turning thirty

m. werneburg, 2001

The big 3-0. No more care-free twenties. Now it's time to stop 'closing' bars and living in a bachelor sty, right?

Nah. Do numbers really matter in life? We certainly put a lot of stock into one another's age. Whether it's a matter of what our society lets you do by a certain age (what the hell has age got to do with voting, for instance. Imagine how much more liberal society would be if you could vote at 16, when you still care about the world, and could no longer vote by 60, when it seems everybody's just hanging on to what they've got). A friend told me that it's commonplace in Japan for people to say, "Hi, what's your name? How old are you?" This clearly recognizes the need of that society for your age-slot.

I turned 30 in 2001. Strangely – and I've heard another 30-year-old say this – it hasn't seemed as important, yet, as turning 26 did at the time. When I turned 26, I decided that it was time to:

  1. do something about my worsening health (e.g. 'go off' wheat and dairy)
  2. get my career moving
  3. resume dating (it had been some time, by then)
  4. get a haircut (see #2, #3)
  5. replace the sneakers with 'casual' leather shoes and the t-shirts with something involving a collar (see #2, #3)

That year, I quit the job that had dead-ended, changed my wardrobe, grew a beard, stopped eating wheat and dairy, went on shots for my allergies, got a haircut (I had ears, who knew), and yes, even dated. I also bought a bicycle, joined a softball team, and generally started living outside of the office. I even managed a tattoo.

What did any of this have to do with turning 26? 26 was obviously past the middle of my twenties (or so I thought, it was actually when I turned 25 when that happened, but 30 years of age is still five whole years off at that point, and when you're out drinking with the boys four or five nights a week, who's got time for that kind of thinking?). And being halfway to your thirties meant no longer being a kid. 30 was inarguably adult, even in a society where the insurance companies—evermore our ultimate arbiters of reality – don't think you're worth should be tying your own shoe-laces until you're 24.

So turning 26 was a moment of stock taking.

Not so, turning 30.

Instead of asking myself if I'm where I thought I was going to be at this age, I've been quite pleased with myself, almost congratulating myself on the milestone. To think that just breathing in and out and remembering to eat once in a while counts as an accomplishment is pretty amusing (or is that depressing). But I can honestly say that I've had no sudden realization that it's time to rework my life, to 'retake control' or make 'improvements'.

on the importance of finger counting

It's a good thing we have ten fingers to make base ten our counting system. If we had, say, sixteen fingers, we'd have a base-16 counting system. We'd be waiting until what we now think of as 48 years had passed before we'd be celebrating the big 3-0.

Imagine the other changes. Our computer keyboards would be a real mess. In fact, such keyboards would probably have only three lines, with 19 keys per line. Golf would probably be a one-handed activity, as would photography and playing the piano. Of course, with a completely reworked numbering system, we'd be living in the 1250's, and the Y2K bug panic would still be some 750 years away. And the Beatles song would have gone "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm uh... 40?"

Of course, there has been a fair bit of upheaval in my life in the months preceding and following my 30th. I got into a scrap in a bar and in doing so injured myself (I suppose this means I 'lost' the fight) only a few weeks before the big day. My fiancée and I then split up only two months after my 30th. Then my eventual return to Canada was followed by a decision to leave Toronto for Vancouver, where I embarked on a year of joblessness. So, perhaps there's been something happening deep down, but it's nothing like the shock I got when I turned 26. I didn't wake up on the morning of the fight and say, "gonna find me some drunk who's taller and younger than me, and pick a fight to prove I'm still young and able". Nor did I think, "30, man, time to rethink this marriage concept". These are things that happened.

Maybe when I'm 36, I'll take note again. Until then, a musing on why 30 should have any significance at all: it all comes down to the fingers. And frankly, I can't get too stressed about anything to do with arithmetic.

When I turned 36, I did come back to check this page. I even wrote an update. But I retired that when I turned 40, and now I've added another update at 45.

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reader comments

I am touched by your honesty and the way in which you express yourself to the world. You are a good man Michael and hopefully you have inspired me, pretty soon I will be 26 and I feel as if I have so much to figure out. Good luck my friend.

Hillel
2011.02.05

Thanks for your kind words. 26 is a fine age indeed, be sure to balance the "figuring out" with some dancing. 8^J

Also, I suppose I can now write my thoughts on "turning forty"!

