By 30-something you should be married. Well into your marriage in fact, with most if not all of your kids already born, and paying a mortgage, not rent.
By 30-something you should have finished your education, and well into a steady job that supports your family. Loving that job isn’t nearly as important as having it because the retirement struggle is real and day care is like tuition. So hopefully you’ve gotten all that frivolous shopping and spontaneous traveling out of your system, because responsible adults don’t behave like that.
But your rewards will come when your kids grow up as successful members of society, you and your husband start traveling again, and you can move to a nice vacation home in Florida. This was my portrait of 30-something for a very long time. And it is a very realistic portrait for much of American society, putting pressure on both women and men to force their lives into this perfect little frame to hang on their wall next to Black Jesus and Obama.
Yet sometimes, life doesn’t seem to fit into that traditional frame, and suddenly it seems like something is wrong with you. Relatives ask you if you’re okay, when you’re gonna finish school, when you’re gonna find a real job, when you’re gonna settle down, when you’re gonna have your first child, or your second child, or buy a house, or stop shacking up. Society will act like you’ve got 99 problems plus Solange just because your frame is a triangle. Or a hexagon. Or one of those crazy shapes you learned in Geometry but couldn’t name for a million dollars today.
I expected everyone in my life, including myself, to pick out that pretty frame from Target with the smiling family of 4 somewhere in our mid-late 20s, and have it hanging in our suburban homes by 30-something. But as I crossed that scary age of 30 and saw all the unfamiliar frames, shit got real. The early divorces. The infertility struggles and silent pain. The career frustrations. The unfulfilled dreams. Suddenly the chick on her 7th degree, traveling on student loan money with no 401k seemed just as happy as the soccer mom with 2.5 kids and a picket fence.
There is no magic age for your life to be “complete.” No magic number for the day your children, your passion, your big break, your dream job, or your partner will magically appear. Everybody’s number is different, but at the end of the day most people eventually have their number called.
My charge to you is while you’re standing in line, enjoy yourself. Listen to some music. Bust a quick Nae Nae when nobody is looking. Ask the person behind you to hold your spot so you can go hug a friend way further back in line real quick. On your way back to your spot, do a cutie run and scan the line for Tim Howard and that awesome beard and those dope tattoos and chile, if you find him just stay in line next to him cause honey…
Wait, where was I again? Oh, yes. Enjoy your own story, and don’t allow society to define what your 30-something looks like. Whether you’re in that line still waiting for your dreams to manifest, or have your oddly shaped frame already hanging next to Black Jesus, understand that the exception is actually more common than the rule. Even the smiling soccer Mom in that frame at Target is still in line waiting for something else. If you’re waiting to finally finish school, give praise for not having to go to work every day! If you’re waiting for that second child, give the first one some extra attention because those precious moments will be less frequent once #2 arrives. If you’re waiting for a spouse, TRAVEL! Book a flight on a whim and blow your paycheck on fine wine, international cuisine and new shoes. Do it now before you have a husband or wife that will throw semi-harmless objects at you once they see that credit card bill.
Have fun in line! Even at Six Flags in August when it’s 439 degrees and the roller coaster line is 13 hours, it goes so much faster when you’re enjoying the people around you (whether you know them or not). Wherever you are, enjoy it, keep your eyes open to the world around you. Before you know it your number will be called, your wait will be over and you’ll see how fast time flies when you have a smile on your face.