I always admired my grandmother, Nannie, for a lot of reasons. One of them was she never lied or cared about her age. If anyone ever wanted to know her age, at any stage of her life, she would flat out tell them. It didn’t matter to her. It was a number that represented how much time she had lived on this planet. I always said I would be just like her in that way, and I would never let age get to me.
When my friends started turning thirty and I realized how so far from thirty I (we) felt, I started feeling a little hesitant. It felt wrong. Or at least not right. There are some birthdays where I’ve just immediately adjusted to the new number like it was the most comfortable dress I’d ever slipped on. Some have taken a little more getting used to. I’ve never been able to place a pattern as far as if it’s about the number itself or if I feel like I’ve been “successful” in the past year or something, but I know when I turned 27 I was saying I was 27 before it was even June, and when I turned 28, it took me well after Halloween to adjust to not correcting myself when asked how old I was.
Two and a half months ago, I was thinking about moving into a new decade and feeling really positive about it. I made this Instagram post with the following caption: “I’m approaching 30 and it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would. Turns out 30 is just a number and I’m just a little stronger, smarter, and have enough life experience for a book deal (**hint hint**). If you thought you were supposed to be somebody or have something or do something by now, this, arbitrary number… it doesn’t matter. We get to re-write everything. And guess what? It’s not even a re-write because our pages are blank, baby.”
That’s the right attitude, for sure. Fast forward two months, though, when I can see the “end” in sight, and I start freaking out a little bit. I start wincing a little in the party store in the “Over The Hill” aisle, getting really defensive at the idea of 30 being old, and ultimately being really scared.
For someone who loves birthdays almost as much as balloons and Halloween, it was weird to feel something other than excitement for an upcoming one. But once I was asked what I was feeling, I realized the answer was fear.
I did an Instagram Live a couple days ago and talked about how I’ve been feeling really empowered by women like Lady Gaga and Kesha who spent their entire 20s in the spotlight as “party” celebrities, and have recently entered their 30s and released albums that coincide with their evolution as women. Maybe their original fans won’t identify with these new topics they’re covering that aren’t just about drinking at the club, or maybe they’ll genuinely appreciate that they’re transforming with them. But maybe there’s a whole different fan-base out there waiting for these women to speak their truth and share the lessons they learned in their 20s.
We say 20s are for partying. That’s true. But they’re also for expressing yourself, learning as much as you can about yourself, and making mistakes (and learning even more). What I love about Lady Gaga and Kesha is not only were their “mistakes” public, but they’re not wasting any time apologizing for them or regretting their experiences (and neither should I or you). Taking some of that empowerment into my hands, I wanted to address some of the specific fears I was/am having about turning thirty, in case you can identify with them now or they can potentially be of help to you in the future.
Turning 30? I’m scared that I am…
Not as successful as I’m supposed to be by now
Half my age ago, thirty sounded super old to me. I for sure thought I’d have my shit figured out by now, even if I didn’t know what that shit would be. Even five years ago I thought I wouldn’t have any debt, I’d own a house, and my business would be wayyyy more successful than it currently is. My parents were already married and had given birth to me by my age, and even though I don’t want kids, that seems objectively more “established” than I am now, right?
Bipolar disorder tends to hit women around thirty years old and mine came early. After dealing with multiple mental illnesses for twenty years, I think it’s safe to say that Bipolar is the hardest one to tackle, and it’s not just because it’s the newest one to me. Now that I’m entering my 30s am I going to get a fresh dose of illness severity? I don’t think I could handle that.
When I was eighteen, I thought that 27 sounded like a good age to get married. I’m not worried that I’m not married right now, but I’m technically still in the dating phase and even though I’m not even positive I want to get married, I just feel like there’s a long ways away before I get settled into a relationship again. Also, is there a stigma for women using dating apps who are no longer in their 20s?
So now that I’ve got all those worries and fears down and out in the open, as ridiculous as they may seem, it’s time for my higher self to reply to them with logic and love:
Oh Mary, I know you’re scared…
But what would you say to someone else? Let me help you out. You’re worried you’re not as successful as you’re supposed to be by now? Think about all the things you have accomplished already! You got a job at a psych rehab without a degree, you worked there for five years and were promoted, you quit on your own terms to start your own business, and put that faith in yourself. Your business is still going today, and on good days you get recognized on the street. You wrote a book that has only been rated five stars on Amazon, and organizations have flown you internationally to speak about self-love at conferences. There is time to grow your business. There is time to make more money, to pay off debt. Just keep swimming.
You’ve found your tribe of people that at the beginning (not better) part of this decade you didn’t know existed. You’ve fostered meaningful, collaborative connections with them that have created better memories and creations than ever before in your entire life (and you finally don’t feel like the “weird one” all the time, except in a good way).
You’re living on your own, you’re an adult in the ways you choose to be, and remain childlike in the ways that are important to you. You’ve maintained your passion and empathy throughout everything, and that is success on its own.
Your Bipolar might get worse. It might fluctuate. But you’ve already learned so much about it, and you just went through a med change like a fucking champ and finally felt chemically happy for the first time in eleven months and what a beautiful relief that was, yet… you still accomplished so much in the past eleven months, even with a sad heart.
You have coping skills, you have a support system, and you have given your support system tips for how to help you for when you’re not reaching out. The best compliment your psychiatrist ever gave you was that you have “always had the desire to get better”. Keep it up, buttercup. And what’s the worst case? What if you develop another disorder? Are you going to stop living? No. You’ll find a way. You’ll find new strength in you. You’ll have new experiences. You’ll write another book about it.
Oh, babe. You know you sound like someone you hate, right? You’re scared you’re single? *eye roll* And guess what? You’re not actually single. You’re dating a wonderful man, and have been for six weeks, and neither of you are seeing anyone else, you just haven’t labeled it yet. You’re being ridiculous. He makes you relaxed and happy, like an adventure-explore benzodiazepine. It’s beautiful. Be patient, like a turtle. Good things will continue to happen to you as you continue to release good out into the world.
Writing that was really cathartic. It’s 11:58 PM on June 20th, 2018. Now I can’t wait for tomorrow.
For your enjoyment (and mine), I’ve compiled a random assortment of 50 photos from my 20s. We’re talking some serious B-Sides here. No professional ones. Some are projects I was working on, some are totally candid, some are not sober, some are at my old job, some are my natural hair color, some are out of state, some are on vacation with ex boyfriends, some are on adventures with friends I no longer have, some are dancing, and some are when I still wore pants. Enjoy.