Big News: today officially marks 2 months until my birthday. This countdown is actually pretty abnormal for me. Outside of some general recognition of my birth and spending time with friends and family, I am not usually one for elaborate celebrations. But this year is the big 3-0, or the dirty thirty as they say, and being the baby in many of my social circles continually begets the infamous question: “are you ready?!” or other lame comments about being “over the hill.”
What these people don’t realize is that I am actually beyond thrilled to finally reach the 30 year mark. This is what I have waited my whole life for. Columbia Pictures may very well have lifted the premise for the movie 13 Going on 30 straight from my young diary since I was often found exclaiming “Why can’t I just be 30 yet?!”
In my prepubescent (and eventually adolescent) mind, 30 was a shiny beacon of hope- the golden era, if you will. Being 30 meant no drama about being asked to a dance or not. 30 meant you didn’t have to worry about where to sit at lunch or being ditched by your friends who all went to the Incubus concert without you. 30 meant you had boobs, your own money and made your own rules. You probably had a kid and a significant other and a white picket fence to boot. 30 was when you had your shit together.
When I think about this now, I get a good belly laugh. Now, I know that thirty is just the tip of the aging iceberg and by no means is a guarantee that anyone has their shit together. In fact, I’m learning that it’s more than likely, your shit never really gets figured out. Most people in their late 20’s or early 30’s that I know- myself included-still are searching for some combination of that right job, right relationship, or just their right place in this world. All of this in addition to a petering metabolism, an over abundance of bills and increasing gray hairs all points to some major flaws in my idea of the golden era that is your 30’s. But when I really sit and think about it, and I mean really think about it, maybe my twelve-year-old self was on to something.
Is adulthood really that bad? It guess most of my peers think so since I often I hear complaints (“ugh adulthood”) or see social media posts like these:
It reminds me of a quote by the great Cher Horowitz : “I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all, but I don’t get how guys dress today” except what I don’t get is the constant hating on adulthood. I’m sorry, but can we stop the big baby cry fest? Have we really thought about what it would mean to be a kid again? Not that my childhood was awful by any stretch of the imagination, but being a kid, in my experience, meant that you had to rely on everyone else around you to just…exist. If you were lucky, the people in charge of you were kind and took good care of you and maybe even tried to make you happy. But even in best of childhood situations, they controlled you- be it gifting you that glorious trip to Disney World or a teacher simply giving you the hall pass so you could pee- you were at their mercy for it all. Adults had complete control over what you ate, what you could buy, and where could go and sometimes, even who you could talk to. Not to mention that at some point we all had our moments (my moments happened to be years) of awkwardness, feeling utterly unsure of yourself and the trials and tribulations of figuring out all sorts of relationships as you grew up.
So, in honor of the 60 days that lays between me and my long awaited 30’s, I am going explain what I have known all along: why being an adult, is actually pretty rad.
Food. I will give you that as a kid, even perhaps through college, you probably needn’t worry your pretty little head about things like grocery shopping, meal planning, lunch packing or cooking- things I feel we can all agree are generally annoying. Duly noted. But lest you forget that not doing these activities meant someone else made these choices for you. You eat your goddamned vegetables or else. You don’t like chicken piccata- tough. You want another soda? Sorry kid, house rules are no soda after 6pm! Craving sushi? Too bad- you can’t order take out because you’re a kid. I mean, do you even know the splendor that is sushi?! This would entirely depend on if you’re parents also liked sushi and/or offered you some. And you can forget savoring a good glass of wine with a beautiful steak or piece of pizza on Friday night. You a’int 21, friend.
