Next week I’ll be turning 30.
I’ve been embarrassed about my age for one reason or another for the past two decades. I never felt like I was in the right place. For the first of the two decades I thought that I was stunted—that if I were adequately mature I’d have more friends and would be going to parties or on dates. During my early 20s I waited for life to happen—which is actually an incredibly disingenuous way to say I was wrapped up tight in an opaque cocoon of egocentrism and nihilism. I spent the rest of my 20s feeling like I was playing catch-up. The stakes seemed so high! I filled my life with shoulda-woulda-coulda’s until there wasn’t room for much more.
Not that any of this is new or exciting. Especially here in the U.S.A., we live in a culture that prizes beauty above all else and equates beauty and youth. I grew up thinking that if I did anything of note it would have to be while I was young, because all the magazine spreads, news stories, TV shows, and movies stressed the impressiveness of age when youth and talent coincide. Even interviews with people who had long established themselves in their area of expertise often include stories about how so-and-so just knew they wanted to do whatever since before they were conceived. To me, that felt like a lot of pressure.
I think that’s what launched me towards media studies, feminism, and sociology. My own interest in media studies let me see that dismantling any narrative and critiquing its agenda was an option. Feminism told me—still tells me—that I have a voice worth hearing (among so much more). And sociology gave me so many gifts, like an understanding of the importance of a well-constructed study and its findings. It also taught me multiple theories about the function of society and its meaning, which included the idea that we craft our own narratives. One of my favorite professors showed the class how we cherry-pick elements of our past to make sense of our present by using some elements of her past to explain how she became a sociologist. She then retold her story stressing different events to explain how she could have become a singer.
I guess that my point in telling that anecdote is that I’m finally recognizing this belief I’d had—finding my passion so that I can become successful which would then make me happy and fulfilled forever—isn’t real. I can’t believe that no one had/has ever said that to me, but I can’t remember if anyone ever did. I remember a lot of people telling me what to do next, and then telling me that they couldn’t tell me what to do. I remember a lot of approving or disapproving glances or tones. I remember knowing who I was and being told that I was intimidating, too intense, unlikely to make a living, and should pursue different research interests.
Now that I’m turning 30, I just don’t care. I’ve lived with myself for three decades. I will continue to live with myself longer than I will have lived with anyone else, and I’ve finally realized just how much more important it is that I am happy with me.
For the first time in my life I feel like I am making all of my decisions.
And that is an amazing gift.
Happy Birthday to me.