31 is the new 30
A Reflection on Aging by a First Gen-Millennial
A few years ago, I wrote a quick essay (?) about turning the page from 30 to 31. Now, a few years past that point I am reflecting and wishing that I knew what I know now when I was (18 months) younger. That’s a Faces reference, kids. The first sign of settling into your age is making sure people understand your references.
A friend of mine told me recently that my writing reads like it is written by a thirty-year-old who still listens to Saves The Day. While I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that as a positive, it did get my brain working. I came to two conclusions:
- Through Being Cool is a fantastic album to listen to while you clean your room or anytime.
- Aging sucks.
This is not to say that getting older is bad, but it does suck. It sucks in the same way that it takes longer to recover from a late night than it used to. It sucks in the way that younger coworkers completely miss jokes about ABC’s original TGIF lineup. It sucks in the way that the likelihood of the Celtics giving me that 10-day I’ve been gunning for because of an over 30 pick-up game performance diminishes precipitously every day. It sucks in the way that downloading and playing “Sell My Old Clothes; I’m Off To Heaven” on a jukebox doesn’t turn heads anymore… as if it ever did. I
t sucks that I say jukebox and remember watching Friends in real time.
Back in my sophomore year of high school, I had to write an English paper on what age I was most looking forward to turning and why. The vast majority of the class had two answers:
- Eighteen, because I’ll be an adult and I can do whatever I want (standard suburban angst-filled answer)
- Twenty-one, so I can drink whenever I want, and no one can tell what to do (standard suburban angst-filled answer).
My answer to this question was twenty-three. At twenty-three you’re old enough to go out and do whatever you want, but you’re still young enough to enjoy it, said blissfully unaware of the massive student loan debt and dark abyss of an economy many first-gen Millennials would face. The world you’re stepping out into every day is brand new, and the bar is set incredibly low despite what you think at that moment. At twenty-three, you’ve got a built-in excuse, and it goes something like this:
“C’mon — I’m only twenty-three.”
I can tell you what age did not show up in that stack of essays: thirty-one.
Contrary to what I thought from age fifteen to twenty-nine, turning thirty is not a big deal. The times they are a-changing. These days, not everyone owns a home, gets married, and has a baby by the time they are twenty-seven. It’s no longer a sign of spinsterhood to be single and living alone or with roommates beyond the age of twenty-nine. Being thirty, single, and having nothing to write-off on your taxes isn’t all that bad. In fact, it’s pretty great.
When you’re thirty, you’re able to live the life that Tom Hanks lived in Big without the hassle of having to wish upon a cursed carnival machine. Chocolate cake and ice cream for breakfast? Sure! Video games at all hours of the night? Why not?! Playing Chopsticks using only your feet with Robert Loggia on a floor-length piano? Harder to pull off, but completely within reason. Hey man, you’re an adult!
All of these things are doable at the age of thirty and- check this out- your contemporaries who do have mortgages, spouses, and children will cheer for you. You’re now their conduit to a responsibility-free existence. Pour it on the ground and make snow angels in your newly discovered lease on life.
Based on this information, I hope you are coming to the same conclusion that I did, that turning thirty isn’t something to stress out about; it’s something to celebrate.
Turning thirty-one, however, is going to be like waking up to find a brick has smashed through your windshield.
The 21st century seems to have added an eleventh commandment: “Though shalt be remarkable.” Our collective keystone truth, if only in our minds and Facebook pages. Everything must be a milestone; everything must have a tangible value for all to see, yet a thirty-first birthday just doesn’t track.
Real Talk: absolutely no one will give a shit when you turn thirty-one. If the people around you do, be wary because it is likely because they plan to tell you as much. Who could pass up the chance to deflate a friend’s birthday balloon, am I right?
Like Ice Cube said, “Life ain’t a track meet; it’s a marathon.” And while everything fore and aft that gem is laden with cuss words, it doesn’t detract from the validity of that statement. Getting older is the strangest footrace you can imagine. Time seems to fly by year-over-year while dragging ass day-by-day-by-day.
Picking up where Cube left off, let’s consider entering each new decade of your life to be like completing a marathon with each year in between “the big X-0” birthdays being the training a person does to get ready. If someone you know finishes a marathon, chances are you’d be willing to meet them at the finish line or go to some gathering in their honor. That’s a celebratory accomplishment. With that in mind, would you clear your schedule to celebrate someone completing a fun run just because they did it?
I’d like to believe that maybe after turning 30 my awareness and ability to perceive things has been heightened even if my capability to change them has not. Perhaps this is life’s second growth spurt.
It has occurred to me that this could be perceived as a little jaded. It is not lost on me that perhaps I’m just a little bit biased because I’m about to get one year closer to MTV, movie studios, and record labels not giving a shit about me ever again. I am also aware that to the people under thirty reading this I look like an old man shaking his fist at the kids on his lawn. Just last week I mentioned The Clash to a 20-year-old and got a puzzled look that screamed, “Who and or what is that?”
T-minus 30 days until that thirty-one-year-old brick goes through my windshield. Depressing, maybe, but one thing is for sure — I’m doing whatever it is I want to do that day, even if that means listening to music for children like Saves The Day. I am an adult, after all.
Padraic O’Connor is a writer and improviser in Boston, MA. This was originally posted on PSTOL in September of 2012. Reposted on The Mixtape as the author stares 35 in the face.