Life, as I know it now
Chicago. The time has finally come.
I’ve talked about this with you for several years, sometimes with humor, sometimes with regret, but almost always while weeping softly. What do I mean? I FINALLY TURNED 30. Considering how much time I spent/spend talking about it I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d thought it happened years ago, Chicago. But no, there was no stopping the rising tide of agedness and I was finally sucked away to the sea of forgotten youth. I immediately threw all of my sundresses shorter than knee length in the garbage and bought a few sensible throw pillows. If this is 30, I am resigned.
On the eve of my birthday I originally wrote a rather somber monologue that was only a reflection of how lachrymose I was actually feeling. I sat on the back steps of my apartment building with a glass of champagne and toasted the universe, first for letting me survive this long without incident or without murdering someone, and second for granting me such a fine support system in my life filled with people who I love and who, somehow, still love me. The original version of the story had lots of descriptive words about scratchy dark tree branches and pale white moons and private moments but that didn’t make me laugh when I reread it (it made me gag). I did however accomplish two things-I didn’t look at my phone for about 10 whole minutes that evening and I felt the real heaviness of a particular moment in life. My twenties had ended, certain aspects of myself and my life would never come around again and the moment was substantially melancholy but happy (sort of) at the same time.
But that was all when I was still 29. Now that I’ve had the experiences that one month of 30 has brought me I am infinitely wiser and infinitely sadder. You may ask why but if you’ve recently turned 30 or have ever set the younger years of your life out to sea on an iceberg then you should already know the answer. It is a serious mind fuck, to put it one way. Much the same as I feel about New Year’s Eve, I imagined that I would wake up on my 30th birthday and it would just be a Wednesday (a Wednesday wherein I got a haircut that made me look like a maniac but that’s besides the point). I won’t keep you waiting any longer, I was wrong. It was as though a small switch had been clicked on (or off?) inside of me and suddenly all those years I had spent telling myself that I’d get this or that done before I was 30 were swept away to become memories instead of present day thoughts. I came to a corner and I turned it and all of the things I had been dragging around with me for several years stayed on the other side.
This is not to say that everything I once knew and thought disappeared but my brain was overcome with a sense of separation, a sense of loss, a sense of deep, unchangeable sadness. Did you know that getting older and leaving certain things or people behind is one of the only things in life upon which you can affect minimal to no change? Well I certainly do now and my sleeping habits have been changed because of it. There’s a sense when you’re younger that time stretches out before you in an indeterminate forever sort of way. The things that are big deals in your life are profound and meaningful and surround you in a kind of life scaffolding. What no one tells you in any certain terms is that starts to fall away when you reach certain milestones such as, hey, surprise, turning 30.
I know I’m saying a lot of words here and explaining the same sentiment in many different formations as is my wont but I’m searching for the perfect way to explain this. IT’S HORRIFYING. IT’S LIKE A BAD NIGHTMARE YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE HAVING. It’s one of the most heartbreaking things you’ll experience in life if you really stop to think about it. Chicago and I grew up together. I came to this city at 23 years old, sad (a theme) and lonely but grew over time as Chicago and I experienced being independent and being 20 something together. Getting a job, an apartment, figuring out busses and trains, going grocery shopping on my own (another horrifying experience), making new friends, going on dates, visiting new neighborhoods, staying up all night, all while clutching closely to the nearby memories from youth. All the while being subconsciously comforted by my childhood bedroom, being my parents’ baby when I went home, going out to lunch with my grandma, my high school friends, men I had dated, adventures I had gone on, experiences that were new.
And now these things, instead of being ducks in a row being lugged behind me, are floating around my brain space like an ethereal cloud I can’t put my fingers around. From this point forward, I will never be young again only older. Everyone in my life continues to get older as well. I am no longer able to be comforted by telling myself that whatever success I desire or dreams I can’t unearth will present themselves at some certain point on the horizon because for me, that was 30. I will never again have a twenty something birthday where I feel older but not old. I will never again be that 23 year old girl, standing in the pouring rain outside of a skyscraper in downtown Chicago, living on my own for the first time, thinking to myself ‘isn’t this neat?’ In fact, I will never be 23 again.
It is this finality that is the take away. The permanence of life and the inability to stop it from moving forward no matter how bad or frightening or painful it may seem. I can recall my mom telling my stories about when she was younger and I would press her for details she would say, ‘oh, I don’t remember that,’ and I would think how could you NOT remember every detail of a certain event in your life? Now I think I have a bit of understanding because soon the moments come faster and the things we thought mattered so much make way for other things. Situations that seemed hugely important shift into incomplete remembrances. And I find that unbelievably sad because there is no control over it.
There’s a difference to life now. I told myself that nothing would change just because I’ve shifted over into a new decade but slowly the realization that it has and that it will continue to do so becomes a constant theme. It struck me, while riding downtown in a cab a few days ago, that I was no longer in awe of the huge buildings and the beautiful skyline and the general hustle and bustle of the city. The routine of Chicago had taken over the curiosity I felt in my younger years and I’m not sure when exactly that happened. We become different people without even noticing it. We can’t stop to think about how fast time goes by or how we can never return to a certain situation in the same way again because it’s too fucking painful. ONCE SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED, IT CAN NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. That has become more real now for me than it was before.
WHEW, CHICAGO. That was intense. I know all of the holes there are in the expression of this sentiment. I know that life is full of surprises, that certain things can happen again, that it isn’t all sad or bad and being 30 isn’t really that old. I KNOW IT, SO DON’T TELL ME. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge this feeling and the point in my life where it began to bloom, albeit a seed that had been planted long ago. 30 has come in swinging so I’ve got both eyes open to see what comes next.