Let's not beat around the bush: it was a hard winter. It was endlessly grey, as is to be expected. I was underemployed. There were breakups and heartbreaks. I was pretty sure I wanted to stay in Seattle but I often second-guessed myself, dreaming of joining friends on sailing trips in Panama or going back to Italy.
But winter changed to spring; first slowly, then unequivocally. For awhile it was only hyacinth, daffodils, hellebores, and tight cherry blossoms, but now petals have exploded on the magnolias, forsythia, rhododendron, camellias, euphorbia, rosemary, and many others. We have had some amazingly beautiful sunny days. The air smells sweet. The other day I was running around Greenlake and saw a family at the water's edge, and a little boy said, "Look at the turtles on that log, Dad! Isn't that cool?" There is a sense of wonder and newness and vitality and moving forward.
You know what else happened amongst all this change? I turned 30. For some reason, it seemed more fitting than ever to me that my birthday is in the early spring. I spread birthday festivities out over a few days, trying to process what it meant to say goodbye to my 20's. I thought back to my 20th birthday, when my gift to myself was a decade of selfishness. That may sound strange, like I'm some self-centered, indulgent, greedy person. But I meant "selfishness" more in the sense of doing exactly what I needed to do for me, and for my growth as a young adult. I wanted to have a lot of experiences and not regret not having done something. I knew I could not have children in my 20's, because that requires waaaaay too much selflessness. Even in terms of romantic relationships, I don't think I was ready to be in a committed partnership until just a couple years ago- again because I needed the clarity of knowing I was making my own life decisions for me. What resulted was an amazing, rich, fun, educational, adventurous decade of exploring the world and really coming into myself as a happy, confident adult. I put myself through college; welcomed a nephew and three nieces into the world; lived outside in northern California for 2 months; ran a marathon; discovered I loved gardening; learned how to cook; lived in an off-grid yurt in the woods; traveled to 26 countries; visited 28 U.S. states; lived abroad for a year, among many other things.
There were incredibly trying times of course, trying to figure out what paths and directions to take, and how to get from point A to point B. I don't know what I would have done without such supportive, loving friends who listened to me and were willing to share that process. In my early 20's, I had this sense of a blank canvas and desperately wanting to get the painting right. All of the empty space of the future felt freeing but also stifling in its openness, and I feared making a wrong brushstroke. Now I look back and realize all the times when I was just doing what seemed interesting to me or working a random job were actually the building blocks to becoming an experienced, well-rounded adult, putting more tools in life's toolbox. It's a cool age to be at, to be able to look around at friends who just followed what they loved, developed casual hobbies, and kept studying something- and see that they are now really good at what they do, or have their own business, or are awesome parents, or are running innovative projects, or are getting a Master's or PhD in their field.
And this whole process of growing up and developing is not stopping or stagnating just because we've hit the big three-oh. Of course not. I think we just have a different perspective on it now. I for one feel far less self-judgement and urgency about "figuring things out". I feel less stress about knowing "what I should be doing" and more willing to just work hard, do the things I love, appreciate each day, follow a framework of ideals, be a good friend/sister/daughter/aunt/cousin... and trust that life has a way of working itself out.
My 20's were wonderful but I wouldn't want to do them over. I'm happy to put them behind me and look forward. So, on my 30th birthday, I gave myself a Decade of Connection. I'm not exactly sure what that will look like, but I'm keeping it in mind and ready to watch it unfold.