The Thing About Thirty
Every once in awhile I get this feeling in my stomach, and I’m not exactly sure why. And then I remember that it’s January. And that my birthday is in February. And that I’m going to be thirty.
And maybe that sounds young to some of you, but here’s the thing about thirty: it’s the oldest I have ever been!
I remember turning sixteen. I got my license on my birthday, and I drove myself home from school that afternoon. You have never met someone who was more excited about driving. But I remember very vividly, that first afternoon, sitting in my car alone at a stoplight and starting to cry. Not sentimental-teary-eyed crying. But real, wrenching sobs.
Because 16 had always seemed impossibly far away.
But if I could turn 16, then I could also turn 20 and 25 and 30.
I actually remember thinking that: I will turn 30 one day.
It still felt impossibly far away, but something about reaching 16 made me realize that I was not exempt from the passage of time. Time would not stand still for me. And it hasn’t.
Here I sit, nearly 14 years later, and I have the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had that day at the stoplight.
Time has not stood still.
It has marched boldly forward. And I have somehow kept up.
The thing about thirty is that it feels like a finish line. And I am equal parts shocked and impressed that I’ve actually made it. Shocked because how the heck did I get here? And impressed because, seriously, the survival of our twenties is impressive.
The thing about thirty is that it feels final. I know that it’s not. It just feels like it is. I’m not sure what’s on the other side. I know. A lot of you are on the other side, but you’re not me. So let me have my moment.
The thing about thirty is that people write songs about it. So I'm clearly not the only one who's needed a moment.
The thing about thirty is that my parents had a first grader when they turned thirty. I have real, live, detailed memories of what my mom was like when she was my age. And that’s strange to me.
The thing about thirty is that it makes you look back and look around and look ahead. And it is a little overwhelming. This is the first decade that lands peers in vastly different places. It’s the first decade that has landed me in a place that I didn’t think I would be. And there, I said it: this is not what I thought thirty would look like. I am thirty (almost). And single. And childless. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I imagined.
The thing about thirty is that it makes you wonder. It has made me wonder. What if I’d done that differently? What if I had gone to law school? What if I hadn’t panicked in that relationship? What if I had taken that other job? What if I had said yes to that date? What if…? But what ifs don’t play fair. And they are most active around 5:37am. And I’m over them.
The thing about thirty is that it’s strangely liberating. Like: well, that didn’t go as planned. But here we are. And I wouldn’t have wanted you to tell my twenty year old self that this is where she’d land, but I’m also so very grateful for this place that I have landed. It is possible to be so very content and so very not all at the same time.
The thing about thirty is that I want to look up at God and shout, “What the heck?! I’m not sure this is what I signed up for!” But in the same breath, I want to whisper, “Thank You.” Because I'm here. And so is He. He has surely shaken His head at some of my decisions. He has mopped up tears and swept up messes. He has stood watch over my sleepless nights and sat vigilant through the peaceful ones. Has has been so very near. I didn’t always know it then. I don't always know it now. But I can see it looking back.
The thing about thirty is that I know it wasn’t my faithfulness that got us here. So I lean a little harder into His faithfulness. And just last night I asked Him to prove Himself again, told Him that I needed to know His nearness.
The thing about thirty is it’s making me feel very young in His presence.
It’s making me reach for Him with fresh desperation because everything feels unfamiliar.
I don’t know where you are. Do you sit at a decade or a doorpost or a doctor’s office that you didn’t expect? I don’t know what you see when you look back or look around or look ahead. But I pray it makes you reach for Him. Because I trust that He is there.
The thing about thirty is it’s making me feel very unsure. But it’s reminding me that I need the One who is sure. And steady. And faithful. And unchanging. And near.
And somehow that’s enough for tonight.