Well, here we are. The last hours of my being a twenty-something, an identity that's been stuck like glue to me for nearly a decade.

I've been known to joke that my twenties have felt like a second puberty; full of hormones, growth spurts (the emotional and spiritual kind), an unsteady establishment of a sense of self, and a multitude of flurrying emotions.

Tomorrow, I will wake up to a full and round number: 30. And even though I'm a big fan of round even numbers (thanks OCD!), there's something about this one that has me buzzing with anticipation. Never mind the implications society has on women aging past the age of 29, I've just been plain ol' nervous about change in general, that whole shebang about closing chapters and starting new ones.

Three months ago, I wrote about my anxiety regarding this monumentous number and what it meant to me. Over the summer though, I’ve calmed down a bit and no longer see it as a death march down the green mile. The shackles are no longer locking me into a sense of dread.

What changed? My perspective as I realized prioritizing the present is the only way to go.

Celebrating thirty years of existence is no small feat. It means I've survived the first round of adulthood, I've successfully made the transition from childhood to a grown-up with responsibilities, debt, and rational thinking (for the most part). I'm grateful for the lessons learned and what life brought me from years 20–29, even if a lot of it was bitter and hard to journey through at times.

I don't think I'm necessarily scared of getting old, as that is an accomplishment for most and after all, I have retinol in my beauty repertoire. No, I reckon what irks me about the big 3–0 is that I have to say goodbye to a side of myself that I've known for a while now: my aloof and wandering twenty-something-self. An identity that will now be lost to the ages.

I’ve always been nostalgic to a fault and there’s something about birthdays that end in “0” that causes me to spin out into existential dread. I remember telling my aunt shortly before my 10th birthday that I was scared of what it meant that I no longer would be in the “single digits” and that most likely for the rest of my life I would have two digits to quantify my age. From my 9-year-old perspective, the rest of my life was about to begin and the weight of existence rested heavily upon my bony shoulders.

Jump to 19 going on 20, and I had the same dread. All of my peers eagerly ran towards their twentieth birthdays with open arms as here in Norway it meant we could get into bars on Saturdays and purchase/consume hard liquor. I, on the other hand, was more hesitant. Turning twenty meant letting go of being a child, and whimsical girlhood dreams.

Girl about to blow out the candles on her twentieth birthday
Girl about to blow out the candles on her twentieth birthday

As you can probably tell, this has always been a problem of mine. I have the tendency to over-reflect and long for the days of yesteryear, to long for the comfort of familiarity. In reality, I would feel out of place if I were to magically re-experience my early to mid-twenties. Like an old, too-tight pair of jeans from high school, that time in life just wouldn't fit anymore.

As a result, a huge lesson I’ve had to swallow lately has been to remind myself to live in the now. There’s no use on dwelling over a past that we have no control over, we only have control over what we do today. Every time my brain tries to wander to the past, I have to be intentional in redirecting my awareness to the present. Which hasn’t been easy when my twenties are abundant with regret. Regret for not making better decisions, for not living for myself, and for waking up so late to all of this towards the end of my twenties.

The easy way out is to ruminate over what could've been done better in the past, the real work is in kicking procrastination to the curb in order to actualize my goals for the future, and that all starts with choices made in the present.

When I think about it, I realize there are so many out there who didn’t make it to thirty, whose lives were unfairly cut short. So, why should I complain about growing up or intentionally throw myself down the rabbit hole of existential dread? No. I’m choosing now, I’m choosing today. And whether that’s at 29 or 30, I know life will be better for it when I continue to live in the moment.

There’s no use in trying to predict the future, as there’s no control to be had there either. None of us have power over that, we may think we do, but control over the future is an illusion at best. (And if you do have some sort of influence over the future, holler at your girl, I would like a word).

I don’t know what’s going to happen in this next decade. I have hopes and dreams for what it’ll be like. But I can’t really count on those things happening. Obstacles could pop up along the way, realizations that I want other things, or maybe the universe or whatever higher power is out there has something else in store for me.

I think back to the hopes and dreams I had when I was 19 on the verge of twentyhoood. I wanted to be married by now to my ex-partner, with that white picket fence, complete with 2.5 kids (what even is half a kid?).

I see now how being married to him would have been disastrous as we grew to be very different people with very different values. It would’ve been hard for me to predict, let alone accept, where I’m currently at in life, as it doesn’t match up with what I thought being a full-fledged adult would be like.

Unmarried and childfree, but blessed with the freedom to explore, travel and make decisions for myself by myself. I have the liberty to sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” at the top of my lungs, while naked while clipping my toenails, no judgment from anyone. Those moments are between God and I. And now all of you too, I guess.

One thing that brings me reassurance as my thirties are now mere hours away, is that my core values have never changed. I've consistently been guided by my strong intuition, empathy, sense of humor and love for others. So I don't think that will change all that much when I'm 39 and reflecting back on my thirties.

Girl holding birthday cake at thirtieth birthday
Girl holding birthday cake at thirtieth birthday

So, fuck it. If thirty is now, if thirty is the present, then it’s all that more welcome into my life. I’ll promise my 39-year-old self that I’ll try my best to live thoughtfully and intentionally so she will have minimal regrets in the future.

As I enter this new decade I’ll be armed with the lessons from my twenty-somethings, I’ll be debt-free as my dues have been paid (yeah, not my actual real-world debt more like my metaphorical debt), geared up with my internal core values, and propelled by the light weightedness of hopeful dreams that I want to work my ass off to make come true.

To my twenties, I say thank you. For pushing me through the wringer, for allowing me to fail. For showing me what love is and what love isn’t. For the laughs, the long nights and close friendships I’ve developed. For the growth that’s made me that much stronger, kinder and wiser. You’ve been one hell of a decade and you’ve left your mark for better and for worse.

I doubt I'll get much sleep tonight as this buzzing anxious anticipation morphs into buzzing joyous anticipation. Thirties, I'm ready for you. Are you ready for me?

Texan expat in Norway since '02.

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