An Open Letter To Anyone Turning 30 This Year

We are turning 30 this year. It feels like just yesterday when we rollerbladed around the garage with Spice Girls playing in our Walkmans. We are getting old enough to become irrelevant. Still, we think we are cool because we know what Harry Potter house we belong to. This is becoming shameful, since J.K Rowling took a transphobic stance. Still, we spread ourselves across Hogwarts houses the way we spread avocado on toast. Our house is nearly as divisive as our political stance. We like that these things define us.

We are turning 30 this year. There was a time we dreamed about this moment. Lip Smucker kisses and Lisa Frank notebooks held our secrets. We played with Barbie and gave her a dream house, which we thought we might own by now.

I can remember pulling my hair back into colorful clips while sitting in front of the mirror with my sister. I covered myself in costume jewelry and ‘90s propaganda. We played games where we found dates, got married, had babies, bought a house, and then we won the game. Many of us still have not won the game.

We are turning 30 this year. Some of us are throwing parties. We are all throwing funerals for our 20s. What did we do with them? I guess we watched the world catch on fire. I suppose we let go a little bit when we realized we could not change the world. We decided it might be better just to change ourselves. We all know our Myers-Briggs personality types and write it on our online dating profiles. Self-awareness is all the rage. Self-transcendence is a thing of the past.

We are turning 30 this year. Some of us already have. Each invite to a “dirty 30” birthday party feels like marching in a funeral procession. Gone are the bridesmaid dresses and baby showers. Gone are the drunken karaoke nights singing Eminem and Britney Spears. They are as irrelevant as us now. To drunkenly stand in front of a crowd and sing these songs is as shameful as when Britney shaved her head. We have to start acting like adults. Even Britney grew up.

We are turning 30 this year. Some of us have reached our peak. That is scary in its own right. Some of us feel the last 29 years have been wasted chasing dreams and goals not meant for us. That is scarier still. In truth, we are all scared, if not for ourselves, then for the world. If not for the world, then for our financial profile. I guess to some they feel like the same things.

We are turning 30 this year. I want to celebrate with you, but I am scared. My friends are all zombies. I realized this when I started reading books and deleted social media apps from my phone. For the first time in years, I looked up. Everyone around me was caught in lupine loops, scrolling for the last decade of their life. My neck juts forward still and I get headaches from the years of looking down. I keep telling my little brother he will grow horns if he stares at his phone so long. He is only seven years old. What will the human race become by the time he turns 30?

I am turning 30 this year. It feels better when I pretend there are other people in the same boat as me. In truth, many of the birthday parties I am invited to I will not attend. I will use the excuse that we are in a global pandemic. In truth, I simply lost interest in drinking too much liquor and reminiscing on the past. Sometime in my 20s I learned to live in the present moment.

I remember when I was still drinking liquor in bars before I was old enough. A drunk girl in a bar bathroom told me that 27 was the best year of her life. She told me that by the time you turn 27, you have yourself figured out. You no longer chase things not meant for you and you know how to ask for what you need. I waited so long to turn 27.

We learn so much from each other. Even in the moments we are not supposed to be learning. I have learned the most from moments I was supposed to call failure. Some of my favorite memories taste like rock bottom brutality. Or maybe that was a margarita on the rocks. Salt on the rim, please.

I am turning 30 this year. They tell me I should celebrate my accomplishments. I have a Master’s degree and no debt. Job security for a lifetime. Sometimes I get existential dread about my retirement savings (or lack thereof). Other times I joke that the world will not exist by the time I am old enough to retire. I can never tell if I believe the joke or not. God, I can be so depressing. Maybe this is why I am not satisfied with my acquisitions, job security, and financial profile and cannot find the motivation to save for retirement. A doctor would probably prescribe me medication for that.

I am turning 30 this year. I remember when I was young and read the cereal box for Breakfast. Now I take my breakfast on the road and guzzle coffee on my morning commute. NPR depresses me, but I listen to it because I want to appear mature. Even when I am alone in my car. I think this is what 30-year-olds are supposed to do. When people ask me my age, I tell them “30” and it confuses my mother, who knows I am still 29. What is the difference?

I remember when I was younger and found out my mother got pregnant. She was much too old to be pregnant, and yet her body disagreed. She told me, “Olivia, the truth is you never really age. Your body does, but inside you will always feel young.”

I used to think my mother was ridiculous. Sometimes I wished for a mother who played pretend better. Now I thank God I had a mother who always told the truth. I can live in this 30-year-old body and feel certain it is just my body playing tricks on the world. Those old enough to know the secret sometimes begin to trick themselves too.

We are turning 30 this year. The truth is, we are all still 20-somethings attempting to figure it out. We will spread retinol on our eyelids and check for gray hairs, terrified that if we start looking our age, we might have to start acting our age too. The truth is, nobody wants to grow up. Because the culture of growing up is fed by consumerism. What about those of us who are not satisfied by a new car, new house, and new promotion? We have never been shown an alternate narrative.

We are turning thirty this year. We are old enough to make decisions on our own. The problem is we are too brainwashed by the media to know how.

I want to remind you of something. We grew up in a world where we wrote letters to friends and got responses in the mail a week later. We made phone calls on a phone attached to the wall after 7 p.m., when calls were free. We played in yards and watched clouds take shape above our heads. We read books in paper form and wrote essays in notebook and pencil. We did not grow up sharing our feelings on social media. We only learned to live this way.

I am turning 30 this year. My mother shared a Lip Smucker-Lisa Frank secret with me a long time ago that I need to share with you. Age is just a construct. There is a universe that exists outside of your phone. There is more to life than resumes, retirement, and your routine. If you are dissatisfied with your life, there is nothing that says you cannot change. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary.

We are turning 30 this year. The world is on fire. There is a global pandemic. Things are not going the way we predicted. Instead of allowing these facts to lull you into depression, decide to make a change. Decide this is the year you will change careers. This is the year you will follow the dream you have ignored because the world told you it was too risky. Chase the sunsets and not salaries. Save memories instead of money. If you are still attempting to win the game, you have lost too much already. Take your life back. You are 30 years old, after all. Nobody will notice you anyways.