-Michael

If you think 30 is scary consider the advent of 50, more is behind you than is in front and the ominous boding of decrepitude will shortly be in the offing. Those young 20's and 30's something girls in those short skirts will no longer give you that passing glance. There should be an off button that you could just put on a timer that would just gracefully shut you off before the supposed twilight years are imposed on you.

Is it Over
2010.03.04

Wow, anonymous reader! Thanks for that frank and honest comment.

For what it's worth, at 39 I suppose I already feel that more is behind me than in front. Time to live for my son, now.

-Michael
30

I will be 30 in October. I hope that I can get some things accomplished that I never got around to in my 20's.

Thanks for your site, I am glad I am not the only one who is scared of the big 3-0.

alice
2004.07.17

De nada.

-Michael
I turned 30 today

I had the good fortune to be awake at midnight, watching a movie with a good friend. As I walked home, I lit a cigarette, looked up at the stars and generally felt an incredible sense of peace with this new "milestone." Yes, I have become the token chubby lady down the street with two cats. But you know what, I've also got an incredible 8 y.r. son who reminds me every day how pretty his mom is and how I'm his favorite person in the world. I've got a good job that I love, reliable transportation, friends and family that care about me (hey, I've already gotten sung to three times today and it's not even lunch time!). I won't moan and complain. I like where I'm at. The only thing really lacking from where I thought I'd be is a serious relationship, but those begin every day, right? Each failed one brings me that much closer to the real thing. So I'm ok with this 30 thing, I really am...

Kitty
2004.07.16

Fuckin' A.

-Michael
Turning 30

I just turned 29 in June and never thought I would feel this way--anxious about turning 30. I've accomplished a lot but still fret the big 3-0. I have a college degree, a wonderful husband (going on 9 yrs), three healthy children, a good paying job in pharmaceuticals, a 4-bdrm house and a strong spiritual foundation.

I think it all boils down to me realizing that I'm all grown up and there's no turning back (getting younger). It's kinda scary. I've been searching the net for inspiration. Thanks for this site.

Meeka
2004.07.13

You're welcome. Glad it resonated with you....

-Michael
thoughts on turning 30

Thank you! You said it so well! I had just written my own blog on turning 30 and decided to search out what other people had to say. I think for me it wasn't so much turning 30 that bothered me - it was the approach to turning 30. Perhaps it was like you said on your 26th year - that was when you decided to make all these changes.

For me, at 26, I seemed so afraid of "missing" everything that I got into a marriage that was an ill fit and then I proceeded to tear the roots from my life in my late twenties. I just turned 30 in April. And I love where I am now (for the most part). To read my blog: www.herowninvention.blogspot.com

Jeni
2004.06.23

Thanks, Jeni. I hope you keep up you 'blog'. I've watched this blog thing sprout up and I always wonder why more people don't carry on for longer than a month or two.

-Michael
1 week away

I identify with the comments made about mid-life crisis. I think it for me it's pre-midlife , but it is evaluation time. My wife isn't bothered at all by 30 , and seems to not understand my disappointment in myself and my life. She even seems somewhat insecure about the subject, like i'm going to run off and leave her. I'm actually waiting til I'm 40 to do that:) Is this unhealthy in anyone's opinion, and is it possible that I have the fidget's because I have been married 11 years to the same woman, and feel like I may have missed out on life a little? Thanks for the article, Ididn't know there was a place like this to vent.

Antwon Lynne
2004.05.02

The fidgets. Well said.

Everybody fidgets, I think. Or I hope they do. Imagine a life where you never ever feel that way, content all the time. You'd probably be 30 and living next door to your parents, working as a groundskeeper at your old high school.

-Michael
Turning 30 in March - happy??

I swore that I would not have a nervous breakdown like my friend did when she turned 30. I am looking forward to it, but I have been taking an inventory of my life to see what I have accomplished. I am content with my life and the experiences I have had. I do feel thought that I have to make sure "all is in order"...financially, spiritually... Wish me luck!!!

Patty
2004.02.02

Your friend had a nervous breakdown? Poor girl!

It sounds like you're doing well, though. Have a fun birthday - I think you'll enjoy being in your 30's. I am.

P.S. My birthday is in March as well. I'll be 33.

-Michael
I'm scared!

