I don’t remember what I ever thought turning thirty would be like when I was younger. I don’t think that I considered much about aging when I was a kid. That’s not to say I wasn’t numbers-obsessed, because I was. As a society, we are. I know that I looked forward to sixteen because it meant driving, and I looked forward to eighteen because it meant adulthood. As a kid, I thought that I would be married by twenty. Then when I got to be twenty and still wasn’t married, I said 25. At 25, I stopped counting.
When I got to junior high, I started obsessing over numbers on a scale. I still remember being weighed in eighth grade P.E. in front of the whole class. “My overalls are really heavy,” was what I said when I sat back down on the hard wood floors of the gym. While other girls were counting on both hands the boys they had kissed, I was counting with one thumb the one I loved and wished so desperately would love me back. He never did.
I continued to count guys in my early twenties. By 25 I could use two fingers to show how many I’d kissed. I didn’t have enough fingers or toes to count the ones that chose my best friend over me, or said they would date me if only I would lose weight. I stopped counting how many times I was told what a great friend I was. I thought a great friend wasn’t a bad thing to be. I just didn’t know I’d be stuck in that spin cycle for the next five years. My love life felt like reruns of a bad sitcom without the laugh track.
I like to think thirty was a bit of a turning point for me. It’s not like I’m completely rehabilitated and no longer counting, or trying to live up to society’s harsh expectations or anything, but I’m softening. I still struggle with some of the same things I struggled with in my twenties, but I started to count things differently when I turned thirty. Hours spent with friends became more important than how many boys I kissed. The joy I felt from writing a good piece became more important than whether or not I had a book deal. The scale is still my number one nemesis, but I’ve started to appreciate my body for the amazing machine that it is. My body can get up early to exercise. It’s hard, but my body persists. My body can dance. My body can drive my car. My body can run around Disneyland. My body can work so I can support myself and contribute to my family. My hands can cook and clean and create things. My mind can think up stories and string words together until they make sense. Getting older means my appearance is changing. Things are gradually starting to sag. It’s not my favorite thing in the world, to be honest. I’m working on not caring about my drooping stomach or the lines on my face. I’m working on being brave. I’m working on being patient. I’m working on becoming something great. Everything takes work. I’m working, I’m working, I’m working.
I remember driving in the car with my mom when I was twelve. Deana Carter’s “Did I Shave My Legs For This?” album was on the stereo, and we were listening to “Strawberry Wine,” a song I listened to no fewer than 378 times my seventh grade year. There’s a line in the song that says, “I still remember when thirty was old.” I’d listened to it hundreds of times before, but I had never considered that line much. It stands out to me in this particular memory because of my mother’s reaction to it. “Thirty is old, chick,” my mother said, out loud but quietly, to no one. She was 32 at the time with three children, two jobs, and a husband who worked graveyards. I remember wondering why my mother felt that way. Though I hadn’t ever imagined being thirty, it didn’t seem so old to me. Looking back on it now, I think she had just lived so many lives by the time she had turned thirty that it probably did seem old to her. She worked hard, raised children, took care of her parents and siblings. She had done more than I have or probably ever will by the time she turned 28. It’s funny how people can live in the same exact place but live two completely different lives.
I don’t think we should be afraid to embark on new decades of our lives, because each one brings something new and fresh and challenging. I know it sounds trite and cheesy, but every day is a blank slate, and you have the pen to write whatever story you want to write. The future is unknown, which is always scary, but underneath that fear, I feel excited about it. I am lucky to know the people I know. I have a wonderful family. I have Netflix. I have really amazing pajama pants that can almost pass for regular pants. I have pizza. I have a sharp mind and a bright soul and a dark heart.
I think a lot about the daughter I will have someday and what I will tell her about thirty, or any other age really. I want to be able to say that thirty is the year you stop worrying about scales and counting broken hearts, but I’m 33 now, and I still think about both of those things every so often. That is an unavoidable part of life, and there’s nothing age can do about that. I will tell her how the world is so beautiful, and sometimes when your heart breaks it’s because of the beauty of things and not because of the ugly. I want her to know that sometimes things seem so unbearably dark, but it’s only so we can better see the blinding light of the good that surrounds us. I wonder when I will get a daughter, or if I ever will. If I do, I hope she is smarter than I am. I hope she hurts less and is more careful about who she shares herself and her mixtapes with. I hope she knows that, wherever she is now, she is so, so loved.