April 22, 2012


"I cannot wait until 30."

If you've been in earshot of me within the past 5 years, you've probably heard me utter that exact statement. It usually has an inflection on the word "wait" - as though making it through my late twenties will be the most grueling experience of my life. Honestly, my late twenties have not been a walk in the park, stop and smell the flowers, type of half-decade. It has consisted mostly of full-on-panic and what-am-I-going-to-do-now meltdowns. With reason, may I add. So, I cast my hopes and dreams to the magical number 30 and worked through the sludge of my late twenties. And when I say worked, man, was it work. And now I'm here. A little over a year, a little more than a handful of months, until I hit that magical number.

Why magical? Well, you see, 30 was supposed to bring a lot to my life. Stability for one. Which included a dwelling unit with a mortgage - a condo, please! - a job I loved so much that it might as well have been an IV pumping energy and excitement through my veins, a relationship that lit me up and calmed me down, and a 50-year-plan so I no longer would have to face a single, unexpected worry for the rest of my life. And clothing and furniture, of course. Clearly, I had it all worked out.

Many of my friends are thirty now. Some of them have a couple of these things but none of them have them all. And you know what? Their lives are pretty fabulous. Despite. In spite. Regardless of.

I have deliberately avoided thinking about 30 and everything the magic number holds for almost two years. I thought that if I faced it head-on, it would feel like another failure. What would happen if I had to arrive at 30 without a mortgage, my dream career, and a love? Even worse, what would happen if I had to arrive at 30 without any of those wishes granted? I thought that if I faced it head-on, I would have stopped everything immediately and let myself drown in the sludge of my late twenties.

I've thrown 30 sideways glances, lately. To see if it is still there. I'm close enough that I can get a solid look, when I'm brave enough to turn my head its way. 30 looks nothing like I thought it would. But my goodness. I think it might be more gorgeous than I imagined. It's absolutely stunning. It glows. 30 glows.

It doesn't carry with it a mortgage or a job that is the equivalent of a hot cup of coffee or a hand in mine whose creases I trace from memory.

It carries nothing in its hands and with that offers me a different type of gift. Freedom. The freedom to do what I need to enjoy my life. The freedom to really dig my toes into dirt, to run into the ocean in moonlight, to pack up my things and just go. Go.

Dear Late-Twenties Sludge, Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I will love you forever. Always yours, Emily

I'm casting out the mortgage and the career and the love into the sea of the unknown future. If they arrive at my shore in my thirties, I'll scoop them up and cherish them. But I'm not waiting on that shoreline, hoping they'll float in from the sea. I'm headed inland. To explore. To talk to some locals. Perhaps to climb some trees.

For my thirties, I want to focus on enjoying life. I want to buy ripe peaches, run barefoot on beaches, pack suitcases and backpacks, read slowly and quickly, write with abandon, embrace people, sleep more, sleep less, laugh more often, laugh harder, face fears, take photos, fling myself at life. Everyday.

I did the work in my twenties. I did enough work to know that someday I'll own property and someday I'll have a job almost identical to the one I dreamed up at twenty-one. My twenties taught me to hold on to the hope of a man who is something more, but also to say yes when I feel yes and no when I feel no. I did enough work in my twenties to let go of these worries. To put my focus elsewhere. To trust each will happen when it happens.

If I say now, "I cannot wait until 30," the emphasis rests on "cannot". 30 glows. And so does today.

[For all the times in the future when I just want the mortgage and the job and the husband, here is the reminder. Travel inland, inward.] 


  1. i may need to read this post on may 9th. again and again and again and again...

    1. your thirties are gonna be awesome, wonderful, fantastic. you are already well on your way! xo

  2. dear 30s...i've been there and must say i agree em...i thought (many years ago now)i would turn this magical number and have a husband, a career, maybe a child or two...a dog, a house, a bed skirt and frivolous things like that, maybe an Adirondack chair and a wrap-around porch.

    i'm 30 and so far i fell on the ice and have been going to physical therapy since February for my shoulder, have been hospitalized with cellulitis, experienced loss, and somehow managed to complete my thesis. 30 is nothing like i planned. i threw away the list...i may never have those things, but i'm 30 and i'm happy, despite everything life has thrown at me ;) and maybe because everything life has thrown at me!

    1. brookie, you are totally a take the lemons and make lemonade kind of woman. i've always loved that about you. you wear any decade with style and thus far your thirties look fabulous on you.