So here’s the tea: I'm turning 30. And I’m not thinking about it with angst, fear and anxiety. GASP!  You see, the edge of thirty feels like a relief. I’m approaching 30 with a calm I knew nothing about in my 20s.

At 24, I began to research that it meant to be 25. I wanted to know what to expect and what it meant to be half way through my twenties. I needed to be prepared, of course—I'm a planner, what can I say?

All I could find were these devastating self-help books about this ‘quarter life crisis.’ Crisis? Sure. What else was I to call a time in my life when I had more questions than answers? Not to mention, the laundry list of life goals that I needed to see through immediately. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time how terrified I was to turn 25 and how awful it was going to be. I freaked out over just about every thing. I mean, what else was I going to do if I didn’t accomplish everything in life at 25? I had to be married. I had to get a big time job. I needed to do more traveling. And even though I despised cliques, I had to prove that I somehow fit in with somebody’s duo, trio or quad. This is only the short list. And so at 25 when I accomplished nothing on my completely unrealistic list of life to-dos, I went into panic mode. Everything thereafter became urgent. While much of my life on the outside seemed to be spiraling upwards, personally, I was spiraling out of control. I was hard to deal with. I was moody- even more so than my usual. I went into financial misery with only pennies my name. I struggled to find the confidence to be my own person without seeking the approval from others. I even dealt with bouts of deep depression that sent me into two-suicide crisis. By the time I hit 29, I was exhausted.

How can one be exhausted at such a young age? You can when you live with unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment after disappointment. The challenges of my quarter life aren’t all on me though. Some of has to do with being a product of my generation. I am a millennial—an older millennial, but I still fit the bill. The characteristics that qualify me to be a millennial are results of my parents’ generation. They urged us to be independent, over achieve and told us we could in fact have it all. The struggle to be “accomplished” before 30 was real. But I digress.  

Somewhere during my 29th year of life I came to a moment of clarity. I realized the last five years of my life I was alive but I wasn’t living. I was busy trying to create a life I thought other people would be pleased with. No more! I promised myself the next five years would not be like the last. With the rose-tint taken from my glasses, I began to shift. They say with age comes confidence and I surely felt it coming on. I slowly began to careless about what people thought about me. After all, it’s really none of my business that you dislike my quirkiness. It is however, my business to be happy with who I am. My passive aggressive behavior began to be replaced by more direct statements that reflected what I really wanted. I remember the first time I ever declined a friend’s birthday party. I’m always the friend to show up; not because I want to but because I feel obligated to. However, this invitation was for something I really had no desire to do. Rather than spend my money and show up with a salty attitude, I declined and told my friend I’d take her to dinner instead. The world didn’t end and I didn’t have to lose sleep over doing something I didn't want to do. Who knew?!

As I approach 30 this summer, I don’t have grand fantasies about this decade of my life like I did for my 20s. I still do have life and career goals but I’m taking everything one day at a time now. I have no idea what to expect and oddly enough it feels good. I have learned that life happens in slow moments, not in accelerated seconds. I also know that now instead of panicking when life takes a turn, I just slow down, reassess and remember to live. I’m going into the next chapter of my life feeling light, and I like it. Here’s to my thirties, I welcome you with open arms! 

Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a writer and blogger with a passion for community engagement and giving. Her energy can be read weekly on Friends of Ebonie, the digital platform aimed to educate and motivate 20 & 30 somethings to give back. Ebonie enjoys singing off-key, dancing on beat and eating cake ala mode. Follow her on @EJCthatsME