I thought thirty would look a little something like this…
Happily married. Two children under the age of five. A 2,200 sq ft “cottage” with a white picket fence, solar power, grey water, and a chicken coop. A career (lawyer, real estate agent, POTUS) that generated considerable financial success. A published book that resulted in moderate national renown. Home-cooked Sunday brunches hosted in the backyard (all eggs provided by aforementioned chickens and produce provided by the yet-to-be-mentioned hydroponic garden) with a mimosa in hand, scratchy jazz playing, and a spattering of the most interesting, accomplished, jet-setting company that one could imagine.
No, no, no, I hadn’t put much thought into it. None at all.
The truth was that I had put so much thought into it that it had become real. I believed that this entire world existed and that the day I hit thirty I would magically acquire all of it. I don’t know if I thought the hard work I had put in would cause it to just appear. I don’t know if I thought it would come my way via osmosis. I didn’t think much about the “how”… I just focused on the “why.”
Because I believed that was the script that would result in happiness. I hadn’t even considered an alternative script. There was no alternative.
Until I turned thirty.
Four months ago, I woke up. And I was thirty.
I didn’t wake up in a four-poster bed in my cottage with my husband next to me and my two children bringing me breakfast in bed. I woke up in my kitschy, eclectic studio full of clothing and records and jewelry and art. I’m not married. I have no children. I had the luxury of lounging in my bed. I got to wiggle my toes and flutter my eyes and stretch like a cat until I felt like rising.
My alarm clock was not the pressure in my chest telling me that I had half an hour to make breakfast, get the kids to school, kiss my husband on his way out the door, and make it to my six figure job on time before my boss (who never remembered my birthday) was perturbed. I awoke to the gentle kiss of soft morning heat from the sunshine streaming through the etched glass of my custom way-too-fancy-for-a-studio-but-oh-so-perfect-for-me door.
I had time for coffee with my parents and birthday breakfast with my father, a tradition he and I have kept for as long as I can remember. The conversation was light and selfish. I wasn’t talking about my children, my husband, my boss, and their needs. I spoke of myself. And my father listened. Because I was still just his daughter. Not yet a wife. Not yet a mother. Not yet. Being just a daughter allowed me to selfishly share each thought and twist and turn that had occurred from twenty-nine to thirty. And he listened. Because we were uninterrupeted; it was only me. Him and me. Selfish. The best kind of selfish.
I didn’t receive a diamond tennis bracelet from my doting spouse or a card with handprints from my children or a birthday box of donuts from my co-workers. When I returned to my parents’ house after breakfast, there it was. Waiting in the family room of all places. A bicycle. From my parents. It was the most beautiful bicycle I have ever seen. I cried. I was so happy. Happiness just spilled out of my eyes.
My husband didn’t leave work early and hire a babysitter to surprise me with an extravagant dinner date that night. Instead, I jumped into a car with my sister and drove south for hours. Until I got to the fair. Where there was a sold-out concert. And I was backstage. I was backstage because my boyfriend didn’t leave work early. He’s the tour manager for the band that was playing. A reggae band. My favorite music. He greeted me with sentimental gifts, champagne, and two gluten-free birthday cakes covered in sprinkles (just because).
I didn’t get home at ten and pay the babysitter so I could get enough rest to host brunch in the morning. I drank champagne and whisky. I danced with my sister under a blur of lights and sound and we laughed so hard that I couldn’t see. I kissed my boyfriend backstage.
There wasn’t a backyard brunch the next morning. I woke up late. I was happily disheveled. I had a headache, the kind that made me smile because I had earned it. I was hungry. I went out for a late breakfast. Brunch, I suppose. Someone else cooked it, I ate it, it was delicious, I paid, and they washed the dishes. Transaction complete.
The cottage. The husband. The kids. The job. The nesting. The networking. They’ll always be there. Maybe they’ll be my “forty”. Maybe not. Right now, I’m happy. Shockingly happy. This is my thirty.