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POV: Thirty.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

Every now and then, my seven-year-old niece and I play a game.

“Guess how old I am,” she says. And I pretend to think.  “Three,” I say, and she shakes her head.  “Five?” I ask, and she tells me I’m getting closer.  “Hmm,” I say, pausing for effect. “Twenty-two?” And she shrieks.

A couple weeks ago, we had dinner as a family, walking afterward to an ice cream shop on the Lower East Side for dessert. “Guess how old I am,” I said to my niece. She’d just finished tying my wrist to hers with a black elastic hair tie.

She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “A million?”

“Guess again.”

She looked at me and pulled at the elastic band, daring it to snap. "Was I close?" she asked.
--

I turn thirty today.

I woke up thinking these words this morning. I felt vaguely surprised. In some ways, the entire latter half of my twenties has felt like a countdown to thirty —  but just as I spent my childhood never dreaming that I’d age past sweet sixteen, part of me didn’t think my twenties would ever come to an end.

The past few weeks, it seems everyone I’ve spoken to has had something to tell me about turning thirty, or about what their thirties have meant to them.

There was the good: “Thirty is when everyone starts to take you more seriously,” one person said. “The best part is, you don’t.”

There was the not-so-good: “My thirtieth birthday was the worst of my life,” said my dad. “All I wanted to do was go bowling and eat a cheeseburger, but instead, we stayed home and everyone except me drank Nyquil.”

There was the ominous: “Thirty was great,” said a friend, as we walked through Central Park. “It’s thirty-one you really have to worry about.”

And then there was my favorite: “You spend your twenties thinking something’s wrong if don’t have everything figured out,” said my very wise hairdresser, “but in your thirties, you realize you never will. And it’s beautiful.”

As for my own thoughts, I’m amazed, more than anything — at how lucky I’ve been, and how surprised. At how fast a year, or five, or ten can pass. “I want my thirties to be about having less, in the best possible way,” I told my friends the other day, as I explained why I didn’t want to have a party. My twenties were about trying everything, meeting everyone; my thirties, I hope, will be an opportunity to touch down, lean in, dig deeper.

--


I met my friend David for coffee last week, just before he boarded a plane to return home to Los Angeles. We were neighbors once, before he left to go back to school. We were startled when we realized we hadn’t spoken in a year.  

David, as it turns out, will be thirty in October.

“I guess I always figured I’d be married by now,” he said. “My life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.”

“Mine doesn’t either,” I said. “It’s weirder, messier. But it’s better.”

I would hate it, I thought later, if thirty — or adult life in general — looked anything like I imagined as a teenager. Everything in a straight line. Life divided into neat chapters.

When I said goodbye to David, we joked that it might be another year before we caught up again. Thirty would be a good one, though, we had a feeling.

“I’m rethinking everything I used to think,” he said. “Except I have no idea what I ever thought.”

We laughed. 

It was funny. It was terrifying. It felt like an ending. But we were happy.

--

You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thanks so much for reading, as always. Photo by Max Wanger.
 

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