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Today was my birthday and I am now comfortably in my mid 30’s. When I was turning 30 (which was the equivalent in years to the atomic number of boron ago) I asked from my family a simple gift. I wanted a short essay on their personal feelings and what was going on when they turned 30. It turned out to be a great gift and I got unique insight into each member of the family. Today I will share my brothers submission and I hope he wouldn’t mind because it is personal but I felt like sharing.
The book’s not written, the contract isn’t signed, but tickets have been sold and people are expecting a show. You’ve turned 30.
30, so what’s the big deal? It’s not even twice as old as when you graduated high school. What’s so significant about 30? For me, I think it was fairly close to the 10th anniversary of losing my virginity, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.
Why is it treated like a milestone to be feared or celebrated? Well, not to get all nerdtastic on you, but it’s because we live in a base10 world. We have 10 numbers, 0-9 and when you get to the end you add a 1 to the left hand column and start all over. That starting over completes a cycle. Humans like cycles, we like things that complete. So 10 is a big deal. Every freaking time it rolls around. We set guideposts according to these cycles, you should be here by this point, there by that point. How we count actually affects how we judge our lives. How fucking arbitrary.
I wonder what it would be like if we lived in a culture where things were always judged by a duodecimal system (base12). Right now you’d be 26. In a hexadecimal system you would be 1E. How would that affect how we planned our lives? Would it be too late to change careers at the age of 6 if the average life-span was 17? That doesn’t sound as intimidating to me as 30 versus 85. Or think about this, the measurement of a foot was based on the length of the English King’s foot at some point in time. What if the numbering system used as it’s base the average life-span of a landholder in the 17th century? That was around 40 years old, so 40 would equal 1. You’d be turning .75 right now in a world where the average person now lives to be 2. Now turning 1, that would be a bitch.
So back to the real world, we like our 10’s, so 30 is a psychological milestone. Here it is, what’s next? What happens when you turn 30? Turns out, shit doesn’t just magically happen at 30, just like it didn’t at 21 or 16. 30 comes in a stream, with 29 and 31 giving no ground. It’s kind of like the question of “what changed when you got married?” Like, look at the month before and the month after. For me, having lived in sin, the answer was “people stopped asking me when I was going to get married”.
Likewise, I guess the only thing that really changed with 30 was that when I was carded for beer at 29, I could sigh or something, but really, not a big deal. When I got carded at 30, I could hand them my license and then sit back thinking, “yeah motherfucker, 30. how you like them apples.”
More seriously, I don’t recall that 30 stood out that much for me at the time. I think there are probably 2 reasons for that, one positive and one negative. First the positive: I was distracted from the fact of turning 30 because there was something much more important going on for me. 30 happened during the unique with- Taylor, pre-marriage period of my life.It was becoming clear that this relationship would help define and direct the remainder of my life as much as anything else. It was my first time living with someone, and more importantly, it was the first time in my life I felt marriage was something I wanted. I proposed to Taylor with just over 3 weeks left as a 30 year old.
And what’s the negative? It will come as no surprise to you that I am in the 8th year of my quarter-life crisis. 30 would have been the 5th year, and hence nothing new could come of the taking- stock-of-your-life that many people do at 30. There was very little 2nd-guessing, self doubt, frustration, introspection or self-analysis that I hadn’t already done. Many times.
But arbitrary numbering systems and premature generational malaise aside, it’s hard not to pass judgement on yourself at 30. We like to define ourselves and this seems as good a time to do it as any. This is who we are, this is what we are.
After all, at some point you are who you are, regardless of who you thought you were going to be.
Some people like the results, some just accept them. So they lock down that definition of themselves and only the most jarring of external forces would cause them to reassess. They become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I didn’t fall into that camp at 30, and I can’t say much has changed in 3 years. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but every year, instead of getting a little more ground down, I think I’m getting a little more wound up. I know I’ve got a lot more in me that I don’t yet see, and the expectation helps to offset the uncertainty.
Yeah, I’m gonna do something big one day. Tell you what, by the time I’m 40………….. PS: This essay, counting this, is exactly 900 words, which is 30 x 30.
P.S. If anybody would like to submit where they were personally at 35 I would be happy to read it……….
About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.