I am 30-years-old. I know, this is far from breaking news. In fact, it’s not even like I recently turned 30 (my birthday was in March). I bring this to your attention because I just came back from a vacation in New York where I traveled to with five girlfriends who are also turning 30 this year. The trip was great. Six women unleashed on a city that is known for its nightlife and shopping is bound to be a treat––especially for those of us who have grown up in a prairie capital but attracted to the big city life.
However, I must admit that I hoped this much needed escape would act as a sort of therapeutic retreat from the mental shift I have experienced since I blew out the candles on my 30th birthday cake. I refer to it as "the shift", but if you are forcing me to slap a generic label on it you may also refer to it as a minor breakdown-of-sorts. Not an actual foaming at the mouth, can’t remember my name, need to be taken away in a straightjacket type of breakdown. Just a period where I felt more anxious than usual and started to experience pronounced, irregular heart palpitations when I allowed myself to think about THE LIST. This is a list that most adolescents draft (especially those of us who are perpetual dreamers) that outlines what we hope, and fairly confident will definitely, accomplish by a certain age. My list happened to have 30 as the assigned deadline age. I can't help but roll my eyes at my younger self who arrogantly chose 30 as if it was plenty of time to do everything assigned. I will spare you the entirety of the list, but I will share a few tasks for the sake of this post:
- Be married with at least one child and madly in love, of course
- Own a modest, but beautiful home that is a work in progress, but reflects your sense of style.
- Be well on your way to the executive level of an advertising agency (I was sure I would be in advertising)
- Be free of any debt and be making serious strides to beef up your retirement package (What sort of child even thinks of this?!).
- And it goes on and on...
Now, I am levelheaded enough to know that it would be absurd to hold my joi de vivre hostage because I am not able to check off tasks from a list drafted by a child. However, I am far from the only woman that holds herself accountable to a benchchmark that "needs" to be met by a specific age. I'm confident it is the result from females succumbing to a bombardment of images and messages that are addressed to us starting from a young age. It seems like both subconscious and overt messages conspire to infiltrate our minds and tell us what we must value or achieve. Don't worry; this post is not about media bashing. Consider this a challenge to embrace who you are, on this day, at this age, no matter what unattained accomplishment is running through your brain on a loop each night before you go to sleep. Accepting who you are and letting go of what you hoped seems simple, but so many of us have a hard time putting it into practice. I'll admit it; this is something I still struggle with. But, this recent girls' trip to the Big Apple has helped. We were six women, all the same age, but at very different stages in our lives. Some are married with kids, others are busy building a career, one has travelled the world, and a couple are reluctant to let go of a carefree-I-do-what-I-please lifestyle and resemble a typical university student. The point is, we are all on our own path. I was never the sort of person whose choices, characteristics, and physical appearance ever resembled that of my peers, so why would I expect anything different now that I am adult? I have learned that most people just want to fit in, even those who treasure their uniqueness. Despite the fact that this is a bit of an oxymoron, I think that this must be human nature. But we can't forget to check in with ourselves and ask what exactly are we trying to fit in to?