Today is my birthday. While I don’t usually put a lot of emphasis on birthdays, for some reason turning 29 makes me feel anxious. Perhaps it’s the realization that I’m never going to be the youngest person to do something, unless it’s something bad, like being the youngest person to develop age spots or the youngest amongst my friends to get my driver’s license revoked due to night blindness.
Or perhaps it’s because 30 is right around the corner, and I’m beginning to understand that the picture I always had of myself at 30 was actually of a completely different person – a person in a power suit who said things like, “And how will that affect the bottom line?” Which is weird because I don’t really want to be that person, but I guess that’s what happens when you base your vision of success off Wells Fargo commercials.
The most distressing thing about this annual ritual is that I realize my feelings about it are totally cliche. If romantic comedies have taught us anything, it’s that everyone freaks out over aging – and rightfully so, because as a woman, my best years are now behind me. Unless you include Nancy Meyers’ movies in that genre, in which case my best years will start once I turn 55. But I think we can all agree (and by “we” I mean Hollywood producers) that the thirties are a wasteland.
So, I’m freaking out a bit, but I can’t decide which of the many cliched reactions I should go with. As I see it, here are my options.
Attempt to Reclaim My Youth
Meh, it’s still a little early for a full-blown midlife crisis. And one thing that saves me from trying to fit in with today’s youth is my utter disdain for today’s youth and everything they do. Planking? Owling? Tebowing? No wonder you guys can’t find jobs.
Compare my Life to my Childhood Dreams
I could always rip off the plot of this pictured Bruce Willis movie that no one saw and decide to follow my dreams from childhood, but those dreams were always a little unrealistic. Given my lack of natural abilities in science, it no longer seems attainable to become a world-famous marine biologist (which isn’t really a thing), marry John Stamos and live in a penthouse in Manhattan (either I didn’t know how much marine biologists made or I thought we’d be living on Uncle Jesse money forever). And while I know my childhood self’s eyes would glaze over if I explained what I actually do for a living, she would be very impressed by my paycheck and the number of Pogs it could buy, so I think she’d be fine with it.
Set Goals for the Year Ahead
I do this every year, and ten years into it (I only started around 19 because before that I was perfect and knew everything) I’m still not the poised, mature adult that I planned to be by this date the following year. It may be time to accept that at 30, I will still be walking into broken automatic doors, talking about people when they’re standing right behind me and writing blog posts that turn out to be unintentional hits within the pervert community (if you’re wondering how I’m married the answer is I don’t know).
Be Overly Cheerful About It
I suppose I could always swing back the other way, and funnel my anxious energy into a mildly unhinged excitement, as this woman seems to have done, but I don’t know that I can fake that amount of energy. Quips like, “You’re only as old as you feel!” are easy to say when you’re 22 and feel 22, but when you’re 29 and feel 48 most days, it just gets depressing. Plus, there comes an age where making a big deal about your own birthday seems sad, unless it’s an even decade or you’re so old that Willard Scott announces your birthday on The Today Show. I think once the date becomes less, “Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m getting older” and more “Holy shit, I can’t believe I’m still alive,” then you can make as big a deal of it as you want. I’m just not there yet.
Kind of Ignore It
I think the best response to this, and all future birthdays, is good-natured apathy. Birthdays are nice because they remind your Facebook friends that you exist, and sometimes restaurants give you free desserts or car places send you discounts on maintenance you don’t need. It’s a pleasant day, but putting too much pressure on it to be a great day will ruin it, and focusing on it as the day by which life goals must be achieved is the fastest way to turn into this: