I was freaking out about turning 30 back when I turned 25. It was my mid-mid-life crisis. You can say it was this feeling of anxiety mixed with depression and a whole lot of rebellion against the notion that I was getting old. But in the end, I came to terms with it and made some adjustments moving forward. With 2015, I am solidifying my hold on the 30 age bracket.
Getting to the big-3-0 was not as life altering as turning any other age. But lots of friends were advising me that being “30 is the new 20” except you have more money. They left out the part that I also feel less inclined to do things, get bored quicker, and my patience wears thiner.
Being 30 is not being 20, again. God forbid I have to relive any part of my life over again, even having learned what I know now. Why should I fool myself about being younger then I am, in my heart I still feel like an insecure kid all the time, and only pretend at being an adult. If getting old means I am no longer young then the result of that is that I am a step closer to death, but does death have to scare me so much that I have to try to convince myself that being 30 is actually like being 20?
I came to terms with dying long ago, because so many adult family members died in the past half decade. If anything the knowledge of death being around the corner has only heightened my desire to live a virtue driven life, its like they say “spend your day as if it is your last” and if there is anything I want to grasp more then ever when on the threshold of death, its virtue and God consciousness.
And its sad that so many of my peers have to construct this lame lie about what getting older means to them; the fact hinges on the issue that whether you are 20 or 30, death does not discriminate, no matter what you tell yourself. At 20 you’re young and feel invincible and at 30 you’re mature and a little insecure about getting older. Yet, death is the common factor, no matter what age.
Dealing With Mortality
Our unease with age is really our not wanting to come to terms with our mortality. Its an anxiety that getting older means that death is around the corner, inevitably making it ever pressing to do what we want to do. I have friends who never made it through their teens, infants that died before they could crawl and folks in their golden years who couldn’t go to the bathroom without a machine assisting them- death doesn’t care how old you are. Death seems to be the most indiscriminate thing we humans have and yet we spend so much time in the West making Death conform to life and living, because of our own insecurity with the inevitable fact.
But hitting my 30’s has meant another sort of realization, one that involves self awareness and a greater sense of comfortability about the sort of person I am. If anything, its been a reminder to me about the things in life I still am striving to do and how I should work harder to get there. Finally turning 30 is all about making sure I stay present. During my teens and 20’s it was all about the “future”and from folks in their 50’s and 60’s its all about their “past,” so it seems that this mid-life span of time is essentially the “present” and the lesson I need to keep in mind is to be living in the present, but the question is do we actually “grow-up” and what does it really mean to “grow-up” because if anything my curiosity and sense of wonder, those things associated most with children, have only grown as I have gotten older.
A friend gifted me a wonderful book of essays written by Meghan Daum, titled The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, where she so blithely addresses this conundrum in a pause-giving essay, titled “Not What It Used to Be”:
“Luckily, even some of the most confounding questions have soothingly prosaic answers. On the subject of growing up, or feeling that you have succeeded in doing so, I’m pretty sure the consensus is that it’s an illusion. Probably no one ever really feels grown-up, except for certain high school math teachers or members of Congress. I suspect that most members of AARP go around feeling in many ways just as confused and fraudulent as most middle school students. You might even be able to make a case that not feeling grown-up is a sign that you actually are, much as worrying that you’re crazy supposedly means you’re not.”
The fact is you can insulate yourself with “life” and “living” by pretending to be an adult, can help in your becoming a grown up and getting beyond the childish reality. But what I hold dearer now is that I can’t fool myself about death and mortality. Everything about life is wrapped up in that cellophane encasing.
And there is no better reminder of ones mortality, and the related insecurity associated with reminders about it, then to walk through a cemetery and glance at how grave stones mark the same year you were born in. Those people could be your age, they could be living, they could be worrying about the same adult things you are, but they died.
Lessons on Mortality
As I keep turning the pages in the 3rd decade of life, there are lessons I firmly hold on to. First, I try to make death a regular part of my life experience. Second, I am committed to live life more in the present by enjoying the everyday things where I live, with my family, and friends. Third, I am tired of putting life on hold and doing things for others. This last one is the hardest. And finally, I am tired of looking at my life through a lens of “waxing nostalgic.”
Nothing in my childhood is all together remarkably memorable. Try as hard as I may, I can’t remember much of my childhood that I absolutely can remember. What memories I do have are splotchy, and disfigured by outside sources.
I guess there was no “magical childhood,” and I think that makes it easy for me to fixate on college, because God knows how much I hated high school and propelled myself toward UCSD. College seems all rose colored awesome now, but reading Daum, I understood even that was misplaced nostalgia.
I am nostalgic for my twenties (most of them, anyway; twenty and twenty-one were squandered at college; twenty-four was kind of a wash, too) but I can tell you for sure that they weren’t as great as I now crack them up to be. I was always broke, I was often lonely, and I had some really terrible clothes. But my life was shiny and unblemished. Everything was ahead of me. I walked around with an abiding feeling that, at any given time, anything could go in any direction. And it was often true.
She states that “[t]he only thing I could do now for which my youth would be a truly notable feature would be to die. If I died now, I’d die young. Everything else, I’m doing middle-aged.” And that is absolutely true, whatever it is I do now, I do as who I am now.
Missing out on life only could happen when I spend time looking back at something and trying to make it into something its not. I think reading Daum helped me with fully embracing the ideal that “I have to live any part of my life over again.” So I feel as if that lesson itself helps me live life with more gusto.