Transitions are weird, and the shift from your twenties to your thirties is no exception. We all entered our twenties together, having experienced, more or less, the same four years (wait, you chugged beer through a funnel freshman year and were asleep for most of Sociology, too?! Let's be best friends!). Post-college, we're thrust into the real world, a freshman all over again, elbow to elbow on the subway with people that look like our parents and professors, seemingly wiser peers who appear to have their collective sh-t together. It's intimidating at first, but you're all in it together, so you start sorting out student loans, slug through a miserable first job, and finally begin fending for yourself. Twenty-two soon becomes 25, and then 29, and then suddenly, without any warning (except for the 9 previous birthdays), you're 30. And while we may have entered the previous decade together and the same, turning 30 is like coming back to school in September from a really long summer vacation. We've all been through something a little different, we don't quite recognize each other, and Sally has boobs now.
By the time we hit our thirties, some of us are still striving to feel settled, but others feel comfortable with where they are. Some are married or divorced, but others are single, or VERY, VERY single. Some have kids, and some are still figuring out if we want any at all. Some are enjoying unparalleled professional success, while others are still on our family's cell phone plan, hoping our parents continue not to notice. But despite how different this decade may have been for each of us, there's a lot that we share because of it and in spite of it. You know you're 30 when ...
1. The feeling of paying your utility bill no longer fills you with that misplaced sense of pride, that inflated confidence you used to get when you first started paying your own bills. When you're 30, paying your Comcast bill just makes you feel tired. Also, who the HELL keeps ordering Zookeeper?!
2. You roll your eyes when any baby-faced bimbo orders a Cosmopolitan. You know she's only ordering one because she saw Carrie Bradshaw do it on an SATC rerun on E! You watched it for real on HBO. And then ordered a Cosmo. That's different. This girl probably thought Sex and the City 2 was pretty good. (As a reminder, it was worse than that time Carrie got dumped on a Post-It.)
The post-it dump: precursor to the text message dump, but just as painful.
3. People forgetting your birthday is not the nightmare Molly Ringwald would have you believe. In fact, it's secretly a relief. Maybe that means you get to be 29 again for a whole 'nother year!
Real nightmare scenario here.
4. You realize that a lot of things went exactly as planned.
5. And, for better or worse, a lot of things didn't.
6. If you're still being seated at the kid's table at Thanksgiving, it's not quite so quirky anymore. Especially because kids ruin Thanksgiving by doing things like putting ketchup on perfectly good turkey and touching all the bread with their booger fingers.
7. For no reason at all, your knee hurts for an entire week.
8. You tip the waiter more because he asked to see your ID.
9. You know exactly how you like your coffee.
10. You stop gazing longingly at your jeans from high school and accept that some things — like your waistline from 11th grade — are better left in the past. 'Cause you know what else is from 11th grade? This hairstyle:
11. You own at least one piece of acceptable furniture that doesn't have nail polish, coffee mug circles, or last night's Taco Bell on it.
12. You stop saying "When I grow up ..." Instead, you say (with the same wistful-tinged promise), "When I retire ..."
13. You stop caring that you haven't (and at this point, probably never will) read War and Peace, Ulysses, or Jane Eyre. Would your life really be that much different if you had?
14. The dark circles under your eyes isn't smeared makeup from the night before. That's just how your eyes look now.
15. You wear smart, sensible shoes to any event lasting longer than 3 hours.
16. Whenever you consider going out, you NEED to know the following: "Will there be drinks?," "Can I sit down during it?," and "What time do you think I can be home?"
17. You don't get angry and annoyed anymore at the gang of obnoxious 14-year-olds that invade the movie theater. You get nostalgic. Until they text during the entire movie. Then you remember that when you were their age, there was no such thing as a "no phones" policy at the movie theater, because that would've meant bringing your cordless landline to Independence Day.
18. You remember looking up movies times and the weather in a newspaper.
19. The most precious relics from your childhood — Home Alone, Aladdin, The Mighty Ducks, Batman Returns, Wayne's World, and Beethoven — are all at least two decades old.
20. You realize no one uses floppy disks, 411, collect calls, Mapquest, or maps in general anymore. Do 15year-olds even know what a map looks like?
21. You remember when taking your temperature used to take a full two minutes (unless you held it up to a lamp when your mom left the room).
22. You remember that there was once a time when if you couldn't think of the name of that guy from that movie, or those song lyrics, you and your friends would just have to sit around until someone thought of it. And sometimes no one would think of it, and you'd have to go through life with the knowledge that you didn't have that knowledge. And everything was FINE.
No one had a thing in their pocket that could give you all the answers. Instead, you just had the answers in your head. Sometimes. But if you DID remember that the founding member of the Bash Brothers was Fulton Reed, or that that song is actually called Baba O'Riley not Teenage Wasteland, or that YEAH Jason Segel was in Can't Hardly Wait for a hot second — you were a god amongst your friends, the recipient of a string of high fives and a collective "Ohhhh yeah!!" in that moment where the human brain — and its capacity to remember the most meaningful meaningless shit — is fully realized.
