A couple months ago, as I eyed this basically abandoned blog, I told myself I would write an epic recap of my twenties on the last day of my twenties. Weeks went by, and now I’m here, staring at the thing that terrifies me most in the world—a blank Word document with a cursor, blinking at and taunting me. Every sentence I have started sounded like a terrible cliché—a series of sad tropes that people trot out on milestone birthdays. “30 is not that old!” “30 is the new 20!” “You’re still young!” And here’s the thing—I know 30 is not that old, and I know that 30 is relatively young (I hope that 30 is not the new 20, unless it involves me having the metabolism of a 20-year-old and living in Paris). But I’m not here to make apologies for my twenties (because, as ol’ blue eyes said “regrets, I’ve had a few.”). I’m here to tell you that my twenties were an alternately joyous, terrifying, soul-crushing, dreamy, enchanting, and maddening time—but I didn’t fully realize how much I’ve grown and accomplished until one Sunday night this past May.
When I was a little girl, I was always impatient for life to move a little more quickly–for Christmas to come or my birthday to arrive or for a vacation to happen. Days drag on and on when you’re a kid–calendars seem almost limitless. I remember my grandma Dorothy once telling me that after 25, the years go by in six months. As a kid, the thought was totally abstract, but what she said stuck with me. Now, as I stare down 30 and take stock of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of my 20s, I realize my grandma was right–the years fly by, leaving you wondering where all the time went and why your list of “would have/could have/should have” is so long.
To that end, I’ve come up with a list of 30 things I would like to accomplish before I turn 30. Some of the things are silly, lots involve cooking, many involve buying the kinds of things that signal full-on adulthood. Every item is something I’ve wanted to accomplish but never took the time to set a real goal or deadline for achievement. I hope this list will help me pack a lot into the six month long year ahead. I’ll document my accomplishments here ( with photographic evidence) and maybe it’ll inspire you to make a list of your own.
1. Lose 30 pounds
2. Finish my novel
3. Visit a state I’ve never been to
4. Start French classes again
5. Run a 5k
6. Frame my collection of posters
7. Print out some of my travel photos/frame them
8. Start saving for retirement in earnest
9. Take a cooking class in Seattle
10. Finish a hike
11. Go to a Seahawks game (I’ve never been to one!)
12. Make macarons from scratch
13. Organize my closet/do a huge donation of my old clothes
14. Take a dance class
15. Plan a trip to a country I’ve never been to
16. Go back to Hawaii
17. Establish a blog updating schedule
18. Stick to that schedule
19. Re-read Anne of Green Gables
20. Make a baguette from scratch
21. Make Tom Douglas’ coconut cream pie from scratch
22. Take the train to Vancouver, B.C.
23. Budget for buying a condo
24. Send my novel to book publishers
25. Self publish my book
26. Go to a concert of an artist I know and love but have never seen live
27. Buy an investment piece of furniture
28. Set up a vanity in my bedroom
29. Invest in a DSLR
30. Learn another foreign language
My first grown up job came about eight months after I graduated from college. Looking back now, I realize that I was even younger than I felt, and I’m sure that my colleagues–all middle-aged, all male, probably saw me as a child. I worked as an editorial assistant for a website that focused on cars, something I knew absolutely nothing about. It was a learning experience for me on a variety of levels; I learned about car trims, office politics, and the importance of speaking up for myself. A couple of my co-workers were especially kind to me, inviting me to eat lunch with them at Costco and taking me around in the press cars that car companies sent along. When I left my job for an ill-fated stint in London, I was shocked at just how sad I felt. I hadn’t expected to become fond of the people I worked with, let alone to bond with them and share inside jokes about Arrested Development.
One of the things that has struck me most about getting older is just how little I was prepared for how important work would become in my life. Not in the sense that I spend all my waking hours there or that my job is so demanding, but so much of your day-to-day life is devoted to getting ready for, going to, being at, or coming home from work. The people you work with, whether you like it or not, frequently become pretty prominent fixtures in your life. And because you don’t really have a choice in who you work with, they become a family of sorts.
The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.
-Tim Canterbury, The Office (UK)
Friday marks the last day of my current job. It’s the longest I’ve ever been in any job (two years), and despite the fact that the circumstances that led to my departure were less than desirable, I find myself feeling a little nostalgic, and, hell, even a little bit sad. At a meeting on Wednesday, one of my former bosses handed me a card. I held off on reading it until I was on the bus ride home, because deep down inside I’m an incredible sap and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes throughout the meeting. It turns out my instincts were correct. The card and and notes inside made me full on cry, so much that the teenage girls sitting directly across from me were visibly embarrassed for me.
Two shows that are near and dear to my heart (30 Rock and The Office) came to an end this year. When I started watching the shows, I was a recent college graduate, put off by the idea that you would befriend people you worked withBoth shows have been there throughout the often painful professional development that has dominated my mid-to-late twenties, and I often saw myself and my co-workers mirrored in the characters on-screen. I cried at the end of both shows, aware that something was ending, both on television and in my own life.
So, no, leaving my job right now was not on any plan I’d laid out for the next year of my life, and the past few weeks have been a serious test of my resolve to not become an alcoholic, but leaving has helped me put things in perspective–I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who challenged me and helped me learn in ways that went beyond how to edit HTML in SharePoint. My patience was tested on an hourly basis and there were days where I was sure that years were being shaved off my life with each email I received. But I gained a lot, too, things I probably won’t be aware of until my next job (that I start on MONDAY–what is wrong with me?), or even until the one after that. It’s a sad trick of life that we frequently don’t appreciate all the good we are surrounded with until it’s too late and the goodness is already gone.
As Andy Bernard says in The Office finale:
Thanks for the memories.