Why Turning 30 Can Be A New Shot at Your 20s
Ever since I can remember, I thought of the age 30 as the big bad wolf looming on the horizon. As a 30-year-old woman, one should be settled, mature, responsible, with signs of a family and upward success. At least that’s what I used to think in my twenties. I have X more years left, I would say to myself … As much as we like to think otherwise, society still dictates programed expectations. You are predetermined to live your twenties through a series of predictable events: you go to college and spend the little money you don’t have; you start work, and get your first taste of real life; you get promoted and you meet someone; you reap your first success; you get married and buy a house. Maybe you even have a baby, all before the gong rings: 30!
As soon as I turned 20, it seemed I would easily check off all must-dos way ahead the dreaded 3.0. I got married at 20, left my native Romania for New York, and settled in an apparent blissful married life. Everything was movie like: the ring, the proposal, my stab at modeling. Firmly positioned in my cushy, settled role of a young doctor’s wife, many were envious. The next step was kids and an aspiring journalism career — a perfectly packaged American dream.
One day, three years in, I realized reality was far from bliss. We were worlds apart. I was too young, he was too busy. Communicating was like a two-way street: one going straight, the other backwards. By 24, I was separated and confused; a suma cum laude graduate with few prospects. Dream jobs were scarce. In fact, all jobs were scarce. Modeling was a distant memory, genuine friends even further away. I was served divorce papers. Similar to the global crisis, I was in crisis, at not yet 25.
As I was reading the best seller “Eat, Pray, Love” one afternoon, I suddenly choked. “I’d started having to put legal pressure on my husband, doing dreadful things out of my worst divorce nightmares, like serving papers and writing damning legal accusations (required by New York State law). Here, I pause to offer a prayer for my gentle reader: May you never, ever, have to get a divorce in New York.” Elizabeth Gilbert was right. I don’t know about 2015, but back in 2009, divorcing in New York was an illogical nightmare. I was living the same, only a decade of life earlier. A six-month feud got me back to being Miss. At the end of a dreadful summer, this young divorcee was starting over, baffled at her newfound youth and opportunities. A second adolescence followed. So did other relationships, and a few lucky breaks.
In the subsequent years, I experienced what I should have in the previous five. I made friends left and right, explored the hell out of the city and started traveling. I enrolled at NYU. I realized the more I do, the more options I have — people to meet, career paths to take. I discovered what I like and went for it. My life was no longer stable, but it was my own. I embraced freelancer’s instability and yet, a much higher confidence. I made peace that settled life might just have to wait. As of now, it still is.
A few days ago I turned 30. I didn’t have the big party I had last year. I reflected instead. I wrote a long wish list Dear 30th Birthday Santa Claus. I searched for reassurance. I searched for reassurance that perhaps 30s are the new 20s. In my case, half my 20s were my 30s, so why not a new shot at 20s? Sadly, I’ve not made the 30 Under 30 Forbes list, and I have not yet published a book. But there’s still time; The Millennials generation — to which I belong — has all the time in the world. We know what we want. We don’t settle. We only work what we like, and go anywhere we desire. Unlike our parents, we have Internet and freedom of choice. Exploring the globe is the new way of growth into adulthood.
I am not any different. As a location-independent freelancer, the world is at my fingertips. Literally. Everything I do has to feel right, otherwise I don’t do it — what I wear on any given day, how I feel about someone, or what project I embark on. I have friends all over the world, and a world of options. More so, this time around, I have experience on my side. I am infinitely more mature at 30 than I ever was at 20. I know better what I want, and I am much more ready for it. But — and this is a capitalized B-U-T — freedom of choice comes with a price. While I press start on further travels, and continue expanding my already growing network, truly settling down still feels far away. Everything and anything is possible.
30 hasn’t settled in yet. But I will, maybe.