23. You're hit with the sobering realization that — unless you quit everything and immediately begin Pilates certification training — you've peaked physically. You will never look better than you do now. And you already have looked better than you do now. But that's okay, because by the time you're 30, you realize that other things are more important (and even accessible) to you than flat abs — like relationships, career, family, self-acceptance, fixing that stupid gutter for good, and finally figuring out how to fold a fitted sheet.
24. Nearly a decade of workplace injuries begin to take their toll: carpal tunnel, poor blood circulation in the lower limbs, eye strain, and Gary's relentless email forwards.
25. You remember using search engines besides Google — not just the easy ones that are still lingering around today like dingleberries (no offense, Yahoo, and AOL). I mean deeeeep into the bowels of the 90s internet. I'm talking Ask Jeeves, MSN, Alta Vista, and Dogpile.
Dogpile wouldn't search for results - it would fetch them! Get it?
26. You know what to order at the bar when you need to wake up, when you need to have a great night but be functional tomorrow, and when you just need to get DRUNK.
27. You remember going to the video STORE- — - a place with physical movies and shiny posters and gumball machines — to rent a MOVIE and sometimes they didn't have the movie you WANTED so you had to either pick another movie or go home empty-handed and find something else to do and SOMETIMES the video store clerk would recommend something else to you instead because you had a RELATIONSHIP with this breathing human being and he knew what you liked and didn't like. And that's how you discover Gattaca and The Big Lebowski.
28. You remember when there was just one kind of coffee and it was FINE. People were still caffeinated enough to do stuff, like commute to work and fax expense reports and buy Christmas gifts and remember to feed their kids.
29. You remember wearing jeans that were tapered at the ankle, and they weren't called skinny jeans or jeggings. They were just called jeans and they came in one color. Denim.
30. Hey, denim is a textile, not a color!
31. Shut up, you're 20, aren't you.
32. Getting a zit makes you feel young again!
33. Any interest in One Direction, Justin Bieber, etc. feels a little pedo. You wonder, exactly what am I connecting to with these little rugrats?
34. Shit, you miss Rugrats.
35. You remember when The History Channel was the history channel.
36. You remember when reality TV was just, like, COPS and the local news.
37. Getting a really great tan this summer slips off your list of priorities.
38. Sunny Saturday afternoons of day drinking with friends are replaced by painful afternoons at Ikea (a place where you arguably need a drink more than anywhere else). Here's a conversation preview: "Yes, honey, I do think we need an integrated lighting system in our kitchen." TRUST it is not like that charming scene in (500) DAYS OF SUMMER where you blissfully make out on a bed while a Chinese family watches you.
39. ...You have fewer and fewer conversations with your parents where you're like, "GOD, they just don't get me or anything I'm going through right now." That's partly because...
40. ...You realize your parents are human beings with flaws, insecurities, heartbreak, and their own stuff to deal with besides yours. They're not infallible, but that doesn't mean you still don't instinctively call them and expect them to have all the answers when your shit hits the fan and sprays poop everywhere.
41. You know what well liquor is, and that's how you order your cocktails now.
42. You remember using Netscape Navigator to connect to the World Wide Web.
43. You ordered CDs from the Columbia House magazine.
44. Buying the first NOW CD was one of the most important first purchases you ever made.
45. You bugged out whenever you got the Delia's catalogue in the mail. (This was in a time known as B.O.S., Before Online Shopping.)
46. Your school was viciously divided between Team Pacey and Team Dawson.
One of these options is clearly better.
47. You both hate and fear the 13 year-old brat sitting next to you at the airport gate texting 180 WPM. Neither of you will acknowledge the awkward reality that in just 10 years, he could be your boss.
48. This guy was still this guy...
...and not this guy:
49. You know Charlie Sheen for this...
50. When you realize that no one cares you're 30. But guess what? No one really cared when you turned 22 through 29 either. It's just a number. Nothing special is going to happen. You're not finally gaining admission into a movie with mild sexual humor and a brief drug reference; you're not strutting out of the DMV with a fresh license; you're not eligible to gamble, vote, be drafted, drink, or rent a car. After 25 — hell, after 22 — a birthday just means that you lived for 365 more days. Maybe 366 if it was a Leap Year. Congratulations. Here's a piece of sugar with a flame on top. Don't let your hair catch on fire. Although that would make turning 30 more memorable.
The thing is, turning 30 or 50 or 78 or 12 means whatever you want it to mean. You can define it for you. Kind of like how I have the ideal body type. I really do. And that's because I've decided that the ideal body type means the exact body I have right now — hips and an ass and knobbly knees and a little beer belly that keeps me warm at night. So YEAH, I have the perfect body. Don't be jealous, you could too — define it for yourself.
Define 30 or whatever age or year you are. Yes, you're getting older, but you're also becoming a more real and complicated and faceted and interesting version of yourself. With each new day, your story gets better. In your 20s, you were a vague black-and-white sketch of the person you thought you'd like to appear to be, outlined by broad strokes and with deference to others around you. But the years since have given you better tools to further define that image, allowing you to add color and form, depth and texture. The picture is by no means void of doubt or fear, or an equation for "having it all figured out." The picture is nowhere near complete, and maybe it never will be, but it's not a blank canvas either, and it doesn't look like anyone else's. It's evolving. It's taking shape. It's not nothing. It's something. And that's something to share.