Today is the first real day of my 30s.
The first day after the celebrations and toasts and “getting old” jokes, when the icing has been licked from the waxy birthday candles and the wrapping paper has been neatly folded away for reuse. It is the first day when the harsh reality sets in and I am left to ponder bleakly on the decade ahead and guess at the moments, maturity, and milestones to come. The first day to feel a little older.
And instead, I find myself looking back, reflecting over the last decade. Wondering at decisions and regrets and other minions of self despair. I look at life and fear sometimes that I’ve given up before I have even truly begun.
It’s a sad feeling to have, staring down a new decade from the wrong side of 29 with my barefoot and carefree 20s behind me. But it’s there, and I imagine that I am not the first sorrowful 30 years and 1 day old person to exist. It’s out there and it’s out there for a reason.
Aging creams and cosmetic surgery and the ticking biological clocks and the advent of social media. The feeling of fear at the life slipping by with another passing day is a basic human emotion. But this feeling of insufficiency as you age has only grown worse with the expansion of that now ubiquitous thing called Facebook. Facebook has a way of giving you that impression that you aren’t quite doing it right.
You just aren’t doing it right.
Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and every other social media platform for curated windows into our own perfect existance. They give this impression that every life is bursting with energy and ecstasy and shiny smiles and filtered photos at every turn. Every life except yours.
I thank my lucky stars that I was not born into a world of social media and did not have to traverse those fateful high school years flipping through everyone else’s portrayal of their glossy, manicured lives. It’s easy to get lost in it, to feel you haven’t done enough, seen enough, become enough. It’s easy to fall into this trap, even as a self assured THIRTY YEAR OLD.
But when I worry and cringe and start to question, I look more closely at my 20s. What were my 20s made of? What was it that makes me so sad to be passing them by for a new decade? What about my 20s leaves me wanting more?
Sure, I enjoyed staying out late and sleeping even later. I enjoyed the physical benefits of a faster metabolism and stronger liver and more elastic skin. But I don’t miss those things. Too much. Yet.
So what was it about my 20s that I am so hesitant to let go of?
I realize as I ponder this decade gone, it was the travel. It was the adventure. It was the joy and freedom and independence and the strength with which I lived my life.
I can say truly and without hesitation that I lived my 20s. I lived every bit of it, from the early morning workouts to the late nights gazing at Southern Hemisphere constellations. I lived what was given to me, and I lived it fully.
I realized just two months ago, while hiking through the Emerald Isle with my ever willing companion, that I was visiting my 30th country. 30 countries in 30 years. It was never a goal of mine to hit the numbers, though 40 for 40 has a nice ring to it. It was just this ever present need to seek out the unknown and the different and the delicious that drove me to strike out and fill my passport. And here I am at 30 with 30 countries and 30 blogs.
My 20s were a time for traveling deep into cultures and myself. A time for eating fiery curries and diving into peaceful waters with reckless abandon. A time for finding peace in a whirling world and knowing when to jump right into the madness. I worked hard, I ate hard, I adventured hard.
My 20s were blurry and backwards and beautiful.
But who’s to say my 30s can’t be made of just the very same thing?
On my 30th birthday I learned to ride a bicycle…with no hands. It seems a stretch that as a bike commuter and fair weather cyclist that have I reached the ripe old age of 30 without ever removing both hands from a bicycle handle bar. But after passing through that stage in life when you learn to ride a bike with no hands without actually learning to ride a bike with no hands, I just never tried. The bigger I got, the further the fall.
So, I kept one hand firmly planted on the handlebar at all times, believing my time for carefree hand-free riding had passed. But then I decided, in the midst of a 30 mile ride for my 30th birthday, it was time. I tried. I finally tried.
And then I shrieked a shriek I haven’t shrieked in many years. And I liked it. It reminded me of that life with which I lived my 20s.
And so I promise on the first day of my 30s, riding with no hands, that I will live my 30s.
I promise it to myself, but more importantly I promise it to the world around me. It is my gift to the world, to live my life with a passion and purpose that leaves no question on judgement day that I was tenacious and ambitious and chose to do it all.
As my grandfather used to remind us, “they don’t put pockets in coffins.” It was a gentle prompting to enjoy the money you have now, while you are able to enjoy it. Enjoy the money, yes, you cannot take that with you. But enjoy the glowing fall sunsets and the grains of sand stuck to salty feet and the winter mornings spent by a fireplace. For, much like money, you cannot take every ruby sunbeam and bluebird beach day and crisp white snow flake with you.
Don’t stop moving and don’t stop being moved. Just remember, you must move yourself. The world will not move you unless you go out and engage it. So start new conversations, ask difficult questions, find friendship in unexpected places, take understanding from unique cultures, and always always always try the unusual food in front of you.
Never stop, please, just never stop.
For when you do, the great world out there ceases to spin and whirl around you with the beauty and fortitude and grace that keeps it moving from day to day. When you stop, the world ceases to exist. And when the world ceases to exist, you drift into oblivion with it.
Find what moves you and go out and be moved.