On Saturday I celebrated my 31st birthday. It was fantastic for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that Dustin and I were not sick with sleep deprivation and worry that at any moment Ben’s hernias could slip out-of-place and require emergency surgery. Man, last year kicked our asses!
Birthdays are often a time of reflection, and over the past week of mulling over life and the passing of time (you know, little stuff like that) I came to a conclusion: turning 31 beat turning 21 by a longshot.
Alcohol is an enhancement, not the focal point. Sure, I have fond memories of sitting around a living room drinking and doing a number of silly things (drunk Twister is still a favorite). But I’ve found that nowadays, if there is alcohol involved, it’s an enhancement to the already awesome time we’re having. There doesn’t need to be drinks flowing to have a good time. This is not to say that I boozed it up in my twenties – quite the contrary, I was pretty boring among typical standards. I’m just happy that now it’s “normal” to be boring.
But if you do drink, you know what you’re getting yourself into. Even if you were one of those kids who drank plenty before they were legal (I wasn’t…go ahead, nerd alert me) you had to act all shocked and surprised when you spend the next day with a hangover. And then you had to tell stories the following weekend about the hangover you had last weekend. At 31, Dustin and I knew what was going to happen to us after margaritas, cheap vodka, Captain Morgan and Long Islands.
Twin Cities Pride and see the Vodka Sno Cone van…because even people in their thirties will act like children a couple times a year!
Even if you don’t have it all figured out, you probably have the most important part figured out. And by that, I mean YOU. I’m guessing that by the time you’ve reached your thirties, you know at your core who you are. People change all their lives, but I believe that our core components are hard to shake by this stage in the game. Being in your twenties can be terrifying and can involve trying on many different personas, which is, of course, all part of the process of learning the type of person you want to grow up to become.
You’ve already had some big wins and some epic fails, and you have enough distance to realize that it will all even out. Between the ages of 16-26 I lost a dad, an uncle, worked long hours at jobs that treated me like crap and paid even worse, and married and divorced an abusive monster of a guy. Those were the fails. The wins? I put myself through night school for my B.A., walked out of said job to search for better skies, landed a job that turned into a career, had the nerve to divorce said monster, traveled the globe…see how the “win” list is much larger? Age really does put perspective on things. If you do your part and meet the world/God/universe half-way, the scale will balance out…eventually. Promise.
Love doesn’t suck. And if it does suck, you know better than to take it. People – in particular women – in their younger years are a bit more likely to hang on to a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. Or they hang on because they aren’t concerned with how much time is being wasted with someone who can’t or won’t give you what you want. You get older and you stop sacrificing your happiness for someone else’s agenda. If you’re married in your thirties odds are you’ve learned by now what you will and won’t tolerate, and if you’re not, you know what you’re looking for and you’re too smart to settle for anything less.
You have really valuable friendships and you know quality over quantity is what counts. This may be the biggest one for me, because after the heartbreak that was my high school (death of a parent in the middle of your high school career does not make relationships easy) I was really sensitive about being in my twenties and not having a friend to my name for longer than a year or more. And now? I couldn’t care less. The friends I made in my twenties are, for the most part, still here in my thirties. At least the ones that are worth keeping are here – the rest? I don’t lose sleep over them, let me assure you. I’ve also learned to identify quality people from the ones who are all flash but wouldn’t show up for you at 2am when the hard stuff strikes.
My mom and her best friend of…25ish years, taken in 2006. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two friends like this in your lifetime. Hold on to these people. They are priceless.
And last, but certainly not least: growing older is a privilege, not a right. Scroll through your FB feed, watch the news, look up the right key words on Pinterest and you will find a plethora of people mourning friends, family and (yikes) children taken from this world way too soon. At 21, most of us still have a bit of that “invincibility” complex left over from our teen years. By 31? We know better. I feel lucky to be this age, and I feel lucky for every day and year that comes after, because really, none of us knows when the clock stops.
Does aging bother you? Is there something you miss about your twenties now that you’re in your thirties?