In about four days, I’ll be turning 30. And while it’s bound to be strange, being told you’re going to do something your whole life only to actually do it, I can’t seem to place this wriggling feeling I have of wanting to sit down and really ask myself: what does this milestone even mean?
In between that thinking though, I will say this: there’s something about turning 30 in this year of all years that’s making this shift extremely emblematic. The shift of all shifts. Monumental.
Overwhelming? Only if I let it be. And sure, I’ve always felt comfortable with change, but I can see this year as being one I will never forget, bound not only by the focus that 30 gets in our media, our conversations, and even our idioms, but also compounded with whatever this year and the next become in our collective memories.
With this reflection in my mind then, and having long ago learned the power that comes with making the choice to reach out to someone when I’m facing a problem, I knew I needed to speak with someone who had known me for a lot longer than a hot second; someone who had actually watched me shift from a stumbling teenager into the 29-year-old I am today (and the thriving 30-year-old that’s coming next!).
Before I go on though, here’s a quick little something about me: I’ve always been a mover. I’ve lived in a ton of cities, picking up year after year from one town to another. That’s over 20 moves by 29 years old. So when I say that I’m grateful to still be in touch with the people who knew me…not just five years ago…but fifteen…twenty?…I mean that to the fullest, because in a transient world, these are the true pillars that hold us steady. That’s why, at the end of the day, a long-time best friend is always my best medicine.
“Amy! You turned 30 this year…what do I do?” I find myself asking over video chat with Amy Treeshin, my top lady since 2005. She laughs at me with the same bright smile she’s had since Grade 10 (on that strange and hilarious moment when I turned around and basically yelled-asked why she was writing MY name on HER school-binder, only to discover that…she wasn’t) and tells me to breathe:
“Don’t worry, we’re going into your thirties with a bang!” she cheers. This time it’s me who’s grinning, remembering this same girl sitting across from me across the span of years, from our teens, to our twenties, to now. It’s almost as if, for one moment, I can see every version of her as I’ve known her. And in all cases? She’s my mother-frickin’ bestie.
“Well,” I start, “we did know each other all through high school…”
“…and it wasn’t pretty…” she laughs again, poking fun at our younger fashion faux pas’. I can tell we’re in for yet another conversation full of nostalgia, laughter, and reminiscing about old times, and so I sit back on the couch to get cozy, a winter blizzard blowing strong outside, ready to remember what we’ve learned, and imagine what we will learn along the way!
30, Flirty, and Thriving: All It’s Cracked Up to Be?
Jessica (J): Okay so…30, flirty, and thriving. Is it true?
Amy (A): Yes…I am…all of those things (ba-dum-chaaa!).
[pause for laughter] I actually do feel that is true though. I feel like 30 is the prime of your life. When I was young I looked at 30 as being old, but now that I’m here I honestly feel as if most of the things I’ve accomplished have set me up for success. Now I can kind of enjoy the ride at 30!
(J): I agree…It’s almost as if past-Jessica was fumbling a bit, but was still making some good decisions, and now I’ll be able to…and am kind of already…bask in some of those efforts.
(A): Exactly. I mean, I sometimes I’ve felt like I’m a child in an adult’s body who has been given all these responsibilities…and I mean, I would say that even at 29 I still (in some ways) felt like a child, but now that I’m at 30, I kind of have this…it definitely feels like a true shift from child to adult.
(J): That’s exciting to know, because even looking back to just two years ago…I sometimes wonder how the hell that past-me had her head on straight without knowing everything I’ve learned since. Which is why I’m glad to have you helping me…or like…leading me into 30! (haha)
(A): Yes, of course! Honestly, It’s a good feeling. It’s not a dramatic shift on your 30th where you’re all depressed or anything, it’s more like: I feel I’m more on track now. Especially since I didn’t really have that high of standards for my younger self…
(J): What do you mean? I felt like you were always aiming high!
(A): I mean, in high school I just thought ‘okay, I guess I’m going to be a mom’, since I was a teen mom, you know. And really, that was my highest aspiration at the time—I didn’t see myself as going further. But now that my whole 20’s have gone by, I can say things like, I’ve gone to college, and travelled around the world, and even brought my family with me wherever I go. So those things are huge to think about now that I’m 30. I mean, I really did those things.
[pause] Did you think you were going to be self-employed when you were younger?