I went to Ask.com and typed in dealing with turning 30. Thank God you had a website. I'll be 30 in 3 months. I am really scared. Other people questioning me about it perpetuate my fear even more. I don't haev everything I set out to have by 30. I almost feel like I have failed. I do have a great relationship, job, life. Why is it that society has made turning 30 into such a bad thing. I remember my mother looking in her rearview mirror on her 30th birthday and saying "Oh my God, I'm old now". I was like 10 & I remember that. I'm even tempted to start a 10 year plan of what I will accomplish. I have set out a bunch of mini-goals before I turn 30. I dread the surprise Birthday party. By the same token, I know I should feel lucky for even having people that want to throw me one.

Just scared in Fresno, California

sebastian
2004.01.25

Well, these lines would seem to say it all for me:

> I do have a great relationship, job,

> life. By the same token, I know I

> should feel lucky for even having people

> that want to throw me one.

Maybe you have panicky moments, but you sound like you're doing great.

> Why is it that society has made turning

> 30 into such a bad thing.

A Japanese friend tells me that your life is considered over at 25 in that wacky land. For what it's worth, I'm closing in on 33, now, and I've found my 30's to be quite good so far

-Michael
TURNING THIRTY

I JUST TURNED 27 IN SEPTEMBER. BUT I HAVE BEEN HAVING TURNING THIRTY ANXIETY FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW. IT JUST SOUNDS SO GROWN UP. I DON'T WANT TO BE AN ADULT. I DON'T LOOK LIKE ONE AND I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO BEHAVE LIKE ONE. TO ME ADULT EQUALS BORING. I HAD A LOT OF ANGST IN MY TEENS AND EARLY 20'S BUT AT LEAST THINGS WERE NEVER BORING! I JUST DON'T WANT A ROUTINE, SETTLED LIFE. MY MOM DIED WHEN I WAS 18 AND I THINK PART OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT PART OF ME IS STUCK AT THAT AGE DUE TO THE TRAUMA. I STILL WANT TO BE MY MOM'S LITTLR GIRL! IT'S PATHETIC I KNW BUT THE DER I GET, THE FURTHER AND FURTHER I AM AWAY FRM BEING MY MOM'S "BABY".

i HAVE AN OLDER SISTER. BUT I WAS SORT OF MY MOM'S FAVORITE IN A WAY. I WAS THE YOUNG ONE, THE BLONDE ONE, THE ULTRA SKINNY ONE. I ALWAYS HAD GUY AND FRIEND DRAMA AND IN A WAY MY MOM THRIVED ON IT. MY LIFE WAS ALWAYS IN TURMOIL AND DRAMATIC BUT AT LEAST I WAS POPULAR AND BLOSSOMING. I MISS MY TEEN YEARS BECAUSE OF ALL THE EXCITEMENT. I AM HAPPILY MARRIED TO A GUY I WAS BEST FRIENDS WITH IN HIGH SCHOOL. SO IN A WAY BEING MARRIED TO SOMEONE WHO I GREW UP WITH KEEPS ME YOUNG. ALSO I LOOK ABOUT 19 WHICH IS A BLESSING AND A CURSE. WHEN I DO FINALLY START TO AGE PHYSICALLY IT WILL KILL ME. I HAVE ALWAYS LOOKED VERY YOUNG FOR MY AGE BUT I KNOW TIME HAS TO CATCH UP SOONER OR LATER. A LOT OF MY FRIENDS ARE A LITTLE YOUNGER THAN ME, WHICH KEEPS ME YOUNG TOO.

I NEED TO GET PERSPECTIVE ON GROWING OLDER OR ELSE I WILL BE IN ATHERAPISTS OFFICE ON MY 30TH BIRTHDAY. I KNOW I SOUND VAIN AND SILLY. I REALLY DO NEED TO JUST GET ALIFE.

STACY
2003.12.23

Dunno what to say, Stacey. Good luck, and do try not to panic. You've got three years!

And believe me, it's a very good thing to be in your 30's.

-Michael
3-0

Wow. I've been bummed out so much lately, and not because I'm turning 30 tomarrow. It's just that the big 3-0 is piling on all the other crap in my life if you will. But as many of the other posts have said, it is only a number. And technically, we are still young(kinda :)

Chris M
2003.12.17

Meh. Maybe it's the time of year. No-one seems to thrive at this time of year.

-Michael
I'll be 30 soon....

The thing that's driving me crazy...is that eveyone else is waiting for me to freak out and asking me if I'm ok with it, how do you feel, what are your plans? It's three months before my 30 birthday and I'm freakin out! I guess I imagined my life to be very different, husband and a couple of kids. None of that happend...bad break up but I have to believe...I have to...that I made the right choices. New career, new out look on life and the incredible support of my family and friends and of course without them I wouldn't be freakin out(right)! Thanks for your words of encouragement...just like the others I searched "turning 30" and there you were..You made me smile even tear up;)

Christina
2003.12.11

Of course you made the right choice(s). Hooray for smiling in the face of panic.

