Oddly enough, I have been surprisingly calm about turning 30 – maybe even a little excited, dare I say? In all honesty, my calmness has been entirely shocking to me. Typically by the time September rolls around, I start to get that metallic, anxious taste at the back of my throat because I start thinking about aging and lost opportunities and all of the societal terrors that are ever so kindly imposed on women. In the week before my birthday, I am at my worst – crying, panicking, and most of all, in an endless cycle of self-loathing and self-criticizing. I have never handled birthdays well, no matter what the age – any mention or reference to aging has always been enough to make me clench my buttcheeks hard enough to suck an entire chair up my ass, legs and all – but somehow, when it comes to this one, I feel cool. Seriously. I feel pretty cool. This tells me that I’m either growing up or about to have an absolute mental breakdown – is there even really a difference between the two?
I’ll be thirty soon. In just a little over 3 months.
It feels hard to believe and also just right, you know? Like, wow. I can’t believe I’m not 11 and listening to Hanson and waiting for Taylor Hanson to eventually deflower me. And also like wow, I can’t believe I’m 29 and listening to Hanson and still wish it had been Taylor Hanson who deflowered me. Somewhere in between all that.
I’ve become quite introspective as my twenties have gradually started to draw to a close, which I feel is probably very normal – sometimes I look back at the last decade and ask myself “what the hell did you waste all that marvelous, youth-laden time for? You should have done so much more!” And other times, I look back and I laugh and cry and thank God Almighty that I have seen and done so many of the things that I have, because life moves so quickly that sometimes I forgot how great it has been – and truly, life has been kind of wild.
Though I’m reaching this milestone birthday that (to me, at least) is supposed to really signify the crossover into full blown adulthood, this place where I should be totally together and everything everyone expects of me – there are times where I feel less sure of who I am than ever before. Truth be told, I never really know what to think of myself. Do any of us? Perhaps this is the last great hang up of my twenties – perhaps it will take much, much longer to figure out. I recognize that I get caught up a lot in living a social media life. I want my life to look pretty and I want you all to think that I’m interesting and fun and worthy of love, and I want to be someone that you want to know. I am very lonely a lot of the time, many times when surrounded by people I love – but I don’t want you all to think of me as lonely. I want to talk to you about my mental health problems, but I worry that I’ll do or say something and you’ll think I’m just “crazy”. And most of all, I worry that you think something must be wrong with me because I am single. That’s the greatest worry of all. Sometimes I want to show up on the internet performing tricks, juggling fire, belting arias, anything just to distract you from the fact that I’m single – because it makes me feel different. And feeling different makes me feel bad.
So I worry. And that’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about what people MIGHT be thinking of you. But boy, I am the queen of it.
There are many days where I struggle with who I am and with my life’s path, because let’s face it – three months won’t make me a together kind of girl. I won’t magic myself into adulthood just because the calendar says so. And I feel like a lot of times, I don’t have many people to turn to for guidance – I just don’t know any other morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians who burst into tears at even the thought of Elton John… I’m kind of my own species, it feels like. I envy those who are excitedly getting married and having children right now, because that is so very, very adult. No one could ever question those people because they are doing typical adult things, and that makes them official adults, right? It is ridiculous to feel this way, because I’m literally envious of people who are getting things that I don’t want – but what I do want is to feel normal, and there are a lot more save the dates and baby bumps out there than there are morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians. I’m not kidding when I say that sometimes it is my biggest shame that I am not another wife in a Lilly Pulitzer dress getting excited over flatware – I wish I had that in me, but it’s like a synapse that is misfiring – I can’t will myself to be her. I constantly try to cover up my life like a cat turd, because somehow I’ve convinced myself I should be ashamed of it. I still catch myself willing life to fast forward to the “good part” where I magically become some normal person who isn’t always so very, very, THIS.
But on good days, on days where I haven’t sunk too low into my worries, I try to grab ahold of myself, shake myself by the shoulders and remind myself that what I constantly fail to acknowledge is that this IS the good part. It’s MY good part. And it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s good part.
Like I said, on a good day, when there are no triggers or setbacks or tensions, I love my life with such ferocity that my heart could burst. I feel gifted, truly, with the one thing that shames me the most: being single. If the perfect man or woman comes along for me, that’s bitchin, and I’ll be stoked – but that relationship could never be more valuable than the one that I’ve been building with myself as I am forcibly dragged into adulthood. There’s a reason I’m single, and I’m not ashamed of it (at least not today – it’s a good day) – I’VE GOT MORE TO LEARN FIRST. I’ve got further to journey before someone else can come along, because I am, for some reason, lucky enough to be given both the gift of self knowledge, and the time required to truly learn who you are. I know that by society’s standards, I’m supposed to be a wife and a mom by now, and growing up, I never really thought either way about what would happen to me when I got older, but I assumed it would look like everyone else’s life – and the moment I realized that it didn’t and that it wouldn’t, well, I have been scrambling to camouflage my oddities ever since.
But really – when you divorce yourself from what you think your life should look like and focus on what actually makes you happy and who you want to be (and not who you want people to think you are), there is this freedom that you would have never ever been able to dream of. My grasp of this concept ebbs and flows, depending on the day. There is sadness, too, when you align yourself with this line of thinking, because with that acceptance also comes a certain type of goodbye to a person you’ll never be – goodbye, Ashley in a Lilly Pulitzer dress, picking out shades of paint for the guest bedroom – but the pain feels worth it, somehow. Like that girl had to die so I could truly live. I mean, that’s sort of harsh, but you feel me. I’ll never know (well, I guess I will, I’ll ask Jesus about it after I die, right after I ask him who really killed Jon Benet Ramsey) why I’m meant to be eternally marching to the beat of my own drum, but who knows – maybe I’ll magically figure it out when I turn 30. For now, I’ll just keep wondering and marching. Well, maybe I’ll march more towards October – it’s getting hot outside here and I’d like to avoid boob sweat.
What I wish I could stop being ashamed of is simply just being who I am and feeling the need to explain away all of the things that I see as flaws – how the hell did I get to be this way?! Why am I the rudest person my self has ever encountered? And what I need to constantly remember is to STOP COMPARING MY LIFE TO OTHER PEOPLE!! We can all be happy and different and it doesn’t make me less to be just one person and not part of a pair. If the greatest relationship I ever have is with myself, then that’s awesome. If I find someone else who is a match for me, that’s awesome, too. But this mentality of thinking that I’m not enough or not on the same level as my peers because I don’t have a baby or a husband/wife – I hope that toxic thinking is the first damn thing to go when I turn 30. Because I’m more than enough. Hell, I’m too much – and not even in a braggy way. Just literally. I’m exhausting.
Above all things, I just want to be grateful for this season of MY life – all seasons, really. Things seem so difficult and meaningless and frustrating all of the time, and I complain the days away and bitch about what is and what isn’t – but if I had to be honest and sum my life up with one word (other than “lipstick”), the first thing that comes to mind is “fortunate”, and that kind of blows me away, you know? I was so surprised, when it appeared, quite taken aback – but then I nodded to myself. Yeah. Fortunate. Sounds about right.