This year so far, five of my girlfriends have turned the big “three-oh”. And so far, it has been easy for me to be there for them, to laugh, and celebrate with them, because the day it happens to me still seems so far away. Even though I know this is the year, and it’s only a matter of time until it reaches me, because I still have those few months, where I can hide, I still feel safe and young. I, unlike they, still get to say the words, “Oh, I’m in my twenties.”
It’s an odd thing we ladies, and maybe some men, I’m just not as familiar, go through. Thirty is just another year, just another month, just another day in, all of the time we have here on Earth, yet it carries so much significance to most of us, and why?
I think as humans, even though we pretend like we hate them, that we actually find immense comfort and safety in labels, in defining ourselves, and having others define us. Though it could start sooner, I think it really begins in high school when we choose our friends and our extracurriculars. I’m a football player, I’m a cheerleader, I’m an artist, I’m a musician, I’m a nerd, become the labels we willingly put on like a uniform, and a way to explain and identify who we are to others. But more importantly, they become ways to explain our own existence to ourselves, and even though it might be very limiting, I think over time it becomes comforting to many of us. And it doesn’t stop there. As Americans, I hear from many Europeans, that we grow up to define ourselves through what we do for a living. I’m a doctor, I’m a lawyer, I’m in marketing, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, and so on. Why can’t we just be us? Why can’t I just be Cassandra?
Through life we might have many labels that we wear. We might lose some labels for new ones, or we might gain others and keep some old ones. For me, I let being into anime, and going to conventions define who I was for a very long time. I also fell into a dangerous place where I let my virginity define me, until I finally took a moment to think about why, and how silly and pointless it was. I couldn’t be just one or a few things, that I was more complex than that. Why should I let certain traits define who I was? If I did that, I would cut myself off from certain experiences.
After my epiphany, I tried my very best to shake off of all of the labels I had forced myself into, and I really thought I had rid myself of all of them until this whole “30 thing” came along this year. Seeing how important it was to me and all of my friends, I realized that I had been carrying one more label: The being in my twenties, being a twenty-something label. I found safety in any number age– so long as it began with a two. This shook me. Why was being twenty-anything something I found comfort in? A label I willingly took on after I thought I had moved on from such things? Why was I OK with being twenty nine, but not thirty?
Somehow it has worked into our culture as another late on almost rite-of-passage, much like becoming a teenager. But what does it represent? The time you spend in college? The time you spend finding your career? A mate? I’m still not really sure myself. The oddest part of all of this, that I almost fell for, is I think I’m supposed to lament these as being the “best years of my life” gone by, but they really haven’t been the best of years for me. I lost an amazing brother, and the most loving father, my dear cat, my Gramma that I was closest with, had to distance myself from a sister, friends, lost a best friend to Japan, was made to feel down on myself by two colleges, despite my hardworking efforts and high grade point averages, having to move back home, and then being made to feel inferior again by the job market. Through all of this I have had an amazing boyfriend, and a few wonderful friends who have stuck by me, don’t get me wrong, but did that really make these the best years of my life? I think not. Maybe a vain part of me is worried about the inevitable lines that will appear around my eyes, and my smile, and the gray hairs that will start to invade my head, the mini skirts I might have to retire, but other than that, thirty doesn’t sound so bad. Thirty means that a lot of that trial is behind me.
I won’t say “thirties are the new twenties”, because I don’t want to live by labels anymore. I don’t want to identify with an age, a number, a hobby, who I’m with, or a job. I just want to identify with happiness, fulfillment, and just being myself. I’m looking forward to trying new things, seeing new places, going to fewer funerals, spending more time with Andrew, and my true friends, and to another thirty years of experiences, and not lamenting anything.