On Turning 30
I turned thirty last week, which felt like a very big deal in the months leading up to it, and then just like a wonderful thing that happened as soon as it happened. Any big life events–weddings, promotions, babies, round birthdays–arrive with a certain amount of pressure tagging along behind. In this moment, which somehow signifies something big, you better have your act together.
I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted mine to look like so I vacillated between extremes: I was either going by myself to an ashram to curl up in the quiet with my thoughts. Or I was purchasing a spangly jumpsuit to wear to a birthday bash held in the VFW party space tucked under a nearby subway stop. Choose your own adventure!
But I couldn’t escape the idea that thirty required some serious reflection, that I should bring intention to whatever was coming next in the new decade. That seemed important and yet…it also seemed like a drag. On an airplane to and from California recently, I pulled out a notebook and kept my pencil poised above a blank page. What did I need to bring into my life to make it fuller, brighter, happier? I’ve written the same thing to myself a thousand times.
Reflecting feels vital to a deliberate life. If we’re not considering what really lights us up and connects us to what’s most important, than aren’t we just drifting along? But as my birthday drew near, it seemed like there were little signs stacking that I might be hiding some micro-managing control freak tendencies inside the idea of “intention.” There was a tarot card of a man so lost in his own reverie he fails to see what’s right in front of him. And then, more pointedly, the friend who gently suggested I didn’t need the help of hallowed yoga halls to encourage me to reflect. If the pressure to reflect had been on my back like an itchy sweater, maybe it was time to stop scheming and time to appreciate the life I’ve already created.
I liked that idea. What’s the point of expending so much energy to fill our days with beauty, community, and fulfillment if we rarely stop to enjoy them? Really enjoy them, like knee-deep in the thick pleasure of it. Forward movement is seductive to anyone with a sense of potential and a keen imagination. This is how things could be if we did yoga at dawn, had those shoes, lived in that house. This kind of thinking can be good. It helps us achieve goals, consider what would really make us happy, and actively work towards creating the kind of life we want to live. But it’s also a little bit dangerous. I thought I needed to escape somewhere quiet to think about what I wanted in life when everything I wanted was already back at home: My messy, chaotic, lovely home.
Abby Try Again turned thirty this week, too, and I loved what she wrote on her blog:
Yesterday was my 30th birthday.
It felt special but not, big and little, insignificant and significant.
I’m a believer in recognizing the power of each day-not just focusing on milestones…but I couldn’t help but be reflective.
Somewhere in between the extremes–”special but not, insignificant and significant”–is our calling to see the beauty in each day. In the end, my birthday was somewhere between those two extremes I had imagined and felt just right. I took a couple days off from work so I could really enjoy myself. Friends took me out for dinner and I ate a crazy good barbecue sandwich. I went to a yoga class overlooking the East River one morning, met a friend in a wood and water-colored restaurant for a lady’s lunch of white wine and lobster rolls, and then we wandered around the West Village together holding our noses to perfume bottles and sitting in the sun with iced cortados. Perhaps the sparkly jumpsuit part of my birthday had its moment when I couldn’t resist a Dynasty-like leopard print wrap dress. I don’t know where or when I’ll have the occasion to wear such a thing, but I’m trying to get comfortable with the idea that the moment can present itself like an unexpected gift rather than be willed and schemed into existence. The lesson of this year has been hitting me over the head again and again: enjoy what’s right before you. It’s more than you think. It might even be enough.