I recently turned 30. “It’s the Dirty 30!” people told me.
The months, weeks, and days leading up to what felt like a pivotal day felt like a countdown. Uh, to what exactly I couldn’t tell you. All I knew was that with every passing day and “What are you going to do?” questions from friends and family I felt panic and anxious.
A big 30th lavash birthday bash with confetti, strippers popping out of cakes, bounce houses, and shit? Nah, part of me just wanted to be counterculture and boo that trope.
The best thing I could come up with was just run away. At first, I wanted to disappear into the woods and try to spend a night by myself to reflect, but the thought of ax-wielding, bearded murderers deterred me a bit. Instead, I spent that day alone on an isolated beach, turned off my phone, and got passed out drunk.
JOKES. But I really did spend it alone, but instead of hitting the bottle, I journaled. Does this sound super sad? Maybe. It did feel appropriately melancholy.
But before that, I went to the gym and did one set of 30 back squats with my body weight piled onto the bar. Well, I should say I attempted to because I ended up needing to re-rack twice very briefly to make sure my spine didn’t bend like a slinky. Have you ever experienced your heart repeatedly jumping out of your throat? Try high-rep squats. Afterward, I halved the weight and did front squats for another 30 reps.
With my booty, legs, and whole body properly tenderized to match the mush in my mind, I went to Point Lobos in Northern California and hiked along the coast, stopping wherever a comfortable enough-looking seat beckoned while making sure it still had a view of waves crashing and the waning sunlight glittering atop the ocean water; and then I just journaled on a folded bundle of scratch paper.
I wrote about anything I could think of, but it was mostly related to what turning 30 meant to me.
I’ve never really journaled before. I’ve read about all of its positive benefits, of course, about how you can supposedly “discover” yourself, or at least let yourself be cathartic without judgment–until your hands cramp up, that is. For me, writing online and blogging are totally different from journaling because the words you see now have been ruthlessly filtered and edited and obviously serve a different purpose.
When I decided to journal on this day, I had high hopes the journaling would lead to some breakthroughs–like answers to why, despite many things going so well for me, I felt so forlorn and uncertain. Reading through my scribbled notes now, it’s clear to me these were the thoughts and confessions of a scared madwoman.
There’s something about the number 30 that makes everyone take a step back and say, “Whoa, where the fuck is my mansion?” Thirty years old means different things to different people, but the common theme that came up again and again was, “I thought there’d be more.”
In your 20s, you give yourself a pass because you can tell yourself you’re still figuring shit out–it’s cool–but the expectations and ideals of 30 are, like, the real deal: If you don’t have it together by then, well–damn, you’re a loser.
It’s a bitch of a mind trap in today’s life. Everyone else’s achievements and life updates are all up in your face via Facebook and other social media. In fact, here’s what I wrote about that in my journaling (very lightly edited):
Our 20s is about figuring shit out, right? I’ve figured some shit out. Like how even though I’m doing good for myself and me alone that this culture of “Look at how awesome my life is!” makes me feel inadequate, no matter what. It tells me I haven’t worked hard enough. Someone always works harder. I haven’t loved enough. Everyone is married. I haven’t been a good enough person. Someone saved a puppy from a tree. I haven’t been articulate enough. Someone got more Likes on their status than me.
Now more than ever: I can’t help but compare myself, whether I want to or not, it just happens. That is and always will be my downfall.
It’s easy to say, “You do you, boo.” and try to be this immovable force. But the result of all of this is that my ego just gets bigger and bigger, to the point that I have to become overprotective of it. I can’t risk getting it bruised. And so I fluff up my feathers and pretend, but at the same time, the self-esteem and insecurities do the inverse. This is a shitty cycle.
But what’s the solution?
I didn’t come up with a solution, unfortunately, but I expected too much from one journaling session. And in some ways, that in itself was a revelation. That I expected this journaling session to be a “quick fix.” In the fitness realm, I know that quick diet fixes just don’t happen, and it’s easy to see through those gimmicks. But since this wasn’t in the fitness context I was familiar with, I had false hopes that journaling once on my 30th birthday would solve all of my problems. When it didn’t, I felt the initial tingles of failure.
But hey, even results from journaling take time, effort, and constantly doing, right?
In hindsight, I did make a few profound realizations from journaling on my birthday. The question now is: What can I do to not forget them and use them to help me grow?
That’s when I knew that fully embracing FY!S around the same time as my 30th birthday was a good first step. FY!S will help me push forward with the little things and even the big things when my brain wants to be lazy. FY!S will remind me to never stop learning and improving, even if my ego thinks I’m too cool for school.
I guess thirty is not so dirty, after all.
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