Reflections on turning thirty

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgAs Alice kindly announced, today is my 30th birthday. The day got off to a rough start, but a little time ignoring work, eating a lovely organic lunch, reading some Pride and Prejudice, and then eating too much ice cream has turned the day into quite a lovely experience. Anyways, before my natal day expires, I thought I'd seize the chance to wax on a bit about where my thoughts wandered as my third decade waned.

For months, I've been looking forward to my 30th birthday. I'm a mother to a two year old. I'm in my second year on the tenure track. I own my second house. That combination of things just seems too much and too mature for someone in their twenties. I was brought up to believe that the twenties were a time of relatively carefree young adulthood - when you studied too much, enjoyed wonderful friendships, spent a lot of time outside, and had relatively few responsibilities. To some extent that characterization is a fair one for my life between 20 and 28. But at 28, my life changed with the birth of my daughter and my acceptance of a faculty position. Suddenly my age felt too young for where I was in life and I was anxious for my chronology to catch up with my biography. So I looked to my 30th birthday as a time when things would be set right - when I would be recognized as being fully adult ("in my 30s") and appropriately aged for my academic, socio-economic, and parental standing.

But in the last few months, my thoughts have gone a different direction. I'm 30 now. This is my life, not preparation for a life. Despite the "assistant" in my job title, I'm not an apprentice anymore. My parenting decisions, my marital decisions, and my academic decisions are fully my own. For better for worse, those decisions affect my every day, my present day, and my future. Running myself ragged isn't purely in pursuit of some future payoff, it's a day lost from my life. And it's a day lost from watching my daughter grow up. That's why I feel an increasing sense of urgency in the task of getting my life back under control. I don't want to look back on my thirties with a sense of dismay over disjointed priorities and time spent, and I don't want to shorten my time on Earth by failing to take care of my body and spirit. I'm committed this year to trying some strategies to make my life more sane and manageable, and hopefully happy and healthy. I don't think I'll figure it out in one year, and I suspect it will be a lifelong task of constantly adjusting and refining my pursuit of happiness. But I'm 30 now, and I don't have any time to waste.

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Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear ScienceWoman,
Happy birthday to YOU

(trust me, my written singing is much better than the vocal one)

Happy Birthday, SW! I too am looking forward to the big 3-0 (in a couple of weeks), so I'm quite amazed at how much you have accomplished in your life so far! Good luck with your goals. It sounds like you're definitely on the right track.

It is curious to write "So I looked to my 30th birthday as a time when things would be set right - when I would be recognized as being fully adult ("in my 30s") and appropriately aged for my academic, socio-economic, and parental standing."
A few decades ago, as a young female, you would have been more likely to write those words about your 21st or 25th Birthday. Well, perhaps not your academic standing, and probably first house, but parental standing would be just fine.

I'm looking forward to 3-0 later this year. I'm also hoping to have bought my first house by then, am not yet married, and no kids (and no plans), but I too view it as a chance to be seen as more of a 'grown up'.

Your birthday sounds great.

Happy birthday! Although I passed the 30 milestone quite a few years ago, I know what you mean about re-evaluating and re-thinking goals as a 30-something. Good luck with your goals!

Happy birthday!

I'm also turning 30 in a few weeks. I've heard several people look at 30 as you do, as the time when you're a fully recognized adult. I don't feel this way about it. For me, it was graduating from college that signaled adulthood because that's when my parents stopped helping me financially and thus, stopped having a say in my decisions. However, I had hoped to be finished with my PhD before 30 (I won't). But I think that is more about wanting to be done with the transient lifestyle of a student, and the income (and limited retirement savings) that comes with it.

Anyway, you have a great goals. Best of luck achieving them this year!

Happy Birthday, and thank you for being a wonderful role model and indeed inspiration for us all.

Happy birthday! I really enjoyed the post. It reminds me that birthdays are recognitions of milestones, rather that horrible things to dread. (Yes, I am one of THOSE people who have an irrational fear of getting older.)

Happy Belated Birthday SW!!! I'm glad to hear it was a good day.
My 29th is coming up in a few weeks, and I think I'm a lot the opposite of you... I feel disappointed in myself a lot for not hitting the "grown-up" milestones I expected to hit by the end of my 20s. But I did finish my PhD, and that is one reason lots of the other things are farther behind than I had hoped they would be. I still have a year before 30. Hopefully I can approach it like you have by the time I get there.

Happy Belated Birthday!

Being 48 now. . . . I would have to say that you have made some excellent observations. . . . your child will only be this age once. . . . you will blink your eyes and she will start school. . . .then she is in junior high. . . . high school. . . . college. . .you will look back and never regret having spent time with her.

Happy belated birthday!
As you mention yourself too, I had envisioned you a bit older than "only" 30 from reading your blog. I hope you succeed in balancing your life, but I think you are doing really well, and as mentioned in the other comments I too think of you as a role model ...! Thank you!

Happy belated birthday!!!

Your words strike remarkably close to home. I turned the big 3-0 a few months back, and have been feeling the way you have. I looked forward to turning 30, for the very same reasons (except, I'm still a postdoc, and don't own a house). And have been struggling to feel that I'm actually *living* my life, rather than eternally preparing for the future. Maybe this is our pre-midlife crisis. Maybe the combination of becoming parents, and the uber-delayed gratification of academia have collided to create this mental space we seem to find ourselves in. It sure has made me re-evaluate my priorities in life... I am even considering leaving the ivory tower, scary as that may be...

"Running myself ragged isn't purely in pursuit of some future payoff, it's a day lost from my life."

Thank you for those words! I fret too much about what I haven't accomplished yet. The truth is I have so much to be thankful for right now. My 31st birthday is soon (or, as I call it, the 2nd anniversary of my 29th birthday). When I start to freak out about my birthday, I'll keep your post in mind to calm me down.

Happy birthday!

Happy Birthday SW. I just celebrated my 40th, and have found myself more ragged in the past few years than in my early 30s. Thanks for reminding me what's important and not to wear myself out!

Happy belated birthday, ScienceWoman!
I feel similarly about the milestones you mentioned, but a little sad that I'm getting closer to 30 and haven't reached them yet..

Happy belated birthday.

I'm turning 30 in 6 months, and I, too, have decided to "committed this year to trying some strategies to make my life more sane and manageable, and hopefully happy and healthy." I'm a single mother of three children who has held a management position for the last 6 years, just bought my first house two months ago....and all I want to do is put my life in slow motion until my birthday so I have time to re-evaluate my goals and priorities with a calm and clear head.

I'm glad I found this post. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

By stargazerbaby (not verified) on 02 Jun 2009 #permalink