I turned 30 this past St. Patrick’s Day. Most people would consider being born on St. Patrick’s Day a sign of good luck. I choose to look at it that way, but considering my idea of a delicious meal is nowhere near corned beef and cabbage, and leprechauns sort of scare me, I may be mistaken. I do enjoy a good beer, regardless of color, but as a kid I couldn’t exactly lean on that. But I’ve always looked good in green and can actually say “Yes!” when people ask if there’s any Irish in my ancestry, so at least there’s that.
This past year has been the best of my life, though, and frankly, I haven’t wanted to leave my twenties so adamantly until fairly recently – when I realized I did manage to check off almost everything on my “To Do in My Twenties” list. I graduated college, carved out both a full-time and freelance career for myself, found “the one,” and traveled a pretty good amount. I also had a lot of fun along the way and am somehow not in crippling debt, which makes my self-inflicted back-pat feel pretty darn genuine.
So what’s next? Frankly, I have no idea. And while my type-A self is mostly terrified by that revelation, I’m also pretty excited. This is an entire new decade I get to decide how to spend. It’s an entire 10-year span where I can continue to find myself, but with an added bonus I didn’t have when I turned 20: I know what I want out of life, and I know I’m capable of achieving everything I want to achieve.
So with that, here’s a list of the things I did on my 30th birthday that shape who I want to be the day I celebrate turning 40 (which will be a Monday but hey, 50 is a Saturday!).
1. Took off work and went to the salon.
On the surface, this might sound shallow, but if there’s one thing it’s difficult for me to do, it’s relax. My mother and her mother are and were guilty of the same thing; in fact – and forgive the slight morbidity – my mother told me the only time she saw her mother’s face look anything resembling relaxed was at her funeral.
I loved my grandmother dearly, but I don’t want that for myself, nor for any children I may have in the future. And as such, I think working relaxation into my thirties is not only important, but crucial – even if it’s planned (which, in my world, it needs to be).
2. Looked at houses.
My husband is in the final hiring stages of a job he really wants, and while he may not get it, I couldn’t help myself: I looked at houses on Trulia near the location we’d likely move to if he got the job. And while this maybe be a little jump-the-gun-esque, it does reflect the idea of building something new – namely, a family.
I spent my twenties mostly looking out for myself. And while that introspection is OK and integral, I’d like my thirties to be more about building outward. This ideology also means the inclusion of more charity work, for organizations my husband and I both really believe in.
3. Signed up for a half marathon and asked my husband to cook a healthy dinner.
Registration for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon opened on my birthday. I signed my husband up for that race – it will be his first half! – and myself up for the OUC Half Marathon, a race I’ve never done (though I have done halfs in the past, including the Wine & Dine). This race is in December, and my goal is to run the entire thing. So far I can run about a half mile straight so I have a lot of work to do, but now I have a no-turning-back fitness goal that I can focus on achieving in my thirtieth year.
My husband also cooked a nice, healthy dinner for us, because he knows I’m trying to eat better. This was so much more special to me, not to mention cheaper, than going out. Plus, I’m not really one for the whole servers-singing-to-you thing.
But this isn’t to say I didn’t have cake on my birthday. Oh, no no. I’m not crazy.
4. Read – for pleasure.
When I was a kid, you could seldom find me without my nose in a book. From The Baby-Sitters Club to Goosebumps to classics like Pollyanna, I couldn’t get enough. Nowadays, when I have a rogue hour or two of free time, I usually binge-watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. How about that Jess, eh? I can’t see him as anything other than Peter Petrelli but damn is he fine/better than Dean. No spoilers though, I’m only on season 3 because I’m an amateur.
ANYWAY, on my birthday, I picked up a book I’ve been halfway through forever and read a good solid chunk of it. It felt good not to read just for information, or veg in front of the TV and let the screen do the imagining for me. It was my way of building a bridge between kid!Jen and adult!Jen that says, “You can still be a kid sometimes. Just, you know…pay the bills first.”
5. Planned a trip.
Like many on-the-fence millennials, travel is one of my biggest goals. I took my highest-priority trip in 2011 (Australia) and I’ve been wanting to go to Europe for so long, so I started looking into the details and drawing out a budget, a timeline, and a rough itinerary for a September 2016 trip. It felt good to get some of that out on paper, and regardless of whether I get to go to Paris, Munich, and London in September 2016, I’ll know I spent time and effort to make it a reality and priority in my life.
But real talk, maybe I’ll push it to September 2017 so I can reenact the Harry Potter epilogue.
6. Let go.
My best friend and I had a permanent falling out last July. The catalyst isn’t important, as we’d been going the way of the dodo for years. We became too different and grew too far apart figuratively and literally; an “It’s Over!” neon sign was flashing right in front of us for too long while we let everything fester. Needless to say, our friendship didn’t end as well as it could and probably should have.
On my thirtieth birthday, I burned a letter I’d written her but didn’t intend to send. This was my attempt at letting go of my anger – an emotion I want to experience less of in this new decade of my life and that I’d been holding onto for much too long. And while I’m not naïve enough to believe a charred piece of paper will fix everything, I do know that when I feel angry, I can remember this small gesture and know that the emotion will only get smaller until one day it, too, burns away.
Are you reaching a monumental birthday? Are you going to do anything special for it? Are the thirties really the best years of your life like everyone is telling me?