(J): Oh! That’s a good question. I mean, I guess not. I always wanted to be an actress or writer or journalist…so a business wasn’t ever really something I thought about owning. But I have accomplished some of the things I set out to do back then, so that’s really something I suppose I can be proud of. Plus…I do own a business now…as a writer! So…I guess it all worked out, but it did take me until like…27 years old to get there.
(A): Well, I think it wasn’t until my 28th year that I really started ‘getting it’. It’s been one of my favourite years so far. We did a bunch of travelling, and I was experimenting with my online business too, so I was riding the high of that success while it lasted…
(J): Um, yes, I remember that year VERY clearly because I had never fangirled so hard for you before? You were like, my influencer mogul icon that year…
(A): Hahaha! Oh my god yoooooou! Stop, I love you!
(J): And that was the year we all went to NYC too!
(A): Oh yeah, we had so much fun that year with you guys! And that was the year I also took a yoga retreat by myself, which would have been my first solo international trip. I went to Mexico, and then the boys came down and met me there. We also went to Bali that year for a whole month—all four of us—so there was a lot of fun and self-development.
(J): I actually had a pretty similar experience with 28. It did feel like a special shiny year where I suddenly had this awareness of being in control of my own life. I remember that year—I was just watching dishes one day—I had this moment where it hit me, already a quarter of the way through my life, that I could actually go out and buy a dog without anyone’s permission. I actually cried with this new-found…ownership of my life!
Any Regrets?: Looking Back On Life from 30
Jessica (J): So, more and more, I think I can look back at myself in a more honest, forgiving, and mature light, the older I get. Do you feel the same?
Amy (A): I can definitely relate. I feel like we all do a little bit of growing each year, but it was 26, 27, 28 where I really felt a change in my thought process. You’re done with your early twenties, and you can start to see where it is that you want to go.
(J): Absolutely! I feel the same way. Suddenly, there’s this…and I think awareness is the right term to use…suddenly I could see myself as a whole person, and that made me want to be more responsible. Add to that—and maybe you remember having these thoughts—the part of me growing up that never even thought I would make it this far. Or who didn’t even want to. I remember thinking I didn’t want to live past 40 because, what’s worth living for after that many years? But now that I’m here and I got through that, I’m like, nope, even 100 years isn’t enough!
(A): Yes! Exactly. It’s embarrassing, but one adult thing I procrastinated on, due to that kind of thinking, was that I never really managed my finances properly. And I still struggle with this, but I had this mindset where I would think, ‘you can’t spend money when you’re dead!’. As I was approaching 30 though, I really felt like I wanted a change. I wanted to go into my 30s responsible. I’d always been a bit insecure about finances, but I also wanted to have a savings, and investing in stocks, and to prepare for a retirement of some sort. So a few months before my 30th, I started working on that. I locked in a position that gave me a pension. I talked with the banks. And then I was able to turn 30 with some assurance.
(J): Same! Just this past two months I’ve really been feeling the finance thing weighing over my head. And I ended up taking this great little course through Pandemic University which really showed me just how out of control I’d become, and it has helped me be more responsible with my finances and spending, and to pay more attention to the debt I created when I was just ‘spending before I die’. Of course, I’m also grateful that I’ve gained some patience for myself. And then (my quick-brain again)…I also heard something else the other day: that life is almost always the practice run. Rarely do we encounter the same problem we’ve encountered before, so we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves.
(A): Right, like learning from your mistakes. Even that’s a learning jump. I remember a trip where we got back, and we had definitely over-spent, and I was mad at myself. I never wanted to let it happen again, and at first I felt so horrible for not planning it out. Then, I decided to start my savings, and paying attention, and do something about it.
(J): It does feel sort of powerful now, having even a little bit of control over that, and yeah, learning from my mistakes instead of berating myself. Which has me wondering about, then, what it’s like now that you feel like a true adult—now that you’re an LPN who has travelled to more places than I can name—what it’s like turning 30 now, and seeing your kids follow in your footsteps?
(A): With my own children, I remember exactly what it was like at their age, what I was thinking, and I see them thinking in the same way and exploring the world. But separate from that, I think about some of the ways I thought about aging when I was younger, and about life…and I think there’s some differences. For the most part I was pretty superficial, thinking I would just be old and wrinkly at this time in my life!
