well, i’m 30

this is what i look like when i've just turned 30

Back in 1979 when I made my debut, I came into the world two months earlier than scheduled because I literally could not wait to be born. The doctors, they tried to stop me, to keep me lounging around in the comfort and safety that my mother provided, but I was all, “Hell no, let’s get this party started.” So after two days of attempting to halt my arrival, I came into this world, a two-pound bundle of let’s say joy, who, according to my mother, looked like a frog. Instead of dying like I was supposed to (see, even then I couldn’t follow directions), I made it through my trying first months of hospitalization and incubators and getting poked with needles, and now, years later, here I am. And I’m 30.

And my mom called me “Frog” until I was 10.

This time of year always feels like the beginning of a new year to me, which has less to do with my birthday than it does with starting school in this general neighborhood for years and years, so September still feels like the time to think about those things that people tend to think about on January 1, and since my birthday conveniently lands in this time period, I sort of think of it as my day of fresh starts. It’s not that I feel so magically different, older and wiser and all that business, but that now is as good a time as any to take stock of what was and look ahead to what’s next.

Turning 30 is perhaps a milestone of sorts, though I’m not exactly sure of what, since I have passed most of the age-related ones already — I can drive, vote, buy cigarettes and lotto tickets and beer, rent a car — and now I suppose the only other ones I have left are being old enough to run for President of the United States (which I will likely ignore) and getting my AARP membership. That AARP membership, that’s at 55? Or is it 50? Either way, that’s not a lifetime away anymore, which is perfectly okay with me because I think I will seriously dig senior discounts. I guess if I were to assign meaning to it, then turning 30 signifies just one thing: not being in my 20s anymore. People talk about the teenage years as being so trying, and they are, but the 20s are something else, like Puberty 2: The One Nobody Warns You About. Though there were many, many bright spots, I feel that I can sum it up for you with a short, horribly true story from my past.

I celebrated my 20th birthday with a lot of red wine and then a lot of puking, and I woke up in the morning hungover as all hell and feeling grouchy because I had to be in this skit thing. And I had to be there before 9 a.m. So it was horrendous all the way around, but I haven’t gotten to the best part, see, because I had this line that was, quite simply, the worst line ever written. It’s so awful I don’t even want to tell you what it was, but I suppose that if I’m going to be so bold as to make the claim that I had to say the worst line ever written, then I have to back it up with proof, so here it goes. I had to say “Well, life sure ain’t no ride on no pink duck!” With an exclamation point and everything. (I TOLD YOU. Grammatical issues aside, what the what now?) After running through the skit I was told that I really had to punch that line, really exclaim that life, it sure ain’t no ride on no pink duck! I really still have no idea what that even means, but I guess riding on a pink duck is awesome and luxurious and not terrifying at all, or something. So hungover, sleep-deprived me, feeling much like death warmed over, got up on that stage and exclaimed that life lacks the riding of pink ducks, or I guess really it’s just the one pink duck. That is how my 20s started. It was like an omen.

Aside from the fact that anyone out there who does any acting should have no fear because I have already taken care of speaking the worst line in the history of lines, I suppose my point is that I’m not sad to be leaving my 20s behind. For a few years now, 30 seemed like this looming deadline for me to accomplish things I felt like I had to accomplish (some of which I got to and some of which, um, oops), but that’s really kind of silly since there aren’t actually any deadlines, at least not until the big one that means I wound up dead. Until then, I suppose I’ll just keep doing my thing. Whatever that is, exactly.

The past year has been an interesting one for me in a lot of ways, mostly because it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, and that ended up being exactly right. Lack of regular paychecks aside, I wouldn’t trade this past year of me time for anything. When I turned 29, I never would’ve imagined that I’d actually finish Ulysses, or show some of my photos in a gallery or sell photos for book covers or cook so much or volunteer or have such a sassy haircut or anything. It’s been a year of surprises, and I’m so very grateful for it. I’ve spent nearly dangerous amounts of time in my own head, thinking about where I’ve been and where I want to go. I’ve gotten a lot out of it, and I think I’ve been spoiled by it quite a bit as well. Though 29 has had its difficult, emotionally-draining stretches, overall, I’m glad that it’s been exactly what it was.

And so I say goodbye to my 20s, feeling a quiet assurance that I never was quite comfortable owning. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I think I’ve ever been before. I’m in a good place. I feel that.

So here’s to 30. I’m sure I can’t imagine what will come of this year, but I have some ideas. No matter how right or wrong I may turn out to be, I think perhaps it will involve another episode of pushing my way into the world, because I just can’t wait.

26 thoughts on “well, i’m 30

  1. Happy birthday, sweet and thoughtful Wife. 30 is going to be great. I am here trying to remember your birthday in Venice, but I can’t. Boo. What happened?

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  2. SA Happy birthday (a day late) to you! I remember 24 being a good year, and I’m sure you’ll rock it.

    Mirthful — Thanks!

    fabulitas — Thanks! Happy belated birthday to you, too!

    wifey — Thanks, Wife. I remember going to Cafe Blue for my birthday and getting a lot of free drinks and getting serenaded by that guy from New Zealand.

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  3. So, here it is. Happy Birthday. I’m proud of you. You are a unique, gifted woman. I am excited for you this year. I know great things are ahead. And that being said: Party on…

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  4. Happy Birthday to you! You are an amazing person and your mindfulness is a wonderful thing.

    40 is thundering toward me like an out of control Diesel intent on causing Confusion and Delay. (Yes, I see too much Thomas the Tank Engine. No Ulysses for me.) I shall return to this post for inspiration.

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  5. i’m glad you liked this last year, cause i certainly enjoyed the twitters, blogs, litkicks and flickrs you left lying around to signal your vivid style of 29-ing.

    happiness to you and showers of jelly beans in all the right places.

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  6. It’s true, though. Life sure ain’t no ride on no pink duck. I mean “Life…duck!” (Which, now I’ve written it like that, also seems true.)

    Happy birthday.

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  7. Happy Birthday, Jamelah! I love the way you put it that the 20s are Puberty Part Deux. So many people that I’ve talked to in their 30s mention how much more enjoyable they are than the 20s. I hope this is exactly the case for you, that the 30s bring wonderful things and exciting new adventures!

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  8. happy birthday man. i will never top that tasteless falling towers birthday card i sent you a few years ago, so just picture that in your head. or an indian running away with your thanksgiving dinner. i’m glad you are well.

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  9. 1. The fact that as a 30-year-old more comfortable in your skin than you have ever been before you still cannot be the POTUS (something I learned from your post, by the way – informative and educational as ever) sums up everything that is wrong with the world. Every country should be led by a vital, young, female president with a fresh perspective like you.

    2. You get more gorgeous with every year that passes, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet this next year’s going to be a good one too.

    Happy birthday, Jamelah.

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  10. Happy Birthday. I’m three years into my 30’s–and it’s true, they are so much less confusing and comfortable, and therefore more fun. Like maybe so fun that it sometimes feel like life IS like riding a pink duck! (with conviction)

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  11. Happy [late] Birthday!
    Is a salutation ’nuff?
    Or’s advice needed?

    That’s not much a haiku but all I can think that’s relevant.
    I had hoped to read of grandiose writing goals but I like to be forward looking.

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  12. Thanks for the comments/good wishes/reminders that I’m ever closer to death. It was a very good birthday, and you all make me smile. Cheers.

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  13. I love this (and I’ve been dying to be 30, since I was 15). I imagine there is a book of answers that you receive when you turn 30. Don’t tell me it’s true – I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.

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