as they leave their twenties behind. It seems like we have set ourselves up to be molded up to this point and get to really define ourselves now, a true coming-of-age experience. I definitely find myself keeping a smaller social circle and investing more in myself and the people and activities that really bring me joy, rather than trying to keep in touch with everyone. But maybe that's just because Facebook keeps everyone in touch all the time! (not in an unwelcome way, in my opinion)

So I look forward to 31 beginning a new chapter. I can be proud of the things I have accomplished, going down the checklist: marriage, home, education, career. People can continue to bug me about the next item on their checklist: baby. And maybe that will be next, who knows. But I can also revel in the fact that these things have brought me to a point where I can create opportunities for myself. In many ways, at 31 I have more options open to me than I did at 21. Real, viable options that can come to fruition in a year instead of a decade. I have enough stability to pursue my love of traveling and enough youth left to make those adventures really exciting. For an example from real life last week, in one day I met with the sheriff about prison programming and went to a Poison concert in a mini skirt at night. Here's to the 30's being the most fulfilling decade yet!

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