I turned 35 recently, and it wasn’t so bad.
I feared turning 35 for all the reasons you’d guess a 35 year-old-woman who-hopes-to have-children-someday might fear that age.
When the day came, I didn’t feel any different, except that I was obsessively thinking about how I felt about my age.
And I realized, I’m happier than I was in my 20s.
Don’t get me wrong: Being 35 isn’t sunshine and giggles all day. The horizon shrinks. Or at least it feels like it does. Quitting your day job to go follow your dream doesn’t seem like an imperative-slash-privilege, but delusional and sad.
When I was 25, an older woman once told me she really liked being in her 30s.
“I’m just so much more comfortable in my own skin,” she said.
I assumed she had to be in denial. There was no way, I was sure, that getting old could be a good thing. Let alone OK.
Aren’t your 20s supposed to be the best time of your life?
Well I wish I’d kicked back and TRUSTED. Because if I’d known then what I’d known now, I would have spent less time dreading and more time lookin’ forward.
Happiness, after all, is anticipation. (No matter what Eckhart Tolle says.)
Here is some of what i’ve enjoyed about getting older:
1. I have hobbies besides “drama.”
Did I watch too much Sex and the City in my youth? Oh, the hours I could spend analyzing a one-line text from an ex! Oh, how I could retell the highlights of a bad date to my poor, captive friends at Back Forty!
Something clicked around age 30 and I made an effort to stop engaging in mental jiujitsu in order to understand and rationalize the opposite sex. Romance is not complicated, at least not initially. Deciding to view the world through this lens made decisions easier, and freed up a ton of mental energy to do things besides hog all the conversation at brunch. Like read the newspaper. Or volunteer. Or learn about other people.
2. I don’t force myself to workout + am happier as a result.
I used to drag myself to the gym because I thought I had to, in order to be in good cardiovascular shape, and in order to be thin. Ironically, once I gave myself permission to do something I enjoy (walk or yoga class) and to cancel my gym membership, I lost a of weight, and I was happier because I wasn’t stressed out about going to the gym.
3. I know myself better.
Also, by the time you hit 30, you start to notice patterns in the problems you have with people. They can’t all be everyone else’s fault, right? That forces you to dig deep. Or at least it did for me. And I started to notice my tendencies. I started to know myself better.
This might not sound like a Great Win, but as a result of increased self-knowledge, I make choices that make me A Version Of Better Me. I’ve gotten better about knowing when to call a night, when to turn down an invite, when I need 7 hours of sleep (almost always), that I am a kinder person after yoga (which is so much fun), and that I prefer small groups to big dinners. That my happiest memories are times spent with friends and family.
I try to take deep breaths and notice when I’m hurt (instead of insisting I’m angry) and rare are the days when I eat too much (because I feel lonely but am not taking the time to notice my feelings).
Also: because I am better about knowing my weaknesses, I can see how problems in my life are my own creation. Which means I can un-create them! And as a result of understanding myself more, I have more empathy for other people.
4. I am less of an Emotional Tyrant because I prioritize sleep.
Everything that makes life happy and easeful begins with more sleep, which begets better moods, better dietary choices and better health. Which all beget a Better Version of Me, which begets better friendships and kinder behavior. Frankly, it’s my part toward world peace.
5. I don’t have to date anyone in his 20s.
People in their 20s can be very difficult to date. I know because I once was a person in my 20s.
Everyone’s too terrified or too unsure to say what they want so they waste eons of time dancing around issues or careening into them sideways and then talking about the dance or the collision instead of what they feel and want.
(Also, I’m married.)
6. I’m smarter about mankind.
As the great Madonna once said, “we get our education from our lovers.” Neat! I think a less glamorous, more ordinary-woman-way to say this is: we get some streetsmarts from dating.
If Romance is a giant casino, and everyone’s playing a different game, by the time you hit your 30s, you’ve been out with poker players, blackjackers, roulette lovers, and Go Fish afficionados. You know the card game you like to play.
7. I’ve eliminated fine people who, on paper should have been my great friends, but just weren’t.
That sounds SO dramatic. I never really had frenemies. I just had a few friends who, for whatever reason, didn’t make me feel valued or appreciated the way that other friends did. I’d question myself too much after hanging out with them. I’d wonder why I felt so defensive. I’d hang out with them the next time anyway because we’d been friends at one point. And then I hit my 30s and I realized, “not all friendships are forever.”
8. I’m no longer trying to be cool.
It may sound nuts to think I was trying to be cool. [Come on, Kerry, pick your battles!] I think a better way to say it is: I’m a little more comfortable who I am and not trying to cram myself into relationships/situations that aren’t a good fit.
9. I don’t spend 5-7 hours a week wishing I were thinner.
I always wanted to be Kate-Middleton-skinny. I can’t remember who was the style icon back when I was in my 20s, because K.M. surely wasn’t on my radar a few years ago. But you know what I mean! The look so many women in their 20s think matters! The look we think will give us happiness and serenity! The look we think will lure men, when in fact, all the dudes who’ve ever dated me were perfectly fine with “healthy-looking” and never made me feel like I needed to be stick-thin.
Something happened around age 29. I realized, finally, I’m kind of fat but my life is OK so I guess that’s not in the cards for me. And then I lost weight. Of course I did. I’m still not Kate Middleton skinny but I’m fairly comfy with where I’m at. Which leads me to the fact that….
10. I’m more comfortable in my own skin.