On Aging: Why 29 is My New 30

Last week I turned 29. Similar to every other year, it didn’t feel different. Another day, another age, another “new beginning.”

But what I did notice was what I kept saying in response to birthday wishes: “I’m ready to be 30.”

Many approach turning 30 with anxiety — and sometimes even despair. I’m old. I haven’t accomplished enough. I haven’t accomplished anything. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I have to be an adult now.

When I think of 30, I think of all the magazine articles I read about celebrities turning 30 and finally becoming comfortable, and even confident, in their own skin. They said 30 was the year they finally felt good about their bodies and stopped yo-yo dieting and exercising like addicts. It was the year they started taking on passion projects and stopped yearning for acceptance from others, and from society. It was the year they started to feel proud of their accomplishments instead of constantly thinking, I could have done better.

I even have a friend who recently turned 30. Her words on this pivotal moment were: “An amazing thing happened when I turned 30 … my self-confidence has gone up while the amount of fucks I give has gone down.” I remember thinking to myself, I can’t WAIT for that.

And then a funny thing happened. While deflecting questions about whether or not I felt older and what I wanted to accomplish in my 29th year, I had a moment of clarity. “I want 29 to be my 30,” I said. After all, why should they be any different?

Growing up, in a lot of ways, is a mindset. Age is what you choose to make of it, and while the experiences you gain while growing older certain shape you, it’s how you approach and manage those experiences that make you who you are — and in a sense, make you older.

So this is how I plan on kicking the shit out of 29 and making it my 30.

Stop looking for acceptance in the wrong places. As an ardent people-pleaser, it’s easy to get consumed, and even lost, in situations that don’t have long-term value. This includes careers that don’t make you happy but will make you successful (and rich, and famous, and respected!). This also includes holding onto friendships that have outgrown themselves and become more work than they’re worth. The list of where we search for acceptance is endless. What’s important is learning how to identify them, and more importantly, how to let them go. This year, I’m going to do what makes me happy, surround myself with people and experiences that lift me up, and purge my life of anything that brings me down.

Start loving myself and carry that self-love into everything I do. I’ve written about the consequences of being critical of myself and pushing myself to limits, but I still have a long way to go when it comes to taking action. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been critical of my body, my career, and more simply, the way I live life. Every New Year and birthday tends to start with a restrictive diet (I will find my abs this year!), an endless list of ways to improve myself (read more, meditate more, call my family more…), and unrealistic goals that I inevitably end up kicking myself for not accomplishing. It’s time to reverse this trend and instead start appreciating what I’ve done, what I have, and how awesome I actually am. It’s OK to have flaws and it’s great to have areas where you want to grow, but they should lift you up, not break you down. This includes striving for opportunities that support growth and happiness, and saying no to ones you know won’t serve you.

Learn to be patient. While I’m far different from Veruca Salt, I am impatient. When something is on my to-do list, I want it done that day. When searching for answers, I want them immediately. At a yoga class, my instructor recently shared a story about a meditation retreat he went to. In the span of 10 days, he meditated for 100 hours. He said those hours were excruciating and that his mind had never been so busy. But it taught him how impatient he is, and he left appreciating every present moment and every experience. We say it often, but hardly grasp how true it is that life is short. Decisions don’t need to be made today, or tomorrow. Breathe, appreciate, take your time, and live. Life is not a sausage casing that needs to be stuffed to the brim. It’s a fragile and incredibly short adventure, and one that doesn’t need to be rushed.

I may not feel like a new person today, and I may not even by the time I’m 30. But I do plan to change my perspective and let growing up be exactly what I want it to be: a beautiful, bumpy, slow journey. The only thing I can control is my headspace, so let’s let 29 be the year I take back the reigns.