Money. Savings, Budgets, Retirement, Bills, Credit Cards, Student Loans- they all make my head spin. And since I am not well acquainted with any millionaires, I can confidently say that 100% of the adults I know carry some concern over money. Most people in my general age bracket are bogged down by so many bills and student loans that it leaves us wondering how to strategically fit a doctors appointment in this month without that co-pay sending our account into overdraft. Money is stressful and confusing and you generally have to work to get said money. But the truth is, as adults we have money. Maybe not as much as we would like and more often than not it goes toward things that are lame and boring (I’m looking at you health insurance), but we still have it and we still decide, more or less, what to do with it. If I want to blow my whole tax return on a trip to Bora Bora that’s my prerogative. If I’ve had a bad day, I can choose to dip into my (albeit, small) discretionary funds and say ‘screw it, let’s go to happy hour’ or treat myself to a mani/pedi. If I want to go to the movies this weekend I don’t have to ask anyone for the $10 to afford it or work out a way to get there. Which brings me to my next one…
Driving. Most of us started driving at 16, but unless you were Cher Horowitz (done with the Clueless references, promise) , there were still strings attached to that license. Drivers education class, taking the driving test, not being able to drive after nine, high insurance rates and any rules your own parents imposed on your driving abilities, all meant you had a limited say over how, when and where you drove. Even if you were able to purchase your own car with your own money so that your parents couldn’t dole out so many rules, think of the innumerable hours of bullshit minimum wage jobs you had to work to save up for what probably was a less than primo car. As adults, we not only often have the funds and credit to purchase/lease a car, but we then can do whatever we (legally) want to do with it. No one tells me to stay home if it’s late or snowing. I don’t have to ask if the car is available if I want to go away this weekend. Or hell, I can rent a car when I get there! And my car insurance is way lower now that I am nearing 30. I’m good right here, thanks.
Friends. 30 is an odd age to be in the friend world, because we are all in different places- some of us are getting married where others are already getting divorced; some are having kids while others are working on skyrocketing their careers, and yet others are starting entirely new life paths in the wake of their quarter life crisis. Our interests and personalities at this age change so much that it can be hard to maintain connections with friends we were once so close to. Add this to the shrinking opportunities to make new friends and I’ll be the first to admit that finding and keeping friendships alive is no easy feat at 30. That all said, I still maintain that friendships are easier now than before. Things are, generally, less catty and popularity driven and you usually have the opportunity to take space from each other unlike when you had to see your ex-BFF at school every single day laughing loudly with her new pals or live with your BFF as a roommate until next semester. And while cliches are still omnipresent, friendships no longer necessarily need to be contingent on everyone being in the same social circle, so you aren’t clamoring for each other’s attention. Also, as grown up, I know that I am far more sure of myself, and thusly I don’t feel the need to maintain a friendship with someone if we simply don’t click or if they aren’t a positive force in my life. Today, I also have maturity on my side, so if I have a problem with a friend I can talk to her about it instead of seething and taking it personally. It still makes for some uncomfortable moments and tensions certainly still exist from time to time, but there is so much less in the way of jealousy or exclusions than there ever was growing up. By 30 you generally realize who matters and hopefully you have a smattering of friends- new and old, and from all sorts of walks of life and perspectives. This kind of eclectic friendship circle is what keeps you learning about life and about yourself. You don’t all need to wear pink on Wednesdays and worry about if there is a seat at lunch. Even sitting by yourself sometimes is actually just fine.
Dating. I guess there were some simplicities in dating world of yesteryear. I will give you that it was far nicer to be asked out by being slid a note under your desk or after chatting on AIM instead of via a dick pic on Tind. More of us were (legitimately) single all you had to do to meet someone was show up to school. But how devastating- or a the very least awkward- was it when you were the only one of your friends who didn’t have a date to prom? Or you confessed your feelings to a crush, and then they never answered your note or called you like they said they would. Or they did call and your mom picked up the phone extension ten times. Then there is the whole production of being picked up at your house in front of your ever judgmental parents or trying to sneak out to meet them for a date without your parents even knowing. And how about when you break up and you still have to see them every day in school with the girl he dumped you for (who, like, totally used to be your friend)? I think I will pass on ever returning to that special kind of hell. As an adult, if a dude is not your cup of tea it can be as easy as swiping left or in worst scenarios, deleting him on social media and blocking his number. Not to mention that nowadays, I know who I am and what I want in a relationship- but that only comes after some major trial and error which includes massive heartbreak. Of course there are still devastating blows (hello divorce, nice to see you!), but in general break ups are so much better at this age. As an adult you have wine and easier access to your girlfriends and can even buy yourself a beach getaway for the weekend or an Eat, Pray, Love style self-discovery journey but at 16 I just had my journal, my BFF over the phone, and maybe my mom if I could skirt around some of the sexual details of my relationship. Speaking of sexy time- it’s pretty great. Sex, now, is so much healthier emotionally and physically whereas in adolescence, it was hard to acquire birth control, more of an emotional mindfuck and never really all that great since no one had enough experience to know what the hell was what. I would take sex at 30 where I can own my body and my desires over any day in my teens where I was shy, unsure and had to sneak around to find private time.
