on turning thirty

Every year on April 12, I perform a series of adult birthday rituals.

I call someone who sent me something that I somehow misplaced, a document which contains information I need to finish filing my taxes. I vow to be more organized next year, and to do taxes in February. I text message my friends about how much I should bill the government for the time it took me to get everything pulled together. I submit the returns and take myself out for happy-birthday-done-with-taxes-starbucks. I revel in my newfound freedom from the IRS and think about what it means to be another year older. And I usually hack out a quick blog post. It’s kind of become my routine.

This year I am thirty, which is KIND OF A BIG DEAL. I’m more tired than excited about most things, which makes me feel a little old. This year may have been the most intense and best one yet. I am still not ready to think about upcoming goals, necessarily, but both of my children are magically napping at the same time, and I have been thinking about the things I’ve learned in the last few years.

– Plenty of good advice does not apply to me. Maybe I’m reading different books, maybe blog articles have changed, maybe I’m giving other people a better picture of life when I ask them a question? Those are possible, but I also think I’m much quicker to discern when something that could be right for someone else is not going to work out for me. I don’t feel guilty if so-and-so advised me to take one path and I do something else.
I have to work with my personality, not against it. The first time I took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, I was 17 years old and told an adult what I had learned: Of the sixteen personality types profiled in their system, I was an  “ENFP” – I liked keeping lots of friends, working with people, having deep conversations, creativity, dreaming about possibilities, starting new things (and struggling to finish them), and I was driven to find meaning in the world around me. Reading the description was like reading my own diary! The person I was sharing this with told me that sounded like a celebration of immaturity more than an explanation of who I was. (I don’t think they meant to be hurtful. And like I said, I’m not taking bad advice personally anymore.) Every time I’ve taken one of those MBTI tests since then it has told me I’m … an ENFP. After thirteen years, I don’t think this is something I’m going to grow out of. Most of the frustrating circumstances I’ve faced in my adult life have been magnified because I considered my personality a hindrance. Yes, I have to finish projects, and yes, I have to handle details even when I would rather find meaning in the world around me. But I’m also seeing now that I’m going to accomplish a lot more by embracing who I am, even if it’s a little more all-over-the-place than whatever standard of personal maturity I’m measuring myself against.
It is very possible that I was born 30 years old. Other people talk about the shows they’re watching on Netflix, but Aaron and I have nothing to say: we have accepted that we strongly lean towards the WW2 documentaries. (Every so often I tell him I know the good guys win, but I can’t handle any more Hitler and we watch space exploration documentaries, which are also fairly depressing.) Other than that, waking up to hot coffee is my idea of a good morning. I have Birkenstocks and a minivan. I kind of feel like I’m living the high life.
Real life is changing my reading preferences. My favorite genre in high school and college was utopian/dystopian fiction. Talking about the subtle nuances between those two terms for a few hours would be my idea of a good time. I’ve read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World at least six times. I had portions of George Orwell’s 1984 memorized for a while. I took a college class where we surveyed Utopian fiction throughout history and considered it the most fascinating experience of my life. I was thrilled that so many people read the Hunger Games because I could finally talk to other people about an alternate reality world. Maybe growing up means becoming more in tune with reality? I wonder, because we really branched out from our WW2 documentaries and watched V for Vendetta this month. Instead of being fascinated, I kind of felt like I was watching the news.
Politically-oriented talk radio is a terrible way to fill your brain. Even if the majority of the facts are correct, the way something is communicated matters. Consuming rants and inflammatory programming appeals to pride and our desire to be right, but often costs us our ability to disagree respectably.
– It’s not always worth it to save money. Do I need to be cutting edge on everything? No. But savings is not the highest goal in life, and many of the cost-cutting measures we have utilized in the past 8 years have cost us in other ways more than we saved financially.
– Better to admit I’m wrong later than to wish I’d said something true sooner. I can trace my own fear of being wrong as the source of many tough situations in the last few years, and (humbly) going out on a wing to say something unpopular or new has always been worth it. Sitting on something I feel strongly about usually means it just blows up later because yes, things were unwell, but I’m not even in a great position to recover well because I KNEW IT and I HAVE BEEN RIGHT ALL THIS TIME, when speaking up sooner probably would have saved going down a bad road in the first place.
– Loving someone is never wasted. With moving so much, it can be easy to see how much it has cost me to love other people and wonder if it was actually worth it, especially in relationships that drop off when we aren’t close by. It is hard, but good, to trust that God is accomplishing his purposes through friendships that are short, stilted, and interrupted, even when it seems like it might have been pointless.

birthday flowers

[birthday flowers from my sister]

Thirty is a big milestone, but it’s good. I’m grateful for the growth from these lessons, and others left unshared. My life is full of more grace and laughter because of them. “I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” – Charles Dickens. 

3 thoughts on “on turning thirty

  1. Congratulations and GO! Abby! As I look at what I know of your last 10 years, they have been amazing. As I think of my 10 years from 20-30, I thought they were challenging, but not compared to yours. I hope you can relax and enjoy more of your next 10. I can give you one guarantee. They will go fast. Love, Gram Cheney

  2. I love reading what you are learning. 🙂 the discovery of my Meijers-Brigs type was a complete revelation for me as well (I always score INFJ on every test I take. We share some letters!) And I just have to say Amen and Amen to the comment about talk radio. I have been convinced for awhile that is is a very unintelligent -and can we say un-Christian- way to share a viewpoint and only seems to result in anger, conatantly feeling victimized, and an us vs.them mentality. Preach it!
    Ps- I watch documentaries for fun too.

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