A few weeks ago, while lacing up my shoes by the front door, I had the strangest moment of enlightenment. As I headed to the grocery store at 8:30am on a Sunday morning to buy coffee, it struck me: “I love being a grown up!” Crazy, I know. Three weeks later I’m still pondering the absurdity of the fleeting thought. I’m thirty. I’m what the school-kids call, “a teacher grownup.” What does ‘thirty’ mean anymore? (I mean, other than worse hangovers than your twenties, love-handles, and an identity crisis?) While some people are wallowing in their own self-pity, all I can say is, thank god I’m not twenty anymore. When I tell people I’m thirty, I hold my head high and demand respect. I am a grown-up, goddamnit! I have read several articles lately on how our generation – the Gen Y’ers, or the Millennials – are shaking up the corporate world, and are no longer satisfied with the conventions of the traditional workplace. An article in Marie Claire magazine said that more young people are seeking out consulting and freelance jobs so they can work and play. That may require devoting 24/7 to a career, but doesn’t the old adage say, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” Is ‘doing it all’ the new ‘having it all?‘ I can’t say I’m beyond the drunk nights, dumb decisions, and utmost confusion that came with twenties, but somehow, thirty brings an air of confidence. Thirty used to symbolize the beginning of the end – kids, mortgages, La-Z-Boy recliners – essentially an acceptance of complete and utter misery. Not for me.
This is my decade to test out the lessons I have learned, and reflect on mistakes I have made. I may not have anything figured out until fifty or sixty, but thirty is a good trial run. With vodka lingering on my breath the morning after a Christmas spent alone, and 2015 only days away, I contemplate on what I have learned thus far, and whether or not I can truly “have it all.” Regardless of what that means, I’ve been pretty lucky thus far. Although, it’s true what they say: a real woman makes her own luck.
So in the spirit of a New Years’ cleanse, here is my…
1. Eat good food. – Don’t waste your time with shit. Food nurtures more than just the body. It brings family, friends, and strangers together. Food gives us a secret key to relive memories we never thought we’d experience again. This doesn’t mean that the best meal of your life can’t come from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but stay away from late-night burritos at Taco Bell. Your bowels will thank you tomorrow.
2. Respect your elders. – I rolled my eyes at this for years, until just recently. In a time where the digital gods rule all, and social media is second nature, I have come to learn the importance of face-to-face interactions. The older generations still value phone calls and lunch meetings, and you will stand apart for initiating these. These simple gestures will not go unnoticed, and will be remembered when promotions and opportunities arise.
3. Read books. A lot. – I can’t bring myself to switch over to ebooks, no way, no how. I have shelves of paper books, some new, most from garage sales and thrift stores. There is something sentimental and nostalgic about opening each book, but paper books bring more than that. Books require sustained attention, a characteristic lost in many people today. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and news feeds demand more attention than they deserve. (Check out Bosman and Richtel’s New York Times article on the topic.) Get lost in the pages of a good book, and don’t feel guilty for putting down a bad one. (It took me years to be ok with doing just that.)
4. Be weird. – We’re not weird enough! I respect and adore the artists, entrepreneurs, players, and dreamers who can innovate and inspire, while the rest of the world ticks and tocks away. Sing on the street corner, ask the person in line next to you about their favorite pair of pajamas, order the “chef’s special” at your next dine-out, mismatch your clothes. What’s the worst that can happen? If anything, you’ll bring some much need color to a rather drab day.
5. Learn to enjoy being alone. – Growing up, my brother could spend hours playing with toys in his room alone. I never quite understood “playing.” Sounds sad, but don’t feel bad for me. I would spend hours daydreaming about changing the world, or about writing the next great novel, (about The Pickle Family when I was four.) Twenty-five years later I realized that I not only loved being alone, I needed it. Not everyone requires hours of alone time, but everyone should be comfortable with moments of solitude. Stop: take a deep breath, close your eyes, and savor this very moment.
6. Live large and be free! – This was my mantra in high school, something I would doodle all over every notebook. Fifteen years later I still believe it. Be big, bold, and unafraid!
Happy New Year!
Update 12/28/14: Check out this great article from The New York Times on figuring out life in your 40s! Looks like none of us ever have it figured out. “Grown ups” just fake it better.