The View from Up Here
The dirty 30.
I turned thirty this month. The proximity of this birthday was brought to my attention a little over a year ago, during happy hour with some girlfriends, who enthusiastically instructed that my thirtieth be a big celebration. “Big,” they said: “Like, really big.”
Over the course of a year I fluctuated between excitement, sadness, and apprehension when considering this birthday. My twenties were a shit show; not unappreciated, but really all over the place. I remember the eve of my twentieth birthday, awaiting midnight with the anticipation of severing my teen nomenclature. I would finally be an adult. That’s laughable now; I was a child. In many ways I still am, even with the acquisition of fine lines and gray hairs. Thirty years is not actually that long. It feels lengthy, but it’s three sets of ten. The first set of which you don’t remember half, the second which is dictated by expectations others set for you, and the third trying to undo the mess caused by those well-meaning expectations.
In the week before my birthday, I stayed home to get my affairs in order—to undo some of that mess, so to speak. I cleaned my apartment, organized my finances and work to the best of my abilities, and set in motion the filing of an LLC for a small business. Explained plans for my staycation were met with confusion, and maybe even pity, both sentiments which were easy to understand. But there was a pressing need to fulfill these duties that I couldn’t explain. What became more important to me as I approached my thirtieth was not to go into it celebrating, but armed with clear-headedness and stability to conquer what I need to accomplish in this next decade.
Ironically, in the same week that I attempted to bring my personal world together, the world outside me fell apart. It’s been difficult to look on the incidents of the past months and feel any sense of hope or optimism. But I tell myself repeatedly it’s there. Not too long ago, my apartment was frequented by a number of beetles, all in different shapes, colors, and sizes. While I don’t typically look to symbolism as a way to decipher encrypted messages the universe is trying to deliver, I felt moved to investigate what these beetles stood for. What I discovered is that they are emblematic of strength and purification, but more importantly, surrender to change. Beetles engage in metamorphosis for development and growth. They embrace the flow of life and all its transitions without question.
I have learned that an open mind is the greatest asset a person can have, for that is what leads most directly to compassion and kindness. Both are qualities the world needs more of. It is essential to have unique principles and values, but it is more essential still to be aware of the principles and values of others—to be respectful of them, even if disagreement arises. I don’t believe, however, that surrender to change means not working within it. I accept that this life is hard, and that the world, right now, looks ugly. But with that knowledge, I will work to make it not so hard, and to leave this world just a fraction more radiant. All I can do—all any of us can do—is move within these channels, widening them so that others can travel more easily.
There are many other things I’ve learned in the past thirty years, but they have mostly changed over time. And while I could write a bullet point list of my current truths, I’d prefer not to, knowing there is a very good chance they will evolve into something completely different. In fact, it seems more and more every day I realize how little I actually do know. I expect that if I make it into old age, I’ll be a compete imbecile by that point. Which is fine by me, because after all, ignorance is bliss. So if tomorrow introduces one more stone being paved on that road to happiness, then by all means, let it come.