In my 20s, I was always in a hurry. A few years ago I wrote one of these posts a few days late and began with a mea culpa about the delay. I don’t remember deciding that birthday posts needed to be posted on my birthday. At some point I had just sort of assumed this ought to be the case and accepted it as a rule. So by the thinking of my 20s, that post was “late,” and I needed to apologize for it. That late post was the exception, though.
My writing was almost always on time, but it was also almost always rushed. Now, a few days into my 30s, I feel no such pressure. I am posting this a few days after my 30th birthday, but it’s no longer late. I’m just not in a hurry anymore. I missed all the 30 under 30 lists and I’m not a billionaire yet; what a relief. Now I can take my time.
I don’t know where I was in such a rush to go. I can’t say I ever really had a clear destination. Sure, there were stops along the way, but my journey was more of a wandering. As I begin my 30s, I am still wandering, but calmly, rather than frenetically. As a 30-something I do feel different in some ways, but also the same in many. Let’s start with the ways in which I’m the same.
After 30 years, I’ve gotten to know myself a little. I am a man who lives my life to the beat of my own drum, for better or worse, and that often is for worse. But I accept myself the way that I am. I still don’t like being told what to do, and I still don’t like being constrained by rules. I continue to thrive on a spirit of freedom and will clash with those who try to control me. This is the oldest news about me, but there are more recent revelations as well.
I am a man filled with love and empathy, though I wasn’t always aware of it or able to embrace it. I am fun and playful. I like to sing and dance, as much as my dancing may be especially and particularly to my own beat. As my most earnest self I am, frankly, flamboyant. In my 20s I resisted all of this. As a 30 year old, I embrace it. Why wouldn’t I? I’m awesome. But it’s not just me.
A lesson I learned over my 20s that really sunk in at my 30th birthday party was that I am the people around me. That party was the highlight of my year and maybe the highlight of my 20s, albeit at the very end of them. I think people gravitate towards people who are like themselves. What was striking about my birthday party is that everyone who came got along extremely well, despite most people never having met before and, on the surface, seeming extremely different in most ways. I made a few observations at that party.
One, after spending like trying to find others who are just like me, I’ve realized there really is no one else out there quite like me. Most of my friends are like me in some ways, but no one is like me in all. As much as I continue to dislike the millennial notion that that we are all special snowflakes, I must accept that I am one of one. That used to make me feel lonely. As a 30-something, I think that’s great.
My second observation was that my closest friends are all just great people. They are loving, kind, patient, warm, and open. I think of many times I’ve felt happier and more comfortable being myself. I send the heartiest thanks to all of those who attended in person, and spirit.
My final observation, which I might say was more of a message from life, was that even in the most perfect of moments there will be imperfection. Literally seconds after I turned 30, while my friends and family were singing happy birthday to me, I felt something funny in my mouth — my front crown, recently refreshed but a relic of a bike crash from 23 years before, was disintegrating in my mouth amidst all the joy, leaving me a sort of buck tooth by the I blew out my candles.
Beautifully, that brought me hardly any sadness or frustration. I broken smiled and smirked, as even in that moment, not simply upon reflection, I could see that life had given me the most poignant gift of revelation. Just moments into my 30s I had the perfect opportunity to see that I was prepared to enjoy life as it came, not as I wished. Now, I look forward.
At 30 years, I feel incredibly fortunate. I feel like I can have anything, but not everything. I’ve realized nobody can have everything. There are always trade-offs. But this is as good as it gets. I feel like I will have all the time in the world, until I have none at all.
I am like many in that my teens were marked by insecurities, and I would probably say that most of my 20s were as well. As I turn 30, I am experiencing the best possible regression back to a childlike wonder and enjoyment of life. Spiritual pursuits renew the notion that we have not resolved the full nature of our world and unlike the pursuits of cold rationalism have no non-arbitrary end. At 30 I see that joy is just so important.
Though I’m not in a rush, I do expect to accomplish much. In my 20s I observed, counterintuitively, that I achieved the best results when trying the least. Some people succeed through brute force effort. I am not one of them. I succeed through instinct. I do have some ideas of how I ought to be in my 30s.
For 30, I aim to feel spoiled without guilt. I felt a bit spoiled in some ways as a child. All of the challenges of childhood aside, I was very much the center of attention in my family all too often. By my teens, however, and into my 20s, that sense was entirely gone. Frankly, I thought that it was good that it was gone. I relished in the weight on my shoulders and isolation as some narrative in my head told me that made me strong and good.
But now, I’m spoiled again. And I can definitely that it’s nice to be a little spoiled. People are nicer, kinder, and more generous to me than they have ever been. My friends spoil me in every way, but the most important are their affection and the security that comes from knowing someone is always there for me.
I also recently realized that I can spoil myself without depleting any scarce resource. No matter my circumstance short of death, illness, and abject poverty, there is an infinite pool of positive, light energy from which I can assure myself that I can always be a little spoiled in the ways that really matter.
I have to come to value brevity. I was so verbose and talkative in my youth. I still like to talk, but people who like to talk have very little of substance of consequence to share. I don’t want to like that. I have come to see the majesty in minimialism. I used to be so over the top in many ways and I hope I will always be over the top in some ways, but as a 30-year old I see where I want to tone back.
I don’t need the fanciest cars, apartments, houses, or watches. Those are all nicer to have than not but round to zero in the grand scheme of life. I can have all of that now but not easily, and I don’t want to have any of those until they are easy. And if they are never easy, that’s totally fine.
I love my life the way it is. If I can better it better in some ways, then so be it. And if not, then nothing changes. If I have any conclusion on being 30, it’s that my baseline is now good. I have laid the foundation. To extend a metaphor from my past, I am now a butterfly. Let’s see where I go from here.