I’ve been 30 for one week. I have a new driver’s license. Thanks to my age, I now check a different box on questionnaires. Thirty doesn’t feel that far removed from 28 or 29, but the fact that I’ve entered a new decade has given me the heebie-jeebies and has me asking, “Now what?”
Lately, I’ve find myself concerned about weird things, like anti-wrinkle skin cream and decreasing metabolism. But beyond the vanity-related anxieties about aging, a few serious thoughts also have been bothering me, like the status of my professional career and motherhood — issues I thought would be resolved by my 30th birthday.
Exactly one month prior to “the day,” I sat on my couch wide-awake at 1 a.m., struggling with a range of emotions about exiting my 20s. As someone who recently completed graduate school and is in the midst of a career transition, there are days when I feel no more qualified for a respectable job than a doe-eyed recent college grad. At this point in my life, shouldn’t I be the one hiring people, having years of experience under my belt, instead of being the one submitting my transparent resume?
When I feel this way, I think about to my first vocation/career choice (show biz), one where I found moderate success, but certainly not the level or amount of achievement I had expected after eight years in the business. Again, I’m faced with competing against women who are ten years younger than I am, who are willing to get paid half of what I require.
So, professionally speaking, do I stick it out in my current trade and hope something will break, or keep submitting my resume for a job in my new field, where I’ll have to climb an entirely different career ladder and maybe, by the time I’m 40, finally feel satisfied?
Turning 30 is definitely not as easy as the transition from 19 to 20. Your 20s are spent exploring adulthood and convincing yourself that it might be time to start committing yourself and get serious about something. It’s also a period to change your mind and explore other avenues, whether they’re sexual, personal, or professional. Twenty-somethings always feel they have time to “figure it out.”
Hitting 30 feels the exact opposite; time is now a serious issue. Suddenly you feel like a countdown clock has started to tick as the window of opportunity to get married, have a baby, and secure your professional life becomes increasingly narrow.
Speaking of clocks, that biological one is staring you down, like a red wine stain on white carpeting. Regardless of marital status, if you’re a childless 30-year-old, determining whether or not a baby is in your future becomes frightfully real.
When my husband recently announced, “I want to have a baby,” rather than joyously throw my arms around him, I felt my knees buckle and my throat constrict. I know he’s right – it’s time to seriously discuss a baby, but I just don’t feel ready. Some of the reasons are selfish: I don’t want to give up my eight hours of sleep a night, my regular yoga classes, or my attempt at a professional career. More importantly, I don’t feel financially prepared to support a child; I’m struggling to support myself!
Again, I assumed that by 30 I’d feel so financially and professional secure that I’d gladly accept motherhood and anything else that came my way, but there are times (far too many to count) when I still see myself as that 20-year-old with loads time to spare. However, the reality that I’m no longer a kid is starting to hit home.
If there’s one thing I can be thankful for, it’s the fact that I was able to cross off “marriage” from my list before I turned 30. Witnessing my single friends navigate the turbulent waters of dating in this decade is like bird-watching: Patience is key. You often return home without success, but when you finally do spot that rare breed, the payoff is spectacular. The biggest problem today is that your typical, age-appropriate avian is on the hunt for a spring chicken.
I applaud any woman who has entered her 30s free of self-doubt, but most women I know express similar concerns about crossing such a milestone. The good news is that turning 30 in 2011 is vastly different than it was 20 years ago. Women are getting married for the first time later in life, according to many research studies.
In 1960, the average newlywed was 23, but in 2009 most honeymooners were about 28, according to a June article on The Huffington Post. Late 20s is an improvement over census data released in 1994 that listed the average bride as being 24.5 years old.
Secondly, women are having their first child later in life. In 2008, 14% of first-time moms were 35 or older (a big change from 9% in 1990), according to data provided by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and the Census Bureau. Also, 41% of those births were to unmarried women, compared to 28% in 1990.
Finally, you’re never too old to be a student. In 2009, the average age of a Notre Dame and Harvard attendee was 27, and the average age of online students at The University of Phoenix was between 35 and 37 years old. In fact, 38% of all college students in the U.S. are over the age of 25, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report. Late bloomers, all.
So, all my woeful feelings about turning 30 truly are silly. Statistically, data proves that I’m just about where I should be. I can’t say that makes me feel completely better, but perhaps my sleepless nights will disappear knowing I’ve still got “plenty” of time to figure out my life, which had better happen well before I turn 40.