“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”
This quote, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, is a very matter-of-fact, no-nonsense response to everyone’s never-ending battle with Father Time. Regardless of what point along the timeline you’re currently on, you will always be moving in the same direction–getting older. Sometimes this is viewed as a good thing, like when you’re 19 or 20 and anxiously awaiting the world of opportunities that opens up to you once you’ve reached the magic number of 21. But there can eventually come a time when the numbers feel intimidating, such as the completion of one decade and the start of another.
There are several reasons why this happens. For starters, there is an adjustment period to having your age start with a new digit, and to the stereotypes that may come along with it. Not everyone lives life according to the pigeonholed timeline of expectation; many twenty-somethings have had the kinds of life experiences that mature them well beyond their expected years, while a good number of forty-somethings have yet to truly outgrow the college frat boy or sorority girl mentality expected of someone half their age.
Similarly, age can be intimidating because of its stereotypes, in the form of expectations that might not yet be met. In my initial post on this blog, I noted that many of us struggle to ever truly answer the infamous question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And while only some of us will successfully answer this question by the time we are old enough to actually get out into the “real world,” there is a general assumption that we’ll at least have this answer by the time we’re in our thirties.
There are other aspects of life, though, that also tend to correlate strongly with one’s chronological age. Recently, my girlfriend Mia and I have noticed several in particular, both within our own common activities and in the lives of those around us. Those of us in our thirties often like to deny their age, saying things like, “I still feel like I’m in my twenties!” But, as I half-jokingly told Mia the other day, one of the fastest ways to return to the reality that we truly are in our thirties is to actually hang around with twenty-somethings, or to simply hear the stories they tell from their daily lives.
To wit, one’s twenties are the first true decade of adulthood, which lends itself to a relatively carefree pursuit of life’s guilty pleasures that may have been denied in youth. Drinking, driving, gambling, staying out late, and engaging in sexual relations are all among the vices of adulthood that have only just been made available without the constant shadow of parental supervision. For most of us, the temptations of such things are nearly impossible to completely deny, and we often ignore the warnings and teachings of our elders as we pursue them. The end result is that there are a number of life lessons destined to be learned the hard way.
In contrast, a typical hallmark of one’s thirties is a greatly diminished desire to go hard and live in constant party mode. Maybe we’ve heard too many stories from others about drinking too much, sleeping around and getting caught, or experimenting with drugs. Maybe we’ve witnessed such destructive things firsthand. Or maybe we’re the ones telling the stories from personal experience. At any rate, our thirties tend to be an age at which we begin to crave more stability in the next phase of life. There is no longer the pressure to get married and start a family by the age of 25, as would have been the case in the 1950’s, but for most of us, life has its own way of eventually guiding us in that general direction, which tends to happen in our late twenties or early thirties.
As you might expect, a few recent events I’ve witnessed have inspired this topic. A couple months ago, Mia and I went out one night with a few of her co-workers. As the gathering prepared to move on from its original meeting place, there was naturally some debate as to where we would go next. We had been talking with one of the guys in the group about karaoke spots in town, as he had recently moved to Las Vegas but had also hosted karaoke in his previous home. Mia and I would’ve jumped at the idea of heading to a karaoke bar, especially considering that a friend of mine had recently begun hosting it at a place very close to home.
But that wasn’t where we ended up. Rather, one of the driving forces behind leaving the original spot was its admittedly higher alcohol prices, and a few members of that night’s group wanted to find a place with cheap drinks. Mia and I were a bit less thrilled by this suggestion. While we’re not exactly OK with paying $15 for a Captain and Coke at some trendy club, we’re also well past the point where two dollar beer night can be seen as a major draw. At some point, you get what you pay for, and if you can’t afford $5 for a decent beer or cocktail, perhaps you should reconsider whether it’s a good idea to even go out at all.
We reluctantly agreed to head to Dive Bar X, but still opted for cocktails over cheap beer. Our tab for a couple drinks apiece was still quite reasonable, and very much on the lower end of a typical night out, and yet a couple of the others still found it surprising that we hadn’t joined them in drinking discount beer. But it really just confirms a common difference between twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings; they wanted to drink as much as possible for as little as possible, while Mia and I were happy with a couple decent cocktails instead. Some (if not all) of them were looking to get drunk; we were not.
Within the past month or so, we’ve seen twenty-something colleagues drink way too much and fail to remain faithful to significant others. Mia and I, on the other hand, have found ourselves frequently walking around art galleries and furniture stores, imagining how a future condo together might be designed. We also walked around The Container Store for the first time, only to find ourselves way too excited by all of the merchandise there that could be used to better organize our lives. If ever there was a moment that loudly proclaimed, “YOU’RE IN YOUR THIRTIES,” that was it.
But honestly, we don’t mind. Neither of us was ever a particularly wild party-goer even in our twenties, and we certainly aren’t now. We do still go out quite often, frequenting karaoke bars and a host of different restaurants, but it’s never with the intention of drinking heavily or gambling substantial amounts of money. We certainly don’t claim to have anywhere near all of the answers in life, but we can at least feel that we’ve learned plenty from the past and have started putting together a definitive plan for the future. Sometimes it would be nice to relive younger days, but ultimately, the thirties aren’t too shabby. And there’s still more than enough time to get to where we ultimately want to be.