In a lot of ways I’m basically already an old person. I go to bed at a reasonable hour most days. I can’t sleep past 8:00 a.m. I eat leftovers because I can’t stand to waste food. I recycle, and yell at other people about recycling. I complain about neighbors making too much noise. And it’s probably only my lack of a lawn that keeps me from becoming the “get off my lawn” lady. There will be no crazy cat lady here though, thank goodness for allergies. (To be fair, in other ways I’ve been refusing to grow up. My furniture doesn’t match, the only beverages in my refrigerator right now are beer and Mountain Dew, and I spend the majority of my disposable income on TV, movies and books about imaginary characters with superpowers.)
But, despite the fact that I’ve been essentially living life like a dress rehearsal for retirement for the better part of a decade, this is actually the week that it happens. I’m turning 30. I’ve been alternately dreading it (for obvious reasons) and looking forward to it (hey, at least it will be over right?) for months. I don’t really know how much I care yet, or even if I do care. And I probably won’t until I wake up on the dreaded morning, have my first bit of caffeine, and remember what the date is. What I do know is that unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to delay the inevitable.
Some people love birthdays. They throw parties, get presents, eat cake and generally boss everyone around and do whatever they want for a day (or a week, or a month depending on their level of obsession). I’ve never been that person. Being the center of attention isn’t that fun for someone as introverted as me, so I generally spend a lot of the day by myself. I’ve developed a bit of a tradition over the years. Take the day off work, sleep in, go to a movie (last year was X-Men: Days of Future Past, this year is looking like Pitch Perfect 2), eat something delicious and take some naps. Pretty great day overall. Important note, the work avoidance isn’t so much that I don’t want to be there, it’s that my biggest fear in life is being cornered in the conference room and forced to endure “Happy Birthday.”
So clearly the day itself doesn’t mean that much to me. Other than the big birthdays (admittedly 21 was pretty cool) I don’t really care how old I am, other than the fact that I have trouble remembering when people ask me for the first month or so after my birthday. There’s not even a new box for 30 on forms, on most I’m still safely in the 25-34 box. No big deal there.
Turns out the reason it’s freaking me out this year isn’t so much my age. I’ll only be one day older Wednesday than I was on Tuesday, so who cares? The problem this year is that it’s 30. Our 20s are for fun. You’re considered young and allowed to still be screwing up and wasting time. It’s acceptable to not know what you’re doing with your life. Someone who is 29 gets away with an exasperated head shake when people find out they still watch superhero movies and don’t own an iron. When that person turns 30? It’s all investment strategies, career paths and questions about having kids. These are the things my nightmares are made of.
So the question is, is this birthday when I’m finally forced to become a real grownup? Do I have to stop watching science fiction and dreaming about exploring space? Or stop reading fantasy and imagining a world with magic and dragons and elves? I know people think the things I love are childish. But I see kids in Spider-Man t-shirts and hope they hold on to that. There is little better in life than the joy that comes from the imagination, and these are the things that have helped me keep that. I refuse to give any of it up at 30. I’ll let you know at about 40.