When I was 19, I dreaded turning 20. Losing the “teen” at the end of my age seemed to signify a huge shift, and I was convinced that suddenly I would be expected to be a real adult. I didn’t want to let go of the freedom to make bad choices and blame it on being a kid. I had a real fear that I would be expected to just stop having fun and change all my interests to reflect my new “adult” status.
Then, my birthday came and nothing changed. I was still just a college kid figuring out how to operate in the big, scary world. My parents and grandparents still helped me out when they could and questioned my choices. I still made mistakes. I still had fun. I continued to learn and grow and held onto the same interests that were decidedly “childish”. I still felt like me.
My 26th birthday bothered me, too. I had just become a mother and it hit me that at my age, my mom had already had two kids and been married for 8 years or so. I thought back on my childhood, feeling like my parents had always seemed like real adults to me, and I certainly didn’t feel like one. That year, instead of an all-you-can-drink boozefest, I threw a proper “adult” party. I spent all day cooking a turkey with five or six sides, plus a pie and a cake for dessert. I invited everyone over to eat, have a moderate amount of alcohol, and play board games, while I tended to my three month old daughter.
In all honesty, it was one of the best birthdays I ever had. Again, that lingering feeling that I wasn’t a “real” adult was there and it turned out that I was still very much the same person at 26 that I had been at 25.
When I turned 29, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in the last year of my twenties. I also had lived my whole life with a clear idea of the things I would have achieved by age 30. Again, I was operating under the assumption that I would wake up on the morning of my 30th birthday a completely different person. I’d be a “real” adult. I’d have to stop dressing the way I like and listening to the music I like. I’d have to let go of my dreams and turn into some kind of fuddy-duddy.
I think you know where this is going.
Tuesday, I turned 30. I woke up two hours after my alarm went off and then kicked myself for it just like I would have any other day. I grabbed a bottle of Coca-Cola out of the fridge to kickstart my brain like I would have any other day. I sat around and watched The Simpsons for hours while I worked on the draft for my next novel. Later, I treated myself to an at home spa day while listening to the same tunes that have always brought me joy. I got out my coloring books and colored pencils and let my mind drift as I filled in the shapes. I still felt like me.
I still laugh at inappropriate jokes. I still make bad decisions from time to time. I still have things I want to learn, places I want to visit, and dreams I want to chase. I still want more tattoos. I still prefer black t-shirts and ripped jeans. I still consider a swipe of black eyeliner adequate makeup. I’m still keen to seek out new information and adjust my views accordingly. I’m still figuring out how to operate in the big, scary world, while simultaneously teaching my child how to be a proper human. I still don’t feel like a “real” adult.
This isn’t to say I haven’t come a long way from the 19 year old who was scared of turning 20. I have seen more, done more, and experienced more in the last 10 years, so of course I’ve changed. I’ve traded in parties for get-togethers. I’ve learned to manage our funds better and eat healthier meals. I’ve learned the importance of a good night’s sleep. I’ve become adept at thinking before I act and put the needs of my family before my own. I’ve gone from idly fantasizing about the things I want to achieve to setting goals and working to achieve them.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to let go of expectations.
Who says being an adult has to be boring?
I will always be something of a child at heart. I will always strive to be a better person than I was yesterday. I will always want to have a good time and try my hardest to make this ride as fun as possible. I will always be a little weird. I will always be me.
I have set my sights on making my thirties my best decade yet by giving myself permission to follow my own compass and define for myself what being an adult looks like. I will focus on living a life that I am truly proud of, regardless of any negativity that is thrown my way. I will continue to work my hardest to make my dreams a reality so that I can show my daughter that anything is possible. I will make the most of this life and live authentically and without fear.
If nothing else, I hope I can inspire each and everyone of you to do the same. Be who you are, do what you do, and never let somebody else’s standards get in your way.