“Well, how does it feel being 30?”
I’ve been asked that a couple of times over the past 2 1/2 weeks, and my answer is honest in its bewilderment: “It’s a little strange!” I don’t remember 20 or even 21 feeling quite this surreal. On the other hand, 20 and 21 were both a long time ago, so perhaps a faulty memory can be forgiven 😉
I resolved a couple of years ago that for my 30th birthday, I would dye my hair for the first time. Something about it sounded (to me) adventurous, glamorous, and womanly, as opposed to the number “30,” which sounds so much older and more austere than I actually feel. Dyeing my hair seemed like a great way to celebrate my birthday, something fun and exciting enough to stave off my existential dread over this particular birthday.
I know, I know, it probably sounds silly. “Age is just a number, right?” I’d ask myself. “Right,” I would answer back. And yet it still made me cringe…until last week, when I read the second chapter of Joy Clarkson’s new book, Aggressively Happy.
In the chapter “Flounder Well,” Joy talks about processing change, confusion, or the sense that our lives aren’t going the way we’d hoped or planned, in healthy and constructive ways. She describes an idea from improvisational theater, known as the “Yes, and” formula, and encourages her readers to invest in themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. It’s wonderful–I can’t recommend this chapter enough!
But in the section entitled “Don’t Be a Total Mess,” she also proposes something that proved quite radical for me:
“An adult is someone who is in charge of their life and who regards themself with the respect befitting that role. […] Being an adult doesn’t mean fitting into some predetermined box of how adults should live; it means relishing your role as queen (or king) of your life, creating a life of order and simplicity, which becomes a source of stability to others.” [emphasis mine]Joy Clarkson, “Aggressively Happy: A Realist’s Guide to Believing in the Goodness of Life”
Thinking of myself in such courageous, empowered terms does not come naturally to me. But this passage reminded me that I do have the power and agency to burn that “predetermined Adulthood Box,” to embrace my life as it is, and to make something beautiful out of it with the tools God has abundantly given me. Being “the queen of my life” doesn’t mean I’m self-indulgent, heedless or arrogant. It simply means that I can (and should!) “regard myself with the respect that the responsibility I take for my own life merits.” I am a person who matters, and the strength and dignity of that knowledge allows me to love and serve others in a healthy, confident way.
So, how does it feel to be 30? It’s still a little strange. But I’m holding my head higher this week, stepping forward in faith, and bringing more cosmos to the chaos of my own life.
That’s got to be a big step in the right direction.
P.S. And yes, I did dye my hair 😉