I love this post by Julia Park Tracey, author of the upcoming Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, on how differently she felt turning 31 compared to turning 30. I especially love her thoughts at the end on getting older in general. Enjoy!
When I’m 31 – A Horror Story
By Julia Park Tracey
When I was 29, turning 30, it was super cool. It was fun. It was fab, in fact. I had married young, I had birthed three kids already, and I felt ready to take on the accomplishment of surviving the decade. I threw myself a party. Got a babysitter for the kids. Asked for presents. I felt able to mock myself turning the ripe old age of thirty.
My party invitation was this poem:
Come to my 30th birthday.
Come gaze at this wonder.
Be with me as I come crashing
like a Chinese acrobat
through a paper hoop
into my fourth decade.
Measure my girth.
Marvel at the elasticity of my skin.
Witness the tiny clawmarks of time
around my eyes.
Count my rings.
Come press the flesh
that in all those late hours with you
held a glass or laden tray,
a telling tale or a wailing bairn.
Come sip, sup with us
on this grand day
when I cease to be almost precocious
and set about sedate
and seemly middle age.
I finished with a flourish: “Do drop in – misery loves company!”
With that sass and flair I held my 30th party, I enjoyed the gifts, and I cruised through the year saying, “I’m thirty! Look at me – thirty! Isn’t this something? I. Am. Fabulous.”
And then. Full stop.
My birthday came around again. As they do. And O.M.G. It wasn’t good. Because there was something pert and saucy about being thirty. But 31? No. Not cool. It wasn’t cute, it wasn’t funny. It was just – old. It didn’t matter. I don’t think we did a thing to celebrate. I cried and sulked and ignored the day, and then was outraged that everyone else had ignored the day. I got the usual card from my mother which was the bouquet of flowers on the front and a Hallmark rhyme inside and I hated her and I hated myself and why did I have to be 31?
It was a hard one.
What made it so hard? Why was the round number OK, but the number plus one just ego-crushing? I think the difference was, maybe, hope? Despair? Seeing life catch up?
Comedy team Garfunkle and Oates, two bright feminist musicians who sing hilariously on-point songs about current events and social issues, have made a song about this most trying of ages, called “29/31.” (Watch it here – it’s amazeballs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-gfxjAaZg0.)
The 29-year-old sings, in light, trilling tones, these words:
“I’m at the top of my game, possibilities are endless, and I just feel really pretty.
I’m holding out for someone who meets my standards, won’t settle for anything less than perfect.
I know what I want and I can have it; I’m surrounded by love and peace”
And then the 31-year-old bursts in, shrieking:
“There’s nobody left, I’m all alone!
Why the fuck did I wait? what’s wrong with me?
In two short years, I’m gonna be 33!
Who the hell who want me then? my ovaries are shrinking!
I’m disgusting and everyone feels bad for me
And I never get invited to dinner parties anymore”
The key distinction here, for the two ladies, is also hope. I think at 29 and 30, I had still the joyous bounce in my step of irrepressible energy, despite three young children. I could still get by on four hours of sleep. I still thought I was where I was going, if that makes sense.
Or where I wanted to be.
But when I hit 31, I felt boxed in. Tired. As if I had done all the things I would ever do, and that I was staring down a chute toward the dark end. I hadn’t traveled anywhere. I didn’t have a higher education. I was 31 with three kids and a strange marriage that kept getting stranger.
Turning 31 was hard.
Did I survive it? Yes – I’m writing this twenty years later, with several trips to Europe, a Master’s Degree, three grown daughters, a different husband, two grown step-children, and five books in print. It’s hard to see where we’re going sometimes, especially when you feel boxed in. When you haven’t stretched your wings yet. Thirty is not the end. Neither is forty, nor fifty. It gets better with every decade. Not easier or less stressful – but richer, deeper, more satisfying, less fraught. Better. In every sense.
So 31. You almost had me. But we’re cool now.
Julia Park Tracey is a freelance journalist, writing and editing newspapers and magazines in California and the author of forthcoming Booktrope novel. Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop is inspired by Julia’s real-life reporting. Julia has published a literary zine, taught writing classes, and helped start a newspaper. She is also the author of Tongues of Angels, and two award-winning bios about the Roaring Twenties, the Doris Diaries series. She has been blogging since 2003 and has won several awards for her personal essays and advocacy reporting. Julia lives in Northern California with her husband and son and adorable cat. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, and at www.juliaparktracey.com.
Blurb on forthcoming Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop:
Veronika Layne. Sassy, tattooed, twenty-something newspaper reporter. Never saw herself working for the “man.” When her small weekly is swallowed up by Singh Media Group, that’s exactly where she ends up. Stuck writing fluff pieces that might as well be ads, how can she resist digging into rumors that a real estate developer is destroying native burial grounds? Warned away at every turn by her editor, she worries whether the story will see the light of day? And, dazzled by her sexy rival-turned-coworker, what is she going to do about her love life?
How Do You Know? – December 2nd.
What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?
On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.