April 17, 2008

30 and some thoughts

It's official. My 20s are over, and my 30s have begun.

It's been a fairly ordinary way to begin a decade, waking up against the backdrop of competing interests: The childlike desire to open presents before breakfast, juxtaposed against my overwhelming need to snooze just one more time. My name is Monica, it's my birthday, and I don't need a lot of sleep - just five more minutes.

After an impromptu baby bath (some birthday presents, even Huggies Overnites cannot contain), I set off to work and my first day as a 30-year-old.

At various points in the last few years, I've had the realization "30 is approaching." It used to strike fear in my heart. The number seemed foreign and strange and decidedly abstract, like when you tell a child that someday he or she will be an adult. It may be true, but it's impossible to picture.

A few months ago, I realized that I was no longer afraid. I wasn't disappointed in myself for advancing into my fourth decade. In fact, I was kind of (dare I say) excited.

People love round numbers. We naturally gravitate toward them as milestones in the project plan of life. Before I'm 30, I will:

1. Be married - Check.
2. Own a house - Check.
3. Have a stable career with some upward trajectory - Check.
4. Have a child - Check.

Based on the checklist, I'm doing fairly OK. But life isn't like a business project that evaluates its success against deliverables and metrics and arbitrary milestones that end in the digit "0."

Or if it is, then I'm not sure I chose the right milestones.

I'm happy with what I accomplished in my 20s, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that my happiness has nothing to do with the big milestones, and everything to do with the little ones.

I've been drunk in 7 different countries. I woke up one morning in Vegas and decided to get a tattoo. I lost 60 pounds and put on a black minidress, then gained 70 pounds and forgave myself for it. I lost a parent and gained a stronger faith in God. I had my heart broken a few times. I met some of the most wonderful people on Earth and had the privilege to call them my friends. I learned to make a killer cheese fondue. I fell in love with a child who looks like my dad when she smiles. I went snorkeling in the Caribbean and saw blue fish. I planted an apricot tree. I packed my life's belongings into a 94 Honda Civic and moved across the country. I adopted a kitten from a trailer park. I met friends on the Internet and traveled so I could meet them. I helped inspire someone to start and finish college. I learned to crochet. I learned how to change a diaper. I fell in love with Sam so many times over that I lost track long ago.

I'm excited for my 30s. I have a list of regular milestones: Move to a nicer house, have another child, increase my salary. But those aren't the ones that excite me. When this decade ends, Evie will be 11. When I think about the little pleasures that await us between now and then, I can't wait to get started. Fingerpaints. Swimming in lakes. Sleepovers. Good-night hugs and kisses. Trips to DisneyWorld. Sending her to grandma's for a weekend so that Sam and I can pretend we're 25 again.

Many people have told me that the 30s are the best decade ever. I can't wait to prove them right.


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