-Michael
The passing of "T" day...

I too am surfing the web for some solace. I turned 30 just 1 hour ago, and although I have been dreading this milestone for the last couple of years, I really don't feel much different at all. I could sit here and cringe with regret over all of the things I haven't done with my life, but what about the things I have:

I've learned that you don't have to lie to avoid saying things that are painful. It will just bite you in the ass in the end.

I've accepted that I am capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, I just don't know what that is yet. I've got time. I've already owned my own real estate company, been a teacher, and ran 6 restaurants. That's alot.

I've learned to accept the fact that I am worthy of significant relationships in my life and I don't have to click to "self destruct" mode when things get intense. Thank God for that - I'm married to my best friend.

I've learned that I don't have to be perfect, that I will always be curvaceous and not waifish, that I will always have problem skin. As long as I am healthy that shows through and defines me more than any pant size.

Most of all I've learned to relish my family, my mom and dad and siblings, and realize that all of those years of fights, hurtful words, times when we didn't talk...they simply weren't worth it. Those people are invaluable.

Maybe when I am 31 I will have all the answers - if not, at the very least, I know I will be able to add to the previous list!

Ricka
2003.12.09

Thanks for the encouraging words!

-Michael
30 turdy

I also typed in turning 30 for a little perspective. I like what you had to say. I turn 30 in two weeks. I'm not a famous writer, I don't really even write except for pr stuff, I'm not married with kids, haven't gotten my pilot's license or ridden my bike across the U.S. - all things I thought I might do by 30.

Instead, I've jumped out of a plane, been to Europe and Asia, have eaten Octopus, watched the sun rise on the Gulf of Thailand, had food poisoning, gotten my heart totally broken, made amazing friends, got an F in Spanish in college, sang in front of strangers, got in a car wreck, got the great job, stopped wearing leather, started to regularly floss my teeth and fell in love again.

Turning 30 rocks. I get all mid-life crisissy sometimes, but at least I'm still (as you say) remembering to breath, get dressed, etc. I can run and laugh and see movies that make me cry and read crappy books written by English women. It's all good in the hood. We all just have to concentrate on each day because nothing is guaranteed. That's the easiest concept to realize, but the hardest to put into practice. Living in the moment is the big struggle.

2003.11.05

Thanks for the comments! I enjoyed reading them. Good luck with the crissisy part, I imagine it'll pass.

-Michael
30

I am 29 but will turn the big 30 this March. I was just surfing for consolation and understanding. I am not so nervous about turning 30 as I am about not being where I NEED to be or not having done enough with my God given time. Is there a book that I could buy to tell me what to do? I have been married, ( at 24 ) and divorced ( at 27!...never marry your high school sweetheart....especially if the mojority of the time they treated you bad..) I don't know. Its hard as a " girl,") to not have someone to tell you what to do and where to go. I CAN fend for myself, believe this to be true, but I know in my heart things could be easier. I just won't allow it. Take the bumpy road or no road at all. Anyway, I hope I have as many great epiphanies as you have had when I get there.....THIRTY, that is.

christina corkrean
2003.09.26

Good luck, Christina, I hope things become more smooth for you after 30.

-Michael
Added interest to my day

Hi Mike: I typed in "turning 30" as a subject search, and found your site. I must tell you how amazing I found it to be.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I am turning 30 on June 30th (my golden birthday) and have been a little blue lately.

There's something about the way you write that strikes me. I have read about half of your entries. I think it sounds exactly like me, like you are my "writer twin" or something. Your overall tone and the things you notice are just like my life, too. I would never be brave enough to put my essence and thoughts out there, as you have done. The lady in the grocery store ranting about the margarine was so interesting; things like that happen to me all the time.

Strange stuff.

Maybe it's because I am a very observant person. Also, my fiance and I broke up in March 2001 and I'm still dealing with a lot of inner conflict, as it was a cruel and ugly end that I would have preferred to do without. I think the malaise returns when I remember the lack of closure on that relationship. It sounds as if yours ended on fairly decent terms, that's good. I love the site and will book mark it.

Thanks, Sara

Sara Boyd
2002.05.31

Wow. That's a lot for one comment. I hope it's going well!

-Michael