Season Five, Episode One: The Essay (2005-2015)

I turn 30 tomorrow.

I don’t exactly know how I feel about this. I keep wondering where the past ten years have gone, and I simultaneously feel as if I haven’t grown at all and like I am an old woman trapped inside the body of a 29 year old. My twenties were tumultuous to say the least–I became a single mother at 20, I had my heart shattered twice, lost friends who I thought would be around forever, gained new friends who are like family, changed jobs a few times, moved out on my own, struggled with an eating disorder, and am now somewhat content with where I am currently at. I like to think the first decade of your adult life really isn’t even about being an adult. How can you possibly be an adult when you don’t even really know what you want yet in life? I remember when I was in high school, thinking that I had my life all figured out–I wanted to move to NYC, live in a chic itty bitty apartment, bartend at night and go to NYU during the day and major in journalism…write witty and vaguely acerbic fiction based loosely upon my life in the Big Apple, and then somehow make it big as a writer and then singer. Naturally I hadn’t quite learned yet that life typically does not follow the timeline and plans that we create. I got pregnant literally right after prom (I always joke that I got knocked up during prom weekend), became a mom at 19. I tried college, but my head wasn’t in the right place and I didn’t take it seriously. I screwed up my grades and when I tried to go back at 20/21, I couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket and kept changing my mind about my major. Being a glamorous and clever New Yorker went out the window once I had my son. I suddenly was expected to be an adult when I wasn’t even sure I was an adult yet.

But I think being confused and realizing that you can’t live up to all the crazy expectations that we made as kids is a pretty common feeling when you are in your mid-twenties. I still don’t feel like I’ve got my shit together. I’m not good with money. I hate domestic house shit. I don’t fold laundry and put it away. I wash dishes with a clear sense of loathing. I make questionable school lunches. BUT I have a 401(k). Whenever shit goes south, I remind people that hey, I have a 401(k) so I must be adulting at an acceptable level. (It’s not even at the default 3% either, it’s at like 9% so suck it haters.) I’ve only ever had three jobs, which is either a sign that I’m reliable or something, or it’s a sign that I develop Stockholm syndrome pretty quickly. I kind of pay some of my bills on time and I do an okay job at grocery shopping. I buy yogurt that is trendy and hip and very low in sugar but high in protein. I read The New York Times and The Washington Post and talk about current events. I go to the gym and pretend that I like to run, but I really hate it and prefer the stationary bike so that I can watch Amy Schumer and pretend to ride majestically over tall mountain peaks. I sometimes post witty things on Twitter, even though I’m still not completely sure what Twitter is all about. I have a LinkedIn page that I never use but made because I heard it was an adult thing to do.

I wear sweatpants a lot and don’t wear makeup when I’m not at work because I’m not 19-24 anymore and don’t feel like the world is going to end because I did not put mascara on before going to CVS. I pretty much only wear eyeshadow when I make plans to go get drunk–which basically means that I go out with my friends, nurse one or two drinks all night long, and then proceed to make sure none of them kill anyone else or end up in jail. I’m so over hangovers and spending half the day slumped over the toilet bowl or puking in my shower. I’ve developed a general disdain for people that I’m not friends with because I have learned over the past ten years that you don’t have to like everybody, so I limit the list of people I like down to the ones who like me already. Making new friends is exhausting and I like to limit the activities that wear me out physically, emotionally, or mentally. I don’t pretend to like things that I don’t like anymore. I don’t hide my dislike of anything “lite”, “light”, “diet”, or “fat/sugar free”. I like food and I’m going to eat it in all its fatty, sugary, caloric laden glory. I drink whole milk because I like it. I still live for the sprinkled up sugar cookie madness that is the McDonald’s holiday pie every December.

I’m super single and I’m okay with that. I get my needs taken care of, but I’m not actively searching for a gentleman lover (haha I love using that phrase because it just sounds like something an old lady named Edna would use in describing her love life) to fill the void in my empty and meaningless life.  I do feel a bit of a twinge of something when I scroll through my Facebook news feed and see photos of engagement rings and weddings and new babies…but then I remember that I have a 10 year old who is pretty awesome and I don’t ever want to get married, so I drink some wine and go watch a Vine about thug cats. Seriously though, I have learned that men are no longer a priority in my life. I have been single for a good chunk of my twenties, and for the first part of the decade, I remember feeling trapped and panicked and hopeless and lonely because I was alone and all my friends were getting engaged and then married. I felt like maybe I was a failure because I hadn’t met my Prince Charming who would sweep me off my feet and give me my happily ever after. I learned that no one can give you your happily ever after but yourself. I can make myself happy, I don’t need a man to make that emotion possible. I have been unlucky in love, but I have learned some pretty amazing things about myself along the way. I have learned that I am strong, that I have standards for myself, that I am not desperate, and that I have both self-respect and know the value of my self-worth. I have learned that even the most beautiful of men can be pigs, and that people will say and do anything to get what they want from another human being. I have learned that life goes on, you do meet someone else, and you fall in love again–it’s a guaranteed part of life that stays on repeat. I’m in no rush to settle down, I don’t plan on getting married, and I am proud of my independence. If I want that brand new Kate Spade purse, I can go out and buy that new Kate Spade purse. I don’t need to rely on anyone but myself and it’s an amazing feeling.

I feel prettier now than I did ten years ago. I remember reading an article saying that women are at their most beautiful between the ages of like 34-36 or something (it was an old Allure article) and so I’m looking forward to seeing if that’s true. I finally grew into my face, and thanks to me learning about skin care, I finally got this acne nonsense under control. I am more comfortable with my body and it’s curves and my face that is quite the mix of ethnicities. I still have those days though where I look in the mirror and wish that I was exceptionally gorgeous, that my face was a little slimmer, a little more soft, a little more delicate, a little more feminine, that my skin was clear and less oily, that my eyebrows were more fuller and didn‘t betray the over plucked trend that we all followed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I wish that my nose was more slender when I smiled, that I didn’t have my mother’s strong and vaguely masculine facial structure, that I was the kind of girl that people stopped and stared at because she was that beautiful. But I have also learned that I shouldn’t care, because beauty is overrated. Mixed race kids are beautiful in their own ways because we are a fabulous blending of nationalities–my face is like the goddamn U.N.  And the oily skin that I hate so much is actually helping to slow the ravages of time, so I guess I can learn to hate it less.

All in all, I keep hearing from my old ass friends (love you guys) who have already turned 30 that it’s actually not that bad. They say that their thirties were their best decade so far and that there is less pressure from society for you to be a productive adult because they already assume that either you are good at being a grown up or you’re a lost cause. You become more comfortable in your own skin because you realize that there are people who are going to like you and people who just aren’t, and there’s honestly nothing you can do to change their opinion of you. I’m down with a decade of giving zero fucks after this emotional hot mess of the last ten years! I’m actually pretty happy with who I am and where I’m at, and I can only assume that there’s some room for self-improvement. I don’t need to be sad about not being that super trendy and funny New Yorker who drinks Starbucks in Central Park and writes super successful witty and vaguely acerbic fiction based loosely upon my life in the Big Apple, because I can be that writer from Cleveland who drinks Starbucks at Edgewater Park and writes super successful witty and vaguely acerbic fiction based loosely upon my life in the Big Plum (a nickname I still don’t fully understand). I just need to get off my ass and stop procrastinating.

So…bring it on, 30. I have a 401(k) and I’m ready.

  

(Me at 20 and at 29–literally taken today.)

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