In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”
The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.
By 30, you should have…
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
This week’s essay, written by ZZ Packer, particularly resonated with me at the onset of this New Year. Packer writes about a boyfriend she loved in her youth — and his tragic death years later, when they’d each married other partners and had children and lived a million new truths since.
Packer writes, “Most of us fear that in growing old, we’ll become a shell of ourselves. But, of course, it’s the youthful versions of ourselves that are our shells; we must leave them behind like a snakeskin.”
It’s all too easy to be wistful about getting older — there are so many things we haven’t done or seen or accomplished in this past trip around the sun. We don’t always see aging as an opportunity to continue to grow, and to be OK with leaving some of our past behind. It doesn’t mean we’re losing who we are; it means we’re gaining who we’ve become.
I look at the mistakes and memories of my life up until now, and hindsight will forever remain 20/20. There are choices I’d maybe make differently, or not, because then those lessons might not have been learned. I’d love to have avoided the heartbreak or hurt, but again, those fractures have helped make me who I am today, scars and all.
I certainly never wanted high school or college to be “the best time of my life,” because that would mean I wasn’t living in the best time; I’d have already peaked, so to speak. I know not every day (or week, month or even year) will be my best ever, but I hope each chapter of life brings new excitement and positivity I haven’t yet experienced.
And while I’m fully ready to move beyond the zits and drama my younger self endured, I hope my future self is shaping up to be a woman who can look back at 30, 60, 90 (please?), and be content with all she’s done and seen and accomplished.
Like Packer believes, I too aim to “grow old gratefully, not gracefully.” She continues, “… youth is not the blossom, but the bud; and though one cannot always be young and wild, if you are willing to learn, to grow, to outrun the mileposts of your own wildest dreams, you can always be winsome and lucky, lovely and free.”
Give me a good theme and watch me work.
So I’m back in NYC this week — for work, but more importantly — to celebrate my work wifey’s wedding! It could be the copious coffee, this electrifying city or a combination of both, but here’s what I’m feeling:
- Earth Day: I know y’all were thinking green on 4/20 but how about you go a step further and do something good for the environment today? Then, reward yourself with this adorable quiz from Google to determine your spirit animal.
- Via: For all you lovelies who are tired of Uber surges in NYC, check out Via — you can go anywhere between 14th and 110th Street, Monday to Friday, 630 a.m. to 930 p.m. for a fraction of the price! Use my friend’s promo code justine4w6 for a $10 credit 🙂
- Obao: It’s no secret that New York has some of the most delicious food in the country, but I experienced Obao last night and was just blown away. From phenomenal pho to incredible desserts and impeccable service, it’s no wonder this place is so popular.
- “Up” – Olly Murs f. Demi Lovato: A co-worker got me hooked on this song, which is just brimming with positivity. I never considered myself a Demi Lovato fan, but the little lady has quite the pipes to support Olly’s smooth singing.
Today is my parents’ anniversary.
33 years ago, they held hands in a church.
They vow to love and support one another so long as they both shall live. Friends and family — and God, lest we forget — witness the start of a long road ahead.
3 years later, they hold hands in a hospital room.
And they hold their baby boy — the first grandson for her family’s side. He will be a pioneer of many things: fearless, curious and stubborn as hell. He will challenge and change their lives forever.
4 years later, they hold hands in another hospital room.
They can’t hold their baby girl —the doctors deliver diagnoses much faster than they delivered the incubated infant. She will be a fighter: for life, for independence and for respect.
8 years later, they hold hands in ICU.
He’s suffered a stroke. She awoke in the night to find him lifeless. The ambulance sirens screamed, waking their children. The kids don’t understand why Daddy doesn’t recognize them. They can’t comprehend the doctors’ advice that Mommy should make funeral arrangements. They have no idea the impact this day will have.
10 years later, they don’t hold hands often.
The kids have moved away, forcing a harsh spotlight on an imperfect marriage. Their separate interests have become time-consuming; missed festivities, massive fights and mangled feelings are all too common. Their love and support is routine, but no longer remarkable.
8 years later, they hold hands on the beach.
Their son and his beautiful wife vow to love and support one another so long as they both shall live. Friends and family — many who were there in June 1980 — witness the start of a new road ahead.
Less than a year later, they hold hands in a waiting room.
He’s got Stage IV liver cancer, the doctors say. He can beat it with chemo, they say. He’s in the best possible care, they say. Everything we inherited — being fearless, curious and stubborn as hell; and fighting for life, for independence and for respect — we’ve never needed them more.
