On Sunday, I celebrate a major life event by leaving my twenties and entering a brand new decade. I have to say that thirty wasn't really on my radar screen until recently, but now I will begin negotiating my own role within it. Interestingly, until the past few months, I've always perceived lives and mindsets of those in their thirties as quite distinct, both from myself and where I felt I fit in with the rest of the world. Now I am entering the unknown, unsure of where I should place my full weight.
Speaking frankly, I have to say that I've really been dreading this birthday. Reasons why are numerous. What I am about to experience is often considered the end of youth, or at least the beginning of the end. And while I do feel like an adult, it has been disconcerting to recognize that adulthood has as many insecurities attached to it as so-called childhood. I suppose I felt that it would be more cut-and-dried, possessed of a kind of surety of purpose. Instead, like so many things, I've come to understand that adulthood is an eternal journey, not some destination to be reached.
I have also been forced to acknowledge that the definition of maturity has shifted with time. In a different time with different variables, I might very well have already been years into the employ of a particular company, engaged in the slow, but inevitable process of climbing up the ladder. These days, job security is anything but secure, and journeymen and women can expect to switch careers more than once. Anyone who behaved in such a fashion back then was automatically suspect by potential employers and other people. The problems evident now are a result of systems which have not been reformed to suit changing times.
I think it's the question of youth versus maturity that probably gets to me most of all. Women understand well what it's like to have to conform to a double standard, clinging to transitory beauty while also striving for the wisdom and knowledge only life experience can grant. Though most men wouldn't admit it, they're also privy to this kind of anxiety, though male physical beauty is not placed quite so highly on the list of societal priorities. I can be vain sometimes too, the same as anyone, and as a result I am in no hurry for my hair to thin out more than it has, or for the gray hair now perceptible at my temples to spread.
Entering any new age range is not as simple as crossing a finish line as in a race. One isn't automatically granted insight based on having grown one more year older, though this is often what is implied culturally. In truth, age thirty is a highly relative benchmark that assumes much but promises little. I'm discovering that I shouldn't lose my child-like sense of play, no matter how old I get. I'm also figuring out that everyone is trying to make sense of the same things I am, in their own particular way. How freeing it would be if we saw all of these standards of perfection on a continuum rather than an arbitrary value to be reached with enough hard work and personal sacrifice. Even so, these are difficult lessons to learn and I am not there yet myself, though I hope to be there eventually.