30. Nothing but a number.

james pepper illustration

Approaching 30.

I think this may be the most settled and calming period I’ve had in a long time. With aging comes the hard swallow of realities that your life may not be what you thought it would be by the time you reach age X. But in lieu of panic, there’s something very ‘Ok’ about it, too.

My highs and lows are less dramatic. There’s less drama for the sake of drama, born out of boredom or needing entertainment.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, having a green tea and hearing the barista discuss with a patron her rekindling of romance with a previous boyfriend and the ease within which they may or may not be getting back together. I recognize her nervous casualness in which she describes their interactions. I’ve told those same lies at times. That, “No…it’s not that big of a deal. We’ll see what happens…I’m just being the bigger person” et al.

When inside I know she’s eager to make this work again this time. To fix whatever broke down before and to revisit this relationship with fresh eyes and fresh breathe and more resilience toward being totally open. But there is a moment when you do realize that you can’t make two people be a thing sometimes.

I know it well. And it makes me happy. To know that we’re all built from the same kind of DNA. That we’ve got all the same basic emotional blueprint and capacity.

How does that relate to being older? I don’t know. I think if I sat here and heard her three years ago I would have had less of an appreciative smirk upon my face hearing her. In fact, I probably would have stuffed my headphones in my ears to avoid such drivel.

But now closer to 30 than 20, I’m loving the mellowness that comes with age. The comfort that most people describe – comfort with just being who you are and being less worried about comparing yourself to other people, changing yourself for the sake of another, and not punishing yourself every day with self-doubt, self-loathing, self-denial, self-punishment.

The fact that as you get older, you become closer to yourself.

I certainly thought I’d be further along by the time I hit 30. In terms of money, in terms of career, in terms of dating – that all of these things combined would have eventually led me to feeling more ‘successful’ or ‘fulfilled.’

Truth be told, I think all of these things happened and I do feel pretty accomplished. I’ve pushed myself – in some of the most extreme and in some of the most minuscule ways – to leave my comfort zone in terms of all the things above and more.

I’ve been addicted to constant change and yet I love the static nature of my core lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – for the most part, I’m a misanthropist through and through. But as I get older, I find more sentimentality in the little things in life. The acts of kindness I witness which inspire me to be more kind. The acts of humility that inspire me to be more humble and to listen more and talk less. The acts of care in the smallest of ways that inspire me to constantly turn down the dial on my dramatic tendencies.

I’ve learned through so many bruised-knee moments emotionally that my walls erected around my heart typically don’t serve me well. And that there’s something more empowering about being totally forthright and tending to my own well-being first rather than compromising for the sake of trying to ‘keep’ another around.

And at 30, I’m finally at a place where it’s much harder for me to justify being in a relationship I don’t feel utterly tingly about from the get-go. And I realize that it’s a battle of being someone who is holding out for that when it may never come. That what I’m expecting may just be illusory.

I used to pity people who settled down for the sake of settling down. But no more. I get it. Sometimes you just want the company. You just want the warm body and companionship there. It’s about forging a life together, regardless of all the other ‘stuff.’ I think I tried to do it. But I couldn’t. I’m not one to be backed into a corner – whether by another or of my own choosing.

I want what I want. And I’m not taking whatever comes my way. And that attitude could be COMPLETELY detrimental and leave me a sad spinster.

If that’s the case, it’s okay, too. I may just be one of those people who is alone. A wild horse that cannot be saddled by any person. I have a hard time kneeling in deference to anyone. There have been less than a handful who have made me want to.

So if the one that makes me want to wants to in return, I’ll follow indefinitely.

Always the case of being ‘all chips in’ when I feel IT. And when I don’t, I cannot fake it.

The same could be said for every part of my life – job, hobbies, etc. I become oddly addicted to the new high of anything that I’m interested in. And when I’m done, I’m completely done.

With age also comes the beauty in being less hurt by life. That when things do not go your way, it’s not panic-button worthy. And the things that are meant to be will always manifest themselves (repeatedly in some cases). I believe in ‘signs,’ if you will.

People come and go and return. In most cases, it doesn’t make any sense and for someone like me, I want to know why. But there’s never a reason. Making peace with that…that only comes with learning acceptance. And *ding* not being in control of everything.

I appreciate these moments more. Instead of being dismissive or distrustful, I choose to see the silver lining.

It’s a moment to reflect on what IS going right and to be more grateful for the things that have happened as if by chance and luck. It’s a choice in what you choose to focus your reflection upon. Pain or personal growth?

Perhaps familial health scares and my own fear of death (or let’s be honest – control of ANYTHING), make me more “So what, who cares” about life.

And that’s helped in relationship building, demolishing and reconstruction. When you see your own steadfastness emerge, you see how things in life aren’t SO delicate or precious. It all comes and goes in a blink of an eye – so just bravely face the day and go for what you want.

“Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.” A quote allegedly by Seneca, a first-century Roman philosopher. Later appropriated & revised by Oprah. But the sentiment is true.

I think that there is a lot to be said for going through practice & preparation before you are then presented with the opportunity to act.

In many ways, I’m still learning every day. About myself. About others. About how to engage in the dance between the two.

Sanding down the rough edges, as it were. And happy for the experiences drifting in my life. And those that drift away. All the while having proverbial popcorn to enjoy the show, not knowing how it will end or the twists/turns in the story.

Getting older means being more forgiving toward one’s self in terms of trying to ‘be something.’ What if existing happily is enough of a lasting impression upon this planet? What if kindness is the most impressive feat you could accomplish while you were here?

What if the entire point of being here is to just soak it all in? And just nod in simple agreement.

I’m eager and excited for the crazy and winding path that lay ahead of me with brambles, exquisite vistas and delightful road warrior companions that join me as our narratives intertwine for however long they might. And being able to revel in the stories of others and just like a book, step into someone else’s experience and feel the emotional impact and be thankful for the sharing.

So here’s to 2013. Turning 30. Turning over new leafs. And turning pages as I continue writing my story. No rules for foolish hearts, as they say…

Photo courtesy James Pepper/Flickr.

The unfinished story.

prekiss flickr olivia bee

I keep coming back to this song.

Something about this is a reminder that grudges are nothing but a waste of time and feeling. Also a flag that you will always have a new perspective on people, events, places as you get older. And I see how the things you carry begin to shift their place and weight within your being as you age. Pain lessons, love deepens, awareness widens.

Nothing is ever predictable. And you will always have a new perspective on love, whether new or old.

People have to go on journeys. Some journeys start alone. Sometimes they start with another person. Sometimes people only start journeys after they part ways from another. Despite the cause, the journey is necessary.

And you never get to go back to who you were before.

And the wisdom with age is that over time, you’re glad you won’t go back. Because what you went through gave you so much more.

Hell may be other people, but nothing enriches your experience more than the wisdom, approach, attitude and spirit of other people – no matter the length of time they spend with you in your own narrative.

Photo courtesy Oliva Bee/Flickr.