photos from my instagram feed from my last week at 29.
When I was young, I remember having a conversation with my dad.
Something had just changed, I don't remember exactly what... maybe I was now in third grade. Or maybe I was now waiting for the bus by myself. Or maybe I was in the later lunch period.
Either way, I was explaining to him that I was there, where the big kids had been. I was supposed to feel different. But I felt exactly the same.
"Yep, that's how it is" my dad said. "You're standing where they stood. You're doing what they did. But you are still just you."
I remember graduating high school in 2003 and looking through my yearbook. We were the seniors now. My photo was amongst the color ones and we got to include quotes (mine? ~You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.~ ...complete with those terrible squiggles). I looked at myself and my fellow seniors and thought - "that's odd...we look just like us."
So of course, then I had to pull out my freshman yearbook and compare. The seniors then?! They looked ancient. Like real adults with real drivers' licenses headed off to real and important lives.
They looked so old. Still, to this day, when I go home to my parents' house and look at that class of 1999 they look older than me. I have 13 years on them but because I knew them at 14, I'm still intimidated by their age.
Whenever Paul and I are headed out for a date night, I get the strongest sense of déjà vu.
It's always a little dark outside. I'm always wearing a little extra makeup. I'm always giving the baby-sitter a rundown ... "okay, she'll go down quick...if she wakes up...she will want...the wifi password is...we should be home by..." before we rush out of the house.
And the whole time I'm thinking: this is so weird. Because in the moment I'm also me, six-years-old and watching my parents rush out of the house into the dark night. In the moment I'm also me, sixteen-years-old and watching the couple I'm baby-sitting for rush out of the house, the mom wearing a little more make-up than I'm used to seeing her in.
I'm me. Always and forever. Third grade, senior year, college, married, mother, me. Always me. Doing what they did. Standing where they stood. Smiling like they smiled. Rushing out like they rushed out.
And still. It's just me.
Today I am 30. I never thought much about being thirty. I think when I was small, twenty seemed old. And then I just wanted to turn 13 so I'd be a teenager. And then all I cared about was 16 and getting my license. And then obviously 21 was the big hurdle. But after 21? There are no "age" milestones except for the ones that we create for ourselves. You have to build your own hurdles after 21. You have to figure out what you're really striving for and what will define you so much more than a license to drive and drink (never at the same time).
After 21, you get to figure out what each age is actually going to mean.
I spent my 20s trying to decide what I wanted to be. At the start of this decade my goals looked a hell of a lot different but who I was, who I am, is the same. I think maybe why I handle change so poorly is because when I embark on something new, my first reaction is to handle it how I think I should. I try to slip into the mold of what I think "college student" or "military wife" or "mother to a young daughter" is supposed to look like. And then after realizing that plan is a complete fail, I give up and return to just being me. And then, only then, when I stop fighting the current and decide to swim with it as myself, am I able to start moving forward.
I am happy today. I haven't been happy through every stage of my 20s, but, of course, I learned a lot. Much more in this past decade than in the first two. More importantly than anything on this list, I learned what really fuels me, both personally and professionally. It's different than I thought and it's the same as I thought. I am so lucky that my job and my life matched up. I couldn't have this job if I didn't have my life. And I couldn't enjoy this life as much if I didn't have this job. I respect that. Every day I am grateful for that.
If my 20s were for finding what I wanted to do, I wish my 30s would be for cultivating it. I want to spend the next decade raising my family. I want to spend the next decade building my business. I think those things can happen simultaneously. I want to get better at loving. I want to get better at managing. I want to keep finding the things that make my heart race with excitement and my brain hum with possibilities. I want to keep finding the things that make me laugh until I cry. I want to do what Bob Dylan recommends and build a ladder to the stars. But the second phrase is where he really nails it, because also, I want to climb on every rung.
Getting older is not about feeling different. It's not about putting on a new look or changing who you are. As experience has shown, we pretty much feel the same. We just grow. We gain experiences. We carry who we were into the next year and the year after that. We're a little taller, maybe. We're a little rounder, maybe. We have different tastes, maybe. But we're us.
Standing where they stood. Doing what they did. Learning all along.