Sometimes it’s weird when I think about the end of my 20s. Nineteen year old me steps outside of my body and looks at 29 year old me and it’s hard to believe I’m not that same kid who lived in a house with seven people, living off of spaghetti, cheap vodka, and Marlboro menthol lights. I journaled regularly, I traveled, I went to a different concert almost every night, and I was open to just about any new experience life threw at me. I was convinced that I was going to save the world. I knew where I was going, and I knew how I was gonna get there. Life was nothing but a series of open doors and it was up to me to decide which ones I wanted to walk through.
It’s ten years later, and if I have to be perfectly honest, I feel like most doors are being closed and locked and I’m just standing here without any keys.
I don’t want to get into all of my sorrows but I’ll say that this has been a troubling few months for me and it’s getting hard for me to stay focused on the things I want to do. I don’t volunteer much these days and I attribute that to a) my exhaustion and b) my lack of motivation for pretty much anything outside of trying to keep my head above water – which I kind of feel like I’m barely doing most days.
And then there’s that 30th birthday looming over me. I never thought I’d be that person who wrapped up all my hopes and dreams in that stupid number. I never thought I’d care about turning 30 – it’s just a number, right? It doesn’t mean anything, does it?
I have a lot of friends who happen to be older than me and it’s difficult to communicate around them what it feels like for me, turning 30, because I feel like it’s just indulgent whining and it’s always met with, “30 is nothing!” or “You’re still young.” I suppose that’s all probably true, but the fact of the matter is, I wanted to be in a certain place by now. I admit it – I have targeted expectations for my life and I feel like I haven’t met them. Ten years ago, work was such a low priority for me. Not to say that I didn’t care about work – more like my focuses were firmly placed in enriching my everyday life with art and community activism and nature. And I’m so far away from all of that. I always believed that by this point in my life, I’d be living in some flat in a different country – probably Italy – with a not-too-stressful job, having casual dinner parties and regularly visiting vineyards in the countryside. Or at the very least, I thought I’d be on the West Coast, which I’ve always considered my real home, watching the sunset against the Pacific Ocean every night and going on weekend adventures to Mexico because why the hell not.
My life looks very different than how I’d always imagined it but not completely unsatisfying. It’s the people I have in my life that make it worthwhile – work friends who are always down for happy hours & roof top lunches filled with laughter; the Clacker folks who keep things interesting, always; Rachel, Jeff, and Mike, who I don’t get to see often but still my second family; the Club Dumas, who inspire me beyond all reason, even when they are not with me; and even my Virginia guys, who are all living their own separate lives in all different directions but still provide me without some of the best memories from my post-college days.
The problem is… I’ve stopped and looked at my life and I feel like I am living it for all of these people and not for me. My life has become less about what I want to do with it and more about doing what’s best for those I love. There’s nothing wrong with that, theoretically, but I don’t even feel like I have a life of my own anymore. I’m a spectator, watching everyone else move forward, while I’m in the world’s longest rut, trapping myself in a world that I don’t truly want to be in. But what does one do when she need to make a drastic change in her life? I guess the answer would be to summon the bravery to take a risk.
But would changing everything I know about my life really make me happy? What is happiness really? How does a person really achieve that? I don’t know the answers and so I’m stuck, just watching everyone – and I just keep wondering how does everyone have it figured out and I’m still flopping around, confused and scared? I’m not even content. I’m restless. I’m restless and bored and sick of sitting down – I want to jump on a plane and just take off, someplace, somewhere, sometime, without plans or itineraries. I want to wake up every morning knowing that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing and feeling so happy that I’m contributing something that matters to this society. I want to welcome art and music into my life – not to look at it and hear it, but really be immersed in it somehow.
When did I stop being that person that took chances? I know that as an adult, you have to make sacrifices. You have responsibilities, and they are real and you have to reshape your life somewhat to meet them. I see friends with husbands and wives and mortgages and babies and I know that I don’t want those things because while I am so happy for them for having the things that make them feel complete, I honestly just see them as giant anchors taking away even more of my life choices. But then I get caught in a spiral – if I choose to turn my back on these things, what’s going to happen in another 30 years? I am probably about the most independent person there is, but I’m actually starting to wonder… when I’m old, and all of my friends are in their family bubbles, am I going to be sitting here, still alone? I hate myself for even caring about this. I hate myself for letting the fact that I’m turning 30 transform me into this person I’ve never been. But I can’t turn my thoughts off.
The uncertainty in my family right now is also contributing to all of these fears and it’s also making me questions a lot of things in my own belief system. I have two strong feelings that are constantly fighting each other right now: living life to the fullest, because life is short versus what’s the point of it all? It’s playing a lot of crazy games in my head right now and it’s making me feel kind of like I’m going crazy. I wake up one day, thinking that I’m going to make the best of a horrible situation and the next day, it takes everything inside of me just to get out of bed and get through the day without crying every ten minutes.
Naturally, being me, I’ve decided to put all of my “feels” into a playlist because music has always ALWAYS been the one thing that I can count on to pull me out of the darkness. Music is the best therapist I’ve ever had. So, I pulled up my iTunes, and created a group of 30 songs (because I’m nerdy like that) which all represent a lot of what I’m going through right now and I’ve been listening to it a lot. I’ve also been reading some of my old journals and flipping through pictures from college and high school, considering that maybe there are pieces of younger me that I can still incorporate into 30 year old me’s life.
For now, the journey continues, and I’ll try to get through it the best I can without losing the best parts of myself.
And I suppose I’ll close with my “30 Songs for Turning 30” playlist, in no particular order:
· “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie
· “Forever Young” by Alphaville
· “Hang On” by Dr. Dog
· “Home” (from The Wiz) by Stephanie Mills
· “We Use to Wait” by Arcade Fire
· “A House Is Not a Home” by Field Music
· “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” by The Beach Boys
· “God” by John Lennon
· “There’s Never Enough Time” by The Postal Service
· “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” by David Bowie
· “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine
· “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire
· “Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison
· “Here Comes a Regular” by The Replacements
· “Just Do You” by India.Arie
· “How It Ends” by Devotchka
· “Light & Day / Reach for the Sun” by The Polyphonic Spree
· “Stand By Me” by Otis Redding
· “I’ve Gotta Be Me” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
· “Some Days Are Diamonds” as sung by Amos Lee
· “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra
· “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone
· “Supply & Demand” by Amos Lee
· “Inner Revolution” by Adrian Belew
· “I Shall Be Released” as sung by Nina Simone
· “Hungry Heart” by Bruce Springsteen
· “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
· “This Is the Day” by The The
· “To Build a Home” bye The Cinematic Orchestra ft. Patrick Watson
· “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals