Our Early Service Conference (ESC) is next week, so we’ll be spending the week at a hotel with the other volunteers in our group as well as a few days with our project partners to do some follow-up on training and begin some intentional planning together. During this time, on September 27, I will be celebrating my 30th birthday! Yes, it’s true.
As always with my birthdays, I’m trying my best to keep looking forward, to have each year be better than the one before. The hardest thing at the moment is knowing that these are the last days of my twenties! I know that age doesn’t change suddenly with the turn of a birthday, rather, it grows over time. But the fact remains that I will never be in my twenties again after next week.
Do I have anything left undone for this decade? I suppose I don’t. Nothing that can’t be done in my thirties- that time where you’re still young and yet truly an adult. The only thing I might lose is that anything I do cannot be made extraordinary by the fact that it was done “at such a young age.” But I can live with that. Things come in their due time.
The more I think about it, there is nothing more I would have done with my twenties. I travelled abundantly, I got a Masters, I found Jedd, I held a “real” job for three years, I lived creatively, I used my time to serve here and there, and I fulfilled a dream of living abroad in a developing country. I never could have guessed my life would look the way it has and yet it’s been a dream come true. I thought, several times, I would have ended up in Africa but it was not to be. And I’m not overwhelmed by that. I also imagined that I would have started my own non-profit by now but I’ve come to realize that I needed more experience first. If there’s anything I regret, it’s knowing that I can always give more, share more, relate more, express more, reach out more, and love more. This will always be my challenge.
With nothing remaining to do in my twenties, I feel the need to celebrate in a significant way, perhaps more than any other birthday, my passing into the next decade of adulthood. How to go about this, I have no idea. What would make this thirtieth birthday memorable and meaningful? There is probably no perfect way to do it, though I wish I could find just the right thing to do. Based on past experience, I definitely want to choose my own cake. But I don’t know how meaningful that is- and the satisfaction is also fleeting. Usually on my birthday I just want to spend time with the people I like. Since my new friends will all be with me at the conference and most of my closest “old” friends and family are miles away, there’s not much else I can do about that except ask for good old fashioned snail mail.
To me, the thirties represent a time when you come into your own. You are better practiced at most things, your experience and skills come together with the vigor of youth to place you at the height of potential and achievement. You still have relatively few hindrances and anchors, though your life starts to steady out and grow roots if you let it. Life may still have numerous possibilities but you start to choose which paths you’ll spend your time and energy on, and these paths grow wider with wear while the others, left alone, fade into the brush.
For those of you who have already reached this age, or have even gone a ways beyond, what does the third decade mean to you? What does it feel like? What is there to watch out for? What is to be appreciated? How do you get the best out of your thirties?