I turned thirty this month, and that tiny inner panic has been a little rowdier than usual, elbowing its way forward from the darker corners of my mind and asking those unnecessarily harsh questions I think we all ask ourselves from time to time: WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? Where are those children you haven’t had? Where is that house you haven’t purchased? Where is that big promotion you traded your house and kids for, since everyone knows you must be some kind of insane workaholic if you don’t have kids or a home or even a car when you turn thirty?
While different for each of us, I think we all have a few questions taunting us as life milestones approach. For the most part, these questions are different versions of one big question, which is a little more personal and, frankly, a little scary: is there something wrong with me? Why don’t I want what [I think] everyone else thinks I am supposed to want? Is it okay that I feel differently, that I want different things, that I’m just not ready?[Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way.]
Thirty is an age with a lot of expectations, but as I am turning the corner and beginning this new decade of my life, the fear of being broken is starting to fade. There are certainly still times I wonder if I am a giant failure because I don’t feel something that I think I am supposed to feel, or haven’t yet accomplished something that I think I should have achieved, but I’m developing a new-found confidence that who I am is good enough, and that I was made for this exact life I am living.
Here’s an example. I absolutely hate going out, but always agonize that I must have some kind of fatal flaw in my core that makes me less fun than other people, so I usually try to convince myself that I want to go out on my birthday. This year, I didn’t try to convince myself. I accepted my truth as okay.
It’s okay that I prefer not to go out for drinks on my birthday. It’s okay that I’d rather not wear a skirt and heels to a bar; heels aren’t that comfortable when you might have to stand all night. It’s okay that I’d rather stay in; it’s cold in January, and it isn’t that fun to hold your coat in a crowded restaurant. It’s fine if I’d rather make dinner at home: for the price of a $12 cocktail (plus tip) I can buy an entire bottle of my favorite wine to share with my husband, and use the last of the bottle to make this cake!
It’s no great epiphany, and perhaps you and everyone else have known this all along. But for me, it helps to say these things out loud. I’ve spent too many of my secret life minutes wondering what was wrong with me, searching my flaws to root out what was keeping me from being just like everyone else. I am thirty years old, I know what I like, and I am confident enough to choose what I want instead of pretending to enjoy things to make others happy.