Parents. Maybe you always got along with your parents, or maybe adolescence was a whole lot of screaming and foot stomping while your parents were totally unfair and ruining your life. Or perhaps it was even worse and filled with some seriously toxic or harmful situations. Either way, chances are your relationship with them is better now (and if it’s not you are more able to cut them out of your life as you see fit). You can be adults together and enjoy adult things together, making the dynamic totally different. Dare I say you might even be friends with your parents- and I don’t mean in the creepy Amy-Pohler-in-Mean-Girls kind of a way. There is something that shifts with this relationship once you both realize that at the end of the day- they can’t tell you what to do anymore and this new kind of relationship is something I have genuinely come to adore more and more year after year.
Alcohol. At the risk of sounding like a total alcoholic, I’m still adding this to the list, because if we’re being straight up, sometimes, alcohol is simply fucking amazing. Not to mention sanity saving. When I have a rough day, a glass of wine and a bubble bath go hand in hand like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin (although minus the vomiting that the idea induces…). Vacation to me is mimosas in the morning by the beach, the holidays mean spiked egg nog by the fire, sporting games are all about beer and tailgating and summertime equals overpriced wine as you soak in an outdoor concert. I can’t tell you how many moments of deep bonding I’ve had with friends that might not have been the same without a few cocktails to make us emotionally more open. And can you imagine going on a blind date now without the help of alcohol as a buffer?! As long as you’re being responsible, alcohol is the shit. It’s awesome and delicious and makes me smile. And once you’re of age it’s no longer illegal and once you’re 30 the pressure to chug or funnel is permanently called off. I call all of this a win-win.
Jobs. More often than not, when my alarm blares at 7am, I am seriously the most miserable human being as there is nothing I want to do less than put clothes on, drive in traffic and function at work. And if you’re like me, jobs are nothing new- I worked all through my adolescence. That all said, jobs now are way better. We have a lot more choices, regardless of degree holdings, since as adults it is likely that we have racked up experience and connections which also usually means better pay than the $10 an hour I got at Target when I was 17, plus I can work more hours without things like school and child labor laws in the way. Also, jobs can be fun and/or fulfilling at times. Maybe not all parts of them or all of the time, but certainly more than any retail job I was ever forced to work. Add in the fact that there can be some awesome coworkers who make you laugh and the fact that you probably get PTO and/or sick time which means you can call in sick even if you aren’t really breaking a fever. All in all, I’ll take it over going to school. At least I don’t have to take tests , I don’t need to raise my hand to use the restroom, and after I leave, my time is generally my own and not a slave to homework, which segues nicely into my next, and perhaps final point…
Free time and fun shit. I guess this goes hand in hand with some of the aforementioned, but you guys, as an adult our free time is our own. I can’t tell you how many times I would come home from a working my crummy retail job or tennis practice on top of a long day of school and just want to relax without the stress of homework or chores. Now no one tells me what to do outside of my working hours. If my laundry hasn’t been done in three weeks that’s on me and no one else. If I want to binge on Netflix all weekend and just have popcorn and wine for dinner, so what? Or if I feel like some retail therapy on a random Tuesday afternoon it’s completely up to me to find a Tuesday without any dire deadlines and take a day to myself- no Ferris Bueller-like farces needed. Not only am I am more or less free to do what I choose, but the options for activities are vastly larger since I have spare money (even if it’s not a ton), a car that’s mine, an ID and no one to answer to. Wine and beer tastings, vacations or weekends away, boozy brunches, adopting a pet, festivals near or far, decorating my own apartment/house, Happy Hour, concerts, Broadway shows or going to a sporting game, and renting cars are all things that we couldn’t do or would require great lengths to get to in our younger years. We get to do so many fun things as adults that are just taken for granted and the truth of the matter is- we still can do many of the things we might miss from our childhood if we wanted. No one is, realistically, stopping me from making a fort in my living room (I have actually done this!) or taking a nap on lunch (I have napped in my car many a time!).
At the end of the day the point is this: as an adult we do have more responsibilities, but we have a lot of latitude in how and when we take care of them. On the whole, we get to go where we want, when we want, with whom we want. We have control over our lives. There are moments where we choose to be responsible and, say, show up for work instead of sleeping in, or actually make a healthy dinner when we would rather rot on the couch with a bag of chips, but those are our choices to make. Even the annoying choices, stressful choices, and bad choices, are at least are our own. So if you’re dreading turning 30, or any other adult age for that matter, remember this: your life is your own now in a way it never was as a kid. It’s up to you to make it what you want and you create your own happiness. At least to me, there is something pretty damn liberating about that.