Today is my parents’ anniversary.
And I just pray for another 33 years of hand-holding and kept vows.
Moving to New York has helped me realize that I am officially, sort of, a grown-up. I’ve always had an independent spirit, but I’m learning each day how to do more on my own — often screwing things up along the way.*
Some highlights of my quasi-adulthood:
- Few things excite me more now than selecting home decor.
- I filed my taxes in FEBRUARY, not April (or October).
- Justin Bieber hosted + performed on SNL, and I felt nothing. Nothing!
- I’m washing my hair more often. Like, twice a week now.
- My bed was made every day this week for the first time since … ever.
Rest assured, I’m balancing all this maturity with weekend benders in Brooklyn and drunk purchases on etsy. But knowing I can handle some things I’d never managed before is pretty cool too.
*Exhibit A: This post was scheduled yesterday. I couldn’t bring myself to hit “Publish” after leaving my desk keys at home and being rendered useless for the first half of the workday.
This Sunday marks exactly one year since my college graduation. It wouldn’t be proper for it to come and go without me reflecting on how much has changed in that time.
365 days may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but that particular stretch of time has been largely definitive in my life thus far.
In December 2009:
- I didn’t know what I was going to do after graduation.
- My favorite song on the radio was “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha (only God can judge me).
- I was living in New Tampa and going to Peabody’s like nobody’s business.
- My main concern was finding a “big-girl” job and myself.
- I worked at the mall and loathed being a slave to retail.
In December 2010:
- I’ve been in possession of my diploma for about four months and am still learning of its weight.
- My favorite song on the radio is “Only Prettier” by Miranda Lambert.
- I live in South Tampa and go to MacDinton’s, Hyde Park Cafe, Dubliner, etc. like nobody’s business.
- My main concern is what my next career move will be.
- I work at an ad agency and despite the craziness, am gaining more experience than I’d have ever imagined.
When I went home for Christmas last year, I was peppered incessantly by friends and family about just what I was going to do with my life. I had five or six options, none of which I was particularly sold on.
When I go home for Christmas this year, I can confidently speak about my life and the many blessings I’ve been granted. Nowhere on my list of options was “Find a job in my field, in Tampa” because I didn’t think that was possible.
Of course fundamentally, I’m the same old Wittyburg. I’m still unsure of myself, falling for the wrong guy and learning about life’s twists and turns on the daily.
The thing is, I continually strive to make each year better than the last. I never want to look back and say, “That was the best time of my life.” What’s the point if you’re not always at the best time of your life?
And Lord only knows where I’ll be a year from now. I just hope I don’t revert back to thinking Ke$ha’s “music” is good.
I’m in my early 20s and am still learning new things about myself every day. I have fantasies, faults and fears that I discover as I move throughout life. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why it seems that so many of my baby-faced peers are so eager to rush down the aisle and raise kids of their own.
It’s my feeling that many of these people want the wedding, not the marriage. Listen — if you’re looking to spend a couple grand on some extravagant night, I can give you a laundry list of reasons to do so, besides the first boyfriend you’ve ever had just dropped to one knee and gave you a ring.
I’m sure this sounds crazy to those happily married or happily engaged couples who have stars in their eyes and are over the moon for one another. Take it from a girl who falls fast, and always for the wrong guy; there is no timeline for ANY of us on when it should happen.
There’s the saying that “if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans,” and I couldn’t agree more. You can’t plan when you’ll get married, or who the bride or groom will be. You can’t draw out blueprints for a baby’s room before pregnancy, because the thing about life is, THERE IS NO PLAN. The second you try to plan, the second it falls to shit. And all that’s left is a giant chasm of disappointment.
And honestly, what’s the rush? So much life is ahead of you when you’re in your 20s. So many experiences await you. The world is wide open, and it may never be again.
I say all of this, of course, as someone who enjoys attending sorority sisters’ weddings. I’m excited to hear of a friend or relative who is pregnant. I’m not bitter toward the fact that those choices are made in the early dawn of their lives. I just don’t quite get it.
I think it freaks some people out to hear me say that I don’t know if I’ll ever get married, or if I’ll ever want children of my own. I am judged for not following what’s expected of me at the old age of 23, but I simply don’t have a plan for myself to “achieve” those things. Does that make me a failure at being a twentysomething?
Everyone has different priorities, so I suppose the point I’m trying to make is: At this stage in my life, is it so wrong that I first want to become successful in my professional and financial milestones, and worry about the husband and baby later?