POV: Thirty.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

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.


Bekka said...

So beautiful, happy birthday! xxoo

Paw said...

lovely as always, sho. happy birthday to you!

Sylvia said...

Just heart-achingly beautiful.

becklist said...

Happy birthday! So thought provoking. I'm 33 and just starting to feel like I'm in my thirties. I think what you said about "weirder, messier, better" is so true. And your hairdresser is a smartie.

There have been a few moments of feeling like life is passing me by. But mostly I feel a wild amount of clarity on everything. It feels so good. So empowering. My entrance to my 30s has been marked by also becoming pregnant and a single parent in one fell swoop. Rough at first but feeling so "right" now.

Love your blog!

Diana said...

Happy Birthday Shoko! Love this post!

Julia said...

Love this. As someone who is almost thirty, your writing expresses this stage of life so beautifully. Happy birthday!

sw said...

A very happy birthday to you! Another august baby-- I celebrated mine 3 days ago:) Have a wonderful weekend!

burntfeather said...

Super Happy Birthday - here's to living life in the best way possible :)

--- said...

Shoko, thirty is all of those things and everything else you hope, wish, dream and create it to be. ps. You care more about fewer things and it is so, so good. Happiest birthday beautiful soul! Your light is seen here in Dublin xx

Shoko said...

I can't thank you all enough for your kind and beautiful words. Sending lots of love from across the blogosphere!

Sophie said...

So, so lovely.
You make me want to be there already. I'm 26, so 30 is still in many ways a kind of horizon, although my partner is older, so 30 hangs softly between us. Sometimes I wonder whether that means that I am more 30 now that I will ever be. We will see.
Happiest of birthdays.

Tori's Tales said...

I adore you, Shoko - I wish your words would never end (a book? Please say you've thought about writing a book?!). A belated Happy Birthday to you, sweet friend. I do hope the day brought you much love, light, happiness, and the kind of fill-your-belly warmth we all long for. Your words...goodness...like an exhale. I'm just now learning that things will always take me by surprise, that the future is forever unexpected. I'm nowhere I ever thought I would be, and I'm always wishing for more - that I'm settled, at least, on a path that could take me somewhere, instead of always in limbo. Always trying, never knowing, figuring stuff out each and every bloody day. I look to you, Shoko, as inspiration - you're doing something I've often longed for, and you share in a way that feels so raw, and real, yet, like a story, too. You are rather incredible, I hope you know that. 30 is lucky to have you.

sharmin said...

Happy Belated Birthday! I'm way past 30, and I hope I can be as cool as you are when I grow up :)

Raquel R. said...

Always a delight to read your POVs. Happy birthday Shoko!!

Rose said...

Shoko, happy birthday. I'm a rather recent but now avid reader, and I just turned 30 in June as well. I have followed the meandering path of your thoughts and found as much (if not more) strength in your questions and hopeful uncertainty than if they had been answers and assuredness. Thank you for sharing.

Rachel said...

Happy belated, Shoko! I turn 29 in just over a month...almost there! =]


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