A quick google search has led me to conclude that turning 30 is marked by advice and self-reflection in quantities usually reserved for weddings, funerals, and high school graduation speeches. I turn 30 tomorrow, and not to be outdone, it's my turn to share the results of my introspection. I've spent the last 2+ weeks in a hotel for work and it has given me plenty of time to ponder entering decade 3. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel any concern about how and what I've done with my twenties. They've been great, but not exactly according to plan. Among other things, I spent a lot of time in school and moved a lot. I've reflected on my serpentine career path and wondered if I'm on the right track. I thought about men I've dated and wondered why I wasted so much time letting them stomp on my heart. Others I wonder why on earth I didn't fight tooth and nail to be with. As I thought about the approaching birthday, wondering if I have messed up something crucial, I started jotting down a list of how I spent previous birthdays. That's when I realized that in the past 13 years, I haven't been in the same place for a birthday.
17th (1999): Home in Idaho.
18th (2000): Moved to college just days before. I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad slipped my roommates $20 to throw me a party, which they did, and I appreciated it.
19th (2001): In Amagansett, Long Island deep sea fishing.
20th (2002): In Romania at an orphanage.
21st (2003): On Afognak Island in Alaska. I spent the day on the ocean kayaking with seals.
22nd (2004): In Tokyo, Japan.
23rd (2005): With family at the cabin in Idaho.
24th (2006): In Provo, Utah. I achieved my goal of finishing all the requirements for my Masters program by my birthday. I technically didn't make the copies and get signatures until the next day, but all the final edits for my thesis were done on my birthday.
25th (2007): I almost spent it in the Atlanta airport. After nearly breaking down in tears to a Delta agent she somehow got me routed to Cleveland where I arrived at my brother's in time for cake.
26th (2008): I was in Germany watching (on TV) the final game of the Euro Cup where Germany lost to Spain. It was the only birthday in a long time I've been with both of my sisters and my mom.
27th (2009): Yellowstone National Park working, but the rainstorm left behind a beautiful rainbow.
28th (2010): Salt Lake City, Utah.
29th (2011): Gardiner, Montana.
30th (2012): Will begin in Williamsburg, Virginia and end Washington, D.C.
None of these were trips I took for my birthday. These were the places life took me, and I happened to celebrate another year while there. Making this list eased my concerns about things I didn't do or achieve. I have loved my twenties and have been exceptionally lucky--I lived fully and experienced things I never dreamed of. But I can honestly say I'm ready to move forward, grow some roots, and celebrate my birthday in the same place for two years in a row.
I found myself profoundly grateful. My worries reflect my social class, place in time, and nationality. I was able to pick a field of study and spent over 8 years in higher education just learning and then not even work in that field when I was finished. I am able to worry if my job is fulfilling or should I switch to something else. I can be a single woman of thirty and not a disgrace or financial burden to my family. Food is so easily accessible that I have to exercise ("vigorously" according to the U.S. Government) to be slim. I will, on some distant day die from a degenerative condition, like cancer or diabetes, rather than an infectious diarrheal disease. When I eventually have children, I am certain their births will be attended by a medical professional. According to a U.S. Social Security life table, as a woman of 30 I should live another 51.5 years. After all, they say, "Life begins at 30." But if I lived in Swaziland, I would have just 2.15 years left. That puts things into perspective; I am grateful that I have so much time.