I’m A Grown Woman, I Can Do Whatever I Want
Here’s what all these helpful lists about your late twenties and turning thirty leave out. On the morning of your thirtieth birthday, time stops for a brief moment. In the mirror that morning, as you’re washing your face and examining that zit on your chin, the shadow self of your twenties grins and slips away. A wizened crone bearing sensible shoes and tasteful cardigans leaves these offerings on your doorstep. “You’re an adult. I’ve burned your crop tops. This is your destiny,” she whispers before walking away, slowly, towards the bus stop. You are now a tragicomic figure, a woman with chin hair and an unending thirst for wine and early bedtimes. Time, a notion that seemingly stopped in your twenties, picks up its skirt and hastens towards your dotage. Thirty is the new forty-seven and desperately single. Thirty is the new forever alone. Thirty is a drowsy, narcoleptic march towards your twilight years. Thirty is the end.
What does thirty look like? Thirty is the same as twenty-nine, which was the same as twenty-eight, which, if you are blessed with good skin and nice hair, looks roughly the same, give or take, as twenty-five. Thirty is just an age where people expect a lot more out of you, but the trick is to not feel obligated to give in. We all have different notions about what it means to be grown. If you want to stay out until 4 a.m., grinding on a stranger at a bar, feel free. If you feel better spending fits and bursts of money at H&M on sundresses and crop tops, be my guest. Do not stop doing the things that make you feel good, because the things that make you feel good are what makes life worth living.
I am thirty-one, and have achieved none of the milestones the internet tells me I should have. The thought of owning a house has never crossed my mind as something that would be feasible in this lifetime. I occasionally fear that my internet will be shut off due to lack of payment, and call Time Warner crouched in a stairwell at work, repeating my debit card number in an increasingly insistent tone. I live with three other people in a nice-enough apartment that we assume is rent controlled, and find myself wishing that other people did their dishes a little more often. Arriving at a party after 11 p.m. isn’t late, it is simply the correct time to arrive at a party. I have a job that I am good enough at, but am rife with uncertainty when it comes to my career, my eating habits, and whether I should be wearing night cream. I would love to own some West Elm, or even CB2, but let’s be real, I am not paying $300 for an area rug that I would have to keep the cat off at all times.
Certainly, there are things that have changed with the passage of time. Day drinking at a bar sometimes melts into evening, which turns into six a.m., and the next day is Seamless, no pants, and blowing through an entire season of Dance Academy on Netflix. Recently, I discovered that I do indeed burn in the sun. Subsisting on a diet of pizza and late-night spoonfuls of peanut butter out of the jar contributes to the softness of my belly, and it doesn’t go away as easily as I would like. I have become overly-concerned with the state of my savings account. These lessons I learned with time, yes, and so maybe that makes me grown, but I only feel this way because I am literally older than I was five years ago, and am admittedly horrible with money. Experience is everything.
There are no set milestones that you must hit to be admitted into the club of adulthood, you simply slide into a seat next to everyone else when your time arrives. The underlying current of these lists is actually a quiet judgement, an assessment of your adulthood based on arbitrary markers of competence and achievement. Adulthood is nothing more than a list of accomplishments and a general feeling more than anything else, experiences that are collected and filed away on your own timeline and in a manner that feels comfortable for you. Maybe some of your friends have children, and hold the fact that they have willingly created life over you, as if it were something to be applauded or envious of. Maybe you know some people who are well on their way to the altar, and it makes you feel a type of way deep in the pit of your stomach. Maybe you’ve successfully managed to block out these negative emotions and are simply doing you. That’s adulthood.
Here’s a secret: Nothing matters. Your age doesn’t matter. Your career matters only to you. Ditto your relationship status. Take a look at your life, and figure out if it makes you happy. Are you surrounded by friends who are non-toxic and ride or die in the truest sense? Do you have a nice Sunday routine that hopefully involves downtime and a quiet beer by yourself at a bar of your choosing? Are you mostly okay with the decisions you made the night before? Is there someone you can call if you stub your toe on the ottoman in the living room, and you think it might be broken, but aren’t entirely sure, and would love a second opinion? Do you go to sleep at night feeling okay with the way life shook out today, with faith that it will be all right tomorrow? You’re doing just fine.
Megan Reynolds writes, reads and hangs in Brooklyn, like everybody else.