I wanted to write something profound when I turned thirty. A Joan Didion – esq kind of thing about the end of it all and what it all meant. Instead, my computer stopped working, and then I thought, “but really, computers are on the out anyway,” though I’ve never enjoyed writing on my phone or tablet. Ask my friends, I barely text.
So now it’s a month later, and I’m sitting here trying to write something profound about the end of this year and what it all meant. As if I have the capacity to capture it when I’m still somewhat in it, or in-between it and what’s ahead.
To inspire myself, I looked at all of my photos, not just of my trip, but of the past ten years, and all I could think of was, “Wow,” which was frustrating.
“This is how articulate I am?” I thought. Wow.
In my 20s, I kept telling myself (and those who would listen) that I would get to writing; that the book was coming. I also told people I was lost, and confused, and sad, and then occasionally people wouldn’t want to live with me anymore, which lead to me to moving a lot.
People would wonder why I moved so much, why I left things, why I was so disorganized, “how could such a smart girl not know this or do such stupid things?” or “why in the hell aren’t you leaving him?” and I thought people were pretty hard on me, but really I was hard on myself.
I agreed with the questioning, and I had no answers. I didn’t know how a smart person could, at times, choose so poorly for themselves, or how a confident person could be so insecure. I didn’t understand how a courageous person could not let go of things, and I certainly didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life. I just knew that I expected myself to do something amazing, and I knew even that expectation wasn’t original.
However, that expectation was what I lived by, and so I began to blindly and fully throw myself at things like, “Account Executive,” “Chicagoan,” “Girlfriend,” “San Francisco,” and these things began to pile up on top of one another, giving me a drawer full of experience with no definite answers.
I began to feel that I wasn’t writing because my life was my book, and that subconsciously I was acquiring the outrageous to create stories that were to be written in the future.
Privately, I raged at the memoir genre and wanted to ask everyone in the world to stop writing in the first person because there needed to be an existing market for me and my experiences when I felt ready to commit to the solitary discipline of “the work.”
“I tried to at 25,” I would answer to those who asked, “but I just wasn’t ready for the loneliness that comes when it’s just you and your computer,” and I knew that answer was true.
When I turned 30 I was in a town in the Netherlands called Ultrecht. I sat down to an Italian dinner with practical strangers, and drank tea because I was recovering from being sick.
This number that I had been looking forward to seemed so anti-climatic, and as much as I wanted to not care, I couldn’t help but feel sad.
“Why was I even there?”
The year before I had a dinner with 20 friends, went a club, kicked a go-go dancer off the stage, and did a solitary performance to ‘I Am a Woman,’ and I thought, “hell yes I am!” but that was the end of something.
This year of travel was an in-between, an intermezzo of wonderfulness that I needed in some intuitive, inexplicable way. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t pretend that I don’t have terrified moments of questioning; the haunting doubts of what am I doing with my money, or why am I with four strangers in Ultrecht turning 30 before a plate of Italian food in the Netherlands?
“Maybe going to Asia would have been the better option, maybe I should have taken this money and invested in the business I want to start, maybe I shouldn’t have visited so many countries?”
And then it occurs to me that these are the same questions as, “how can a smart girl be so stupid?” or, “why did you do that?”
I know exactly what I am doing. I can articulate who I am and what I want in ways that I thought were unreachable, but most importantly, I have proven to myself that I am a capable woman who has the courage and knowledge to live her life as she wishes – that is the point.
This is what will lead me into the next chapter of my life, no matter how daunting it feels in this moment; this piece of proven belief in myself founded on my experience is what separates my 30s from my 20s.
I am now in the process of reconstructing my life from this place, and no, I don’t know what’s ahead, and yes I will write my book – maybe two.
And yes, this year, this ending, this transition is something I will never forget, though parts of it will fall away with time, or old age, or dementia, or maybe I’ll get hit by a car tomorrow and all that will be left of me are the words that I’ve left behind for others when I found the time and patience to jot it all down.