(J): Yeah! I totally thought I was going to be ancient, and that life would be over…
(A): Right. And now I’m here thinking the 30s are my prime, that I’ve set myself up career-wise, that I know what path I want to take, and that turning 40 and 50 are going to be the same way. So to my younger self I would say: this is going to be the best time of your life. You’re going to be sure of yourself, and more established, and you’re going to look forward to the next couple of decades.
(J): Awe, okay, that’s nice to think about! I kind of feel like you’re saying that to me.
[pause] Thinking back to when I was younger though, I also had that same dread about aging. But now, I definitely don’t feel like that anymore—I feel really assured, and feel my experience and am grateful for it. Sometimes it’ll hit me like, whoa! There are 80+ more years of life I could have, and they could all be great! There’s so much more life to live!
Life’s Biggest Lesson? Appreciate What You’ve Got
Amy (A): Something that hasn’t changed in my thinking though…and this might be morbid since we’re talking about living…but I’m actually very aware of our mortality. I think about it on a daily basis, which is why I’m trying to live as much life as possible while I can. Because…with getting older there’s something else: you start seeing more tragedies happen, and you begin to understand that you’re not guaranteed these future years. Turning a year older is really a blessing. There are so many more people who didn’t even make it this far, so we should be grateful for each year we turn older. That’s how I’m looking at it now anyway—just keeping the mortality anxiety at bay by living a very enjoyable life.
Jessica (J): Honestly, I think I know why we’re best friends. I think about that all the time too! I remember the first way that ever came to me…I started thinking about the fact that I wasn’t always going to have use of my legs. I started thinking, well, I better get in as much walking as I fricken can, because I am not always going to be able to, and I am going to need those memories when I’m sedentary so I don’t go insane!
(A): Well I’ve never thought about it that way so that’s going to keep me up at night.
(J): You are most welcome! (haha) We’re such positive people!
[pause] No, but I really do think it’s because we are so aware of our mortality that we’re so dedicated to making the most of our days.
(A): Right. There are so many people who live day-to-day in a rut and just coast. That’s the worst fear of mine.
(J): Sometimes I think I may even be physically incapable of slowing down or coasting.
(A): I know! And some people don’t realize they do it. Once they get into that rut of being like, ‘blah, this is life’, they’re either just waiting for the weekend, or living for the weekend, and that’s just not me.
(J): I’ve always really liked people who don’t have that mentality. And like, discussing this idea of what it means to be turning 30, I guess I’ve just been building up to this point where I go ahead and ask: do you have any advice to smooth my transition?
(A): Oh! Just not caring what people think. And living for yourself and your family. It might be generic, but those are huge. As I’ve grown, I think I’ve begun to realize what’s more important to me, and so I can make the choice not to spend my time in general with things that don’t match my goals. But learning what you want is a big part of the process in the first place. And that really only comes with the natural growth process, or…from real-life experience.
(J): Well, I’m biased, but as a human being I know you’ve worked super hard to develop yourself, actively, and not fall into that rut, and to really focus on things that bring your life happiness. And I also know you don’t avoid the hard stuff in life either, so it’s not like you’re just ignoring what makes you unhappy, or just letting life affect you. What do you think?
(A): Well, I do read a lot of self-development books and podcasts, which are a saving grace because you can get some really great self-acknowledgement time for yourself…or, some more time for self-care.
(J): That’s one of the things I love about self-development podcasts and books. Sometimes I forget just how understood I can really feel in the world, and that takes away so much tension.
(A): Yes! If people don’t talk about these issues with themselves, or reflect, then you end up thinking you’re the only one who feels that way, and it can feel so isolating. I love podcasts because you can make these connections with other people who have thought the same things as you, and who can teach you something new, no matter how old you are!
Some Things Never Change
“Well…you’ve made me feel a little bit understood.” I say as Amy beams at me through the computer screen, my mirror of a smile just as wide in the monitor’s upper-right corner.
“You’re always there for me!” she laughs, her attention turning to the kids now rumbling down the stairs behind her. The conversation moves quickly from the two of us, to catching up with the whole family, but to me this shift cements everything we’ve left unsaid: here we are, after all these years of knowing each other, surrounded by those we love, and still solidly in each other’s lives.
And so, without necessarily having found all the answers that will lead me on my own journey into my 30s, I feel I can bridge this next milestone with a little more confidence. After all, if my best friend can do it, so can I!
Wish us luck!