In two days this little weirdo right here will turn 30 years old…
Yes, who would have thought that little potbellied girl squished in a leotard would ever officially lean over into full grown adulthood with no excuse now for any immature mistake that involves a bad tattoo, too much tequila or a snap judgment purchase on a shirt with sequins.
Goodbye 20s. I bid you a fond farewell.
Lately I’ve been picking up the magazines that come to me coated in dust from the big truck traffic streaming down our pink road, taking note on how Glamour, Redbook and Better Homes and Gardens somehow lose the glossy hope of good advice and female inspiration when I have to smear the dirt off to reveal Jennifer Aniston’s perfect face next to the promise to “look and feel younger.”
Perhaps I’m a bit more skeptical now that I’m older. Because come on now, I’m only 30, but how many times can I be told what jeans I should wear for my body type, what cream I should use on my face, what it takes to have it all and what makeup will cover up the zits that were supposed to go away after I hit my 20s.
I picked up one such magazine this week and flipped to an article that seemed relevant to me. A beautiful actress had some advice for me about turning 30. Her “Top 10 dos and don’ts” were fine. I get it. Don’t freak out if you’re not as accomplished as your friends, do be a good person, don’t get plastic surgery, do travel as much as you can, don’t just marry anyone, don’t just have kids with anyone, do learn something new, don’t live in the past and do have lots of sex.
But I wasn’t enlightened.
My cousin, sitting pretty well in the middle of her 30s, told me to shut it when I was whining to her about getting older. (She’s one of my favorites so she gets to tell me to shut it. It’s a lot of the reason why she’s one of my favorites.) Anyway, she said her thirties have been her best years. She said she finally knows what she wants to do with her time, who she loves, what she likes, and pretty much the type of person she is.
She’s comfortable in her skin and confident enough with her own weirdness to enter an Elvis impersonating contest and perform her best hip gyrations in front of thousands of people at her company’s major national corporate gathering. She’s an entertainer. She’s funny. And she won.
See why I love her?
So I’ve been thinking as I creep up into a new chapter, what it is that I’ve learned about life and love during the past twelve years of adulthood, seven years of marriage and seven moves, two major home improvement projects, one long and unforgiving music career, a few entrepreneurial endeavors and countless glasses of wine along the way?
What do I really want to see when I open the pages of that women’s magazine?
I want honesty. Weird cousin honesty and a picture of a woman who even remotely looks like the kind of women I know and admire.
My gramma doing one of her favorite things.
I want to know what they know, and I’m not talking about how to make your momma’s jello salad or how to stay wrinkle free. I’m talking how we move forward in keeping a life that’s balanced without losing ourselves in expectations and worry and work.
So I decided, for my own benefit, and maybe for yours, to write down what I know now while I make a promise to myself to keep listening and watching.
Here it is, on the eve - eve of my 30th birthday, I give you:
30 Things I’ve learned in 30 years of living:
1. When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of the community. It is our home and it should be treated that way. Organize it, sweep it up, clean the windows, bake some cookies and invite people to come over, sit down, have a visit and play with the kids.
2. Art is as chance to see what life looks like and sounds like and feels like through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage music to be played, singing at the top of our lungs, dancing with abandon, painting with all the colors, we are ignoring the most magical and interesting part of ourselves, a part that I like very much, the part that reassures us that life beautiful and encourages us to tell our stories. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.
3. I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice warm meal together once in a while. So maybe loving is just the easiest part…
4. Coffee. Never. Run. Out. Of. Coffee.
5. A girl needs a dog.
6. My mom was right. My sisters did become my best friends. Just like she told me they would when I was slamming my bedroom door. My mom’s been pretty much right about most things.
7. There will always be more work, more things to build, more fences to fix, more stories to write and more deadlines to butt our heads against. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.
8. Carrots taste best with a little garden dirt stuck in the cracks. Same goes for all vegetables actually.
9. Some people struggle to have what may have come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos and work up your small talk. Sensitivity and compassion are qualities every human could use more of.
10. Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a damn shelf on your own.
11. I always thought I would grow up and somehow doing the dishes would be an automatic, unassuming chore that I won’t mind anymore. Turns out that’s not true. No one likes doing the dishes.
12. When you’re lost, look for the ten year old version of yourself. She’s in there. When you find her do what she would do. It will make all the difference.
13. On Christmas, feed the animals first…and a little extra.
14. Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical and, yes, most of the time practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.
15. Gray hair will happen. When it does, think “Someday I’ll let it grow out Emmylou Harris” and you will feel better, even if you don’t have the slightest intention.
16. John Prine, Johnny Cash, Johny Walker, John Wayne and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Five men that can get you through most anything.
17. There will always be something growing mold in my fridge because I just can’t seem to prioritize enough to pay attention to that sort of thing.
18. If you don’t know what to do next, just do something.
19. You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and loss and suffering. Tell yourself. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s ok to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it sucks.
20. I’m capable of carrying much heavier loads, I just have to remember to ask myself to try.
21. My best songs are not yet written, and that’s the thing that keeps me writing.
22. Summer will always be too short. Winter will always be too long. We will always wonder where the time went.
23. I. Can. Say. No. (Just give me a moment).
24. Wear what you like. You’re going to regret it in ten years regardless. Same goes with your hair cut.
(note: I didn’t necessarily want to wear this, but I have no explanation for the hair.)
25. Home is where you say it is. It’s not more complicated than that.
26. Spending time apart is as important as spending time together.
27. Momentum is everything. We are never stuck and there is always something we can change about our circumstance.
28. I’ll take a wildflower over a rose. Every time.
29. It’s better to admit you’re wrong than to talk louder in an attempt to convince everyone you’re right.
30. There’s never going to be enough time, but I won’t be angry. It’s not time’s fault. He never promised us anything.
Cheers to 30 years and working every day to be a better human being.
See ya tomorrow for margaritas on the deck….
Oh, and one more. Never, ever squeeze the cat. Or put a hamster in a purse. I learned those things early and I think they might be worth mentioning…
Peace, Love and Happy Birthday to Me,