Over the past few years, I've gone through a wide range of emotions about turning 30, especially while single. Some of these feelings surprised me: I didn't know that certain insecurities or desires existed until I felt like the chance for them was drawing to a close.
Two years and some odd months ago, I was in a relationship which seemed like bliss for about two months and then unwound into months of turmoil. During the good times, I remember thinking: "I will be married by the time I'm 30 after all." I was surprised by how relieved and proud I felt. In marrying before 30, I would be accomplishing something that everyone could understand. Through marriage, I would prove to the world and, more importantly, to my family and friends near and far that I was worthy of undivided love, that I was attractive, sexually vital and successful in the most basic human way. I would be a good person, a good woman and by extension, a good friend, niece, daughter, cousin.
I had never realized how alienated I had felt from my friends and from most of my family because of my typically single status. I never realized how much people people worried about me, even pitied me because they felt something essential was missing in my life. I had no idea how much I had internalized this feeling.
When I thought that I would be married within the conventional timeframe, I felt, for the first time ever, that I had some kind of magic ticket to normalcy that I had always yearned for but had never been given.
At that time I was still only 27.
Since then, I have mulled over my fear of turning 30 and have come to face this new decade (now only 31 minutes away) with excitement and relief instead of fear and angst.
My late 20s were not easy. They were full of career failures, financial struggles, personal loss and general confusion. In many ways, it won't be hard to say goodbye to the consternation and frustration and grief of recent years.
And I'm not 20 anymore and I know things about the world. I have experience -- lots of it. And experience is something that can never be taken away from me. I've survived things that I never thought I would have to face.
I had a crisis just a few months ago when I first began to consider setting out on the long road towards a PhD. I realized that by choosing to commit the next 7 years to academic life, the opportunity to have biological children very well might pass me by. At the time I was slightly involved with a man who very much wanted wholesome biological children raised on milk and wheat bread. I mentioned my potential PhD aspirations to him during our last real phone conversation. Two weeks later he flippantly bowed out of our travel arrangements and said something about incompatibility. And that was it.
In the past 10 years I have learned that in choosing one thing, I am also NOT choosing so many others. Spending most of my 30s in school may very well end up being a choice against having a kid that carries my genetics although it doesn't eliminate my chance to be a parent.
And I am OK with that. If being pregnant and giving birth to my own spawn was super important to me, I would have chosen so many different ways to spend my 20s. I've always wanted to adopt older children and I've always known that by doing so, I can buy myself some time against the generation gap: If I am 40 and adopt a 7 year old, the generation gap isn't quite as huge as it would be if I gave birth at 40.
I am no longer afraid of being an old maid. I know that I will have companionship. And I know that it will be unconventional. I've lived my life out of order and upside down and I can't expect to suddenly grow up and start doing everything the typical way. The typical way has never made sense for me. Its not going to start making sense just because my looks and fertility are starting to fade.
I have a rich life and many talents. And I am going to use them. If nothing else, I am going to live life on my own terms. My 20s were about figuring out what I wanted to do. My 30s are going to be about doing it.
To actually realize my dreams instead of just dreaming them is at once exhilarating and intimidating. But that is where I'm headed.
I've got 9 minutes left. And then I'm ringing in the next decade of wonderment.