“I’m happier in my thirties. I feel clearer about who I am and less apologetic about it, and more accepting of my limitations and also more aware of the ways in which I’m capable. I was always looking forward to this time because people talk about it in very romantic terms. And I think it’s true. Gravity hasn’t had too profound of an effect, and you’re a little less emotionally gangly. The twenties are a deceptively challenging-slash-painful time. I’m just glad to be out of that phase.” -Claire Danes
I’ve been having a conversation with myself for some time now along with my many friends who are either on the verge of ending their twenties or who have already packed their boxes and moved out. This marks my very last month renting space here.
Unlike most twenty-somethings, I have absolutely no fear of entering my thirties. Without wishing my life away, I’m actually kind of aching to turn thirty. I’ve endured my twenties (endured being the operative word) and I’ve felt it to be less like the these-are-the-best-years-of-your-life-live-em-up idea I heard upon entering them, but rather like a second, more painful and more obvious puberty. In your twenties you’re more aware of yourself than you were in middle and high school when you first discovered what a “t-zone” was and the embarrassment you experienced when your parents dropped you off at school. Your twenties don’t graciously gift you the distraction of a class schedule, the luxury of hanging out in the hallway with your friends as you eye your crush leaning up against his locker or the math test that will end your world if you fail it. You are deceitfully free in your twenties; held hostage by not knowing how to make friends as they stop being given to you when you graduate, the quarter-life crisis of not knowing if you really do want to pursue a career in the major you so confidently (and recently) conquered, and when exactly you might be lucky enough to stumble upon that love and marriage thing everyone else around you seems to be doing. (I won’t even get started on the baby thing that follows.)
Yet, it’s supposed to be this epic epoch where parental and institutional authority no longer apply and you’re allowed to be selfish and foolish, even encouraged to be. So what of the old soul that would rather share life with someone selflessly and learn the art of compromise now; that would rather sit beneath wisdom’s tree and eat of her fruit; the tug of war between new and lived-in, independent and free, blind boldness vs. courageous confidence?
You wait it out with i n t e n t i o n.
While incredibly challenging and undeniably uncomfortable, you absorb each awkward moment. You relearn the kindergarten art of making new friends while practicing the girl-scout-skill of keeping the old. You risk revealing interest in the guy with the great smile at church holding onto a hard hope he’ll finally ask you to dinner, without writing him off if he doesn’t but most importantly without writing yourself off if he doesn’t. You give yourself grace for not knowing exactly what you want to do anymore because your childhood dream turned out to be less of the dream you fell asleep to every night and more of a cement freeway you don’t move for hours on. You take those weird jobs you’d never imagine doing while you explore more endless interests and opportunities to do some of that other stuff you loved doing before you were pressured to pick a major.
And you stop apologizing for who you are.
That twelve year old who dreamt of winning an Oscar, who chased after romance like a child with a net after a butterfly and who participated in water balloon fights on the sidewalk of a small town is the same twenty-something year old staring back at you. He/She wants to dream again, to play again, to make friends worthy enough of friendship bracelets, to romanticize among the wildflowers and to take adventures to unknown places on bikes befriending bravery. So let them.
To the twenty-somethings treading water: don’t let your twenties stifle you. Rise up to the challenge of liberating yourself within them so that moving into your thirties is less like getting a lung transplant and more like a breath of fresh air.
Your twelve-year-old self will thank you tremendously.