I'm turning thirty on Sunday. I don't feel ready. I've been trying all month psych myself up for it, to remind myself of everything my twenties stand for-- good and especially bad-- and how glad I should be to move forward, how much I have to look forward to.
And though I'm trying, it still feels like a tremendous hoodwink. Like, wait, WHAT? My twenties are ending? Usually on the eve (or pre-eve) of my birthday, I sigh and look around in a satisfied fashion, ready to embrace the responsibility of being whatever new age I'm about to turn. Not this time. There is such a tremendous divide between being a twentysomething and being thirty. The divide between footloose and fancy free, and, well, motherhood. I want both at the same time, in equal measures.
Partly, leaving my twenties is a grand relief. It's like I'm being granted permission to never think about ex-boyfriends again: that chapter has been written in ink, and now we get to turn the page. I feel that way about a lot of my twenties, actually: ridiculous crushes, bad living situations, rocky periods in friendships that have since ended or recovered. I feel jelled, now. I have worked hard, I've made bad decisions, but all that is behind me. It's snowing like crazy outside; the lawn is turning from green-brown to white, a blank slate to cover everything that came before.
But on the other hand... on the other hand I am digging in my heels. I adventured in my twenties. It's more than most people get to do, I would say, especially people with such a strong proclivity towards home as I have. I ate haggis and got drunk on New Years Eve, in Scotland, in 2001. I woke up to mourning doves outside my window in Puerto Rico, spring break, 2003. And I spent almost a whole month in Greece with Alexis, exploring desolate ruins and beachcombing and learning to drink ouzo with a straight face. I made up my mind that I wanted to marry Patrick on the plane home.
That was a good chapter-- the adventuring. I'm not so keen on closing that book, but I'm not sure there are blank pages left to write in. I don't know. Thirty, you know? Isn't this the time when I stay home and tend my garden and my house and... shouldn't there be babies somewhere?
I don't always feel as restless as I sound. Actually, just now, standing and watching this glorious snow, I was chest-burstingly HAPPY-- this snow, this house, this beautiful town, Christmastime! I thought I was going to spend years searching for this sort of stability-- this kind of marriage, this kind of house, this kind of community. My "pre-baby" bucket list used to be a mile long. Now it's pretty short: redo a bathroom, redo a kitchen, sell our old house in Binghamton. It still feels like a mile. It feels too close and too far away at the same time.
Patrick and I are watching Ken Burns' The Civil War on Netflix right now. I have parts of it memorized, from childhood rainy afternoons when my dad would suggest, "Let's watch Gettysburg!" We'd recorded the entire series off PBS. Anyway. There was a general, forget which one, who found himself surrounded by enemy troops and told his men to charge both ways. I think that's what I need. I can't exactly charge forward into motherhood, (it takes two to tango, plus nine months!) so I'll charge the other way first. An adventure. Two round-trip tickets to New Mexico, maybe. Or Costa Rica.
That might be the best thing about having a big birthday-- you get to put your foot down, if that is your style, and do something a little bit grand.
Getting old is not the problem. Vanity is not the problem. Those "What I'm Wearing" posts tell a pretty story, but the truth is, on summer days I work outside in paint-splattered Adidas shorts and a shirt emblazoned with Have a Pheasant Plucking Day. On winter days I work inside in a pair of completely threadbare and equally paint-splattered corduroys, and my old Ithaca College sweatshirt. Twice a week I get to thumb through my "pretty clothes" and wear shoes whose primary purpose is form not function, and earrings, but other than that I don't really think about my face. I do flex sometimes (especially in June, month of solid biceps), in the mirror, and tell myself damn, but I can still be doing that when I'm sixty. (My mother-in-law is 63, and I envy her guns.)
I know most of you have already passed thirty, so tell me-- how did it go? What did you do? Tell me what made it easier, and don't say babies! I'm going to spend the next 36 hours thinking about New Mexico and Costa Rica, and Julia Child, and how knock-down drag-out amazing my garden is going to be in twenty years, and how babies will be worth it, when they come, but for now it's nice to have quiet in the house.
That's the best I can do on my own; on the actual day-of I know I'll have my sweetie to share a bottle with at a very tony place, and my friends' holiday party to enjoy. Christmas isn't really a bad time to have a birthday. The whole world gets itself gussied up, and snow blankets the yard, and thirty or not you can pretend that it's all for you.