If you had asked me ten years ago, or even two years ago, what I imagined for myself at thirty I probably would have answered in terms of things – accomplishments, events, possessions. In my twenties I had a habit of measuring everything – how much do I have, how fast can I have it, and how far will it take me? But spending my last week in my twenties has shown me that those things have lost their weight; my happiness now lives free of lists.
For the first time probably ever, that pesky little “old” feeling has made its way into my brain. I always wondered if at some point on your thirtieth, fortieth, or fiftieth birthday you go stand in line at some depressing concrete government building to retrieve your “old” certificate complete with squeaky joints, back pain, indigestion, week-long hangovers and general disdain for the world – but I’ve come to realize that those things sneak in slowly without you knowing. Suddenly your decisions are influenced more by your afflictions and convenience rather than your actual desires. “Going out sounds fun, but man I hate crowded places. Also, I can’t handle hangovers anymore. Also, I need my sleep. Also, I can’t find a babysitter. Also, I have a six am baby wake up call. Also…never mind going out doesn’t sound fun.” On many Friday nights I’ve ignored the smarter part of my brain begging me to stay home and spent the following Saturday and Sunday on the couch regretting the three drinks I had and the fifty dollars spent on said drinks and valet parking. Once you face the denial head-on, the clouds part, the sun shines through, and you realize that your body isn’t an empty vessel to be discarded once you’re done with it – it’s actually capable of many wonderful things when you treat it right and wake up before eight am on a weekend.
I’m not going to pat myself on the back for magically becoming responsible once the clock struck thirty – having a baby definitely has a way of speeding up that process – but I will say that now that I’m here I wonder what took me so long to arrive. I’m happy to leave behind a decade of worry, recklessness and self-doubt to enter a phase of peace and contentment. Knowing that I don’t always have to be satisfied with something to be appreciative, I don’t have to complain when I can act, I don’t have to be scared when I know how to reason, I don’t have to get angry when I know how to resolve, and I shouldn’t hold myself to anyone’s standards except my own. “From adversity comes strength” finally rings true – my past experiences have shaped me but do not define me. And I will always be transformative if I strive to be a better person than I was yesterday.
Happiness is now defined by moments – a quiet dinner with my husband on the rare occasion that we get to be alone, giggling with my sisters at things that only we find funny, watching my parents light up at the sight or slightest mention of their grandson, holding my sweet baby boy at the end of a long work day. Simple, boring – and euphoric. I haven’t lost my desire for travel, a career, and spontaneity, but I’m experiencing it all in a very different way.