What Your Thirties Actually Mean
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso
We all have birthdays and as long as you don’t take the alternative route you will inevitably get old. Some ages are landmarks like when we can pursue driving at sixteen or get drunk legally at twenty-one but have you ever wondered why thirty gets such a bad reputation? Is it really meriting the level of stress and depression we associate to it? What does it really mean to be thirty?
What’s in a Number?
Thirty is a number and one of the things that can give us perspective on what weight turning thirty really has can be accepting that. I’m honestly not sure why thirty is the magic number for instant crippling depression. Over time we’ve been given the impression by society that we need to have a certain list of things done by thirty but depending on who you are that can create a huge problem. We’re all different people with different circumstances,means, and goals so why do we get fixated as people on a boxed-in definition of success?
I think the idea that there are certain milestones in life we should strive for universally such as a fulfilling career,meaningful relationship,or financial and life independence. Those are definitely good things for people to want or strive for. The problem arises when we set the age of thirty for that line in the sand. It creates a lot of unnecessary and unreasonable stress. What is age really? It’s a measurement not of our quality of life or our value as a person but rather of the length of years our body has existed. What is a birthday? A birthday should be a celebration. All birthdays are celebrations of existence.
Let’s face it. The world can be kind of rough and living is an accomplishment. Birthdays should be celebrations that we made it and we’re going to keep trying to make it regardless of the circumstances. Life is beautiful and no matter what the number a birthday should be used to celebrate that,not institute an artificial milestone like liquor,driving,or commercial success. So whether you’re there,way past there, or getting there try to appreciate thirty for the number that is is and put more focus on life over numbers.
The Subjectivity of Age and Experience
One of the huge things we all fall prey to that makes thirty so scary is being critical and comparing ourselves to others way too much. I know because I did it so often myself in my twenties and beyond. I was always comparing my job,possessions,or relationships to other people my age. I’ve only begun to learn as I start shaping into the adult I want to be that that’s never a fair measuring stick.
While there are some concrete and objective things about aging, a lot of it like life itself is surprisingly open-ended and subjective. Things like relationships,jobs,and especially things like happiness and success are not dated,time-sensitive,or age-specific. You can find your dream job at forty,fall in love at seventy,or even have a personal epiphany at sixty. The adventures and opportunities we find in life are not something limited to what numbers are on our birthday cake so the idea you have to be at a certain place in life by thirty is short-sighted and just plain wrong.
Personally speaking I would say I wasn’t anywhere close to focused and established in my twenties and going into my thirties I realized that it was fine I wasn’t where society told me I should be. It was fine because I was on my own path and experiencing life in a way that suited me. I realized I had to stop measuring my life by the measuring stick of other people’s successes.
Part of growing up and truly becoming an adult involves a lot of trial and error but the unfortunate truth is that no person exists in a bubble. We’re constantly distracted by standards set outside of ourselves and that can make it hard to accept who you are and just live your life in a way that works for you. Being able to stop using that faulty measuring system is something you learn and grow out of but if you haven’t gotten there by thirty it’s fine. We all reach different points of developing as people at different times in our lives. Sometimes life throws us a lot of curve balls and we don’t reach things right away. Everyone is different.
In the same sense you should never box yourself in. Age doesn’t stop you from living, It means you have more time to enjoy it. If you bridge thirty, don’t stop living and don’t settle. Age doesn’t bar you from new experiences,taking risks, or building relationships. Don’t limit your bucket list to the usual suspects and then call it a day. Maybe you found your dream job but you want to try owning your own small business. Maybe you missed out on ever going on a vacation climbing the ladder of success and you have that money you didn’t before to go on a cruise. Maybe the right person hasn’t come along yet but they still might. Your potential is present as long as you are so don’t think of thirty as a slowing point. Think of it as another year to take the world on.
Regardless of what age you’re approaching or leaving behind, remember that birthdays aren’t about the numbers on the cake but rather that you’ve been blessed with being alive to eat the cake. Thirty and every other age you’ll turn are just numbers but they should never dictate how you live life or see yourself as a person.