Thirty, Nerdy and Surviving

Remember that movie 13 Going On 30? Remember how in the beginning, the main character (who is 13) is reading a magazine with an article titled “Thirty, Flirty and Thriving,” then she wishes that she was 30, flirty and thriving and her wish comes true? You know, the one that’s a different take on Big? No? Well, here’s a handy YouTube reminder:

In past few weeks leading up to my 30th birthday (today), that movie and specifically that phrase have been on my mind. I never wished to be 30. In fact, 30 seemed kind of old to me up to a few years ago. Actually, 30 still seems kind of old to me. Part of me (the part that has a subscription to Marvel’s online database and reads Young Adult fantasy fiction between semesters) thinks that I can’t possibly be that old. I mean, 30 is a respectable age. I’m supposed to know things and be a real grown-up by now, right? But another part of me (the part that prefers going to bed around 10:30 and doesn’t like when the music is too loud and is no stranger to heartburn) feels like it’s about darn time that my age caught up. What can I say? I’m an old soul, but I’m young at heart.

At any rate, I’m definitely not turning 30 with the sophisticated panache that warrants the phrase “thirty, flirty and thriving.” At least, not as it’s used in the movie.

And 30 certainly doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when I was 13 (or thereafter). There are so many things I thought would different. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that I would hit this age

  • single
  • working on my third graduate degree
  • a thousand miles away from my horses
  • outside of Texas
  • driving a Corolla
  • reading comic books.

In fact, Past Shanna would be a harsh judge of 30-year-old Shanna. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t rehearse the details here. (Incidentally, that post also proves the nerdy part of my title). But as I said in that (nerdy) post, and as Jenna learns in 13 Going On 30, what you think you want is not always what you really want. Life choices come with a price, usually. You almost never get what you want without giving something else up. For Jenna, being thirty, flirty and thriving meant giving up her best friend and becoming someone who was selfish and unkind. Because my life isn’t a movie, I don’t have the luxury of knowing how things would have turned out if I were turning 30 with the dreams of my youth intact. What if I had become a professional horse trainer? What if I had gotten married and had a couple of kids? What if I had never left Texas? Would I be happier in that life than I am now?

Who knows? What I do know is that my (former) dream life would have cost a lot of experiences and memories and relationships that have been woven into the fabric of who I am. I live a small life these days, and I dream small dreams. I’m not especially concerned with the future or where my life is headed, mostly because I’m not convinced that I have a lot of control over what happens anyway. And I don’t think I want to, because the journey so far has been full of some amazing surprises that I would have missed if life had gone according to plan. This past year has been tough–probably the toughest I’ve had (hence “surviving” rather than “thriving”)–but I’m not sure I’d trade who I am now for what might have been, even if I could. Thirty, nerdy, and surviving is enough for me.

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