18 June 2009

f(x), Where x = 30

When you're young, each age milestone is a stopping point marking your ascent to adulthood. Remember the fuss over turning five? Ten? How about thirteen, when you officially became a teenager? Then it was sixteen, eighteen, twenty one; driving, voting and drinking, respectively. After twenty one came twenty five, because that's a nice, round number. Somewhere along the line, someone told you to fear or resent turning thirty, that it's a negative experience. Ridiculous, you say. Every milestone so far has been great. Besides, even if turning thirty lacks the sense of celebration that its predecessors have brought, surely it's just a number, right?

There is something palpable about turning 30 that has not set well with me. I was born in December, and because of the birth month cut-off plan of schools, I was a bit older than most of my classmates. Several of them are just now turning 30, or approaching it, and their anxiety comes at a time when I have been grappling for half a year over what this age means for me. I still don't know, honestly, other than to confess that I have found it emotionally disturbing.

Surely, it's all in my head, though? I'd like to say it is, that I'll just get over this when I turn 31, but I don't think so. I have remarked in a previous post about how turning 30 has excluded me from participating in very many online surveys. I've moved out of the meaningful age demographic, and every time my surveys end right after admitting my age I am reminded that I am no longer a young guy. If society expects me to have a different perspective and different lifestyle, then shouldn't I? And what does it say about me that I don't?

I find this time of year particularly trying, with Father's Day approaching. I have never had a particularly great relationship with my own dad, so I've never really enjoyed being surrounded by all the cards and banners everywhere I go. It seems even more aggressive this year, though it may easily be I'm just more sensitive to it. In 2005, we lost twins to a miscarriage and that was, without doubt, the single most painful experience of my life to date. Even now, four years later, I can scarcely discuss the subject and only even type this because I don't know that I'll even publish this blog. Seeing Up vividly brought back to mind every excruciating moment of that anguish, and maybe that's why I'm so resentful this year. Turning 30 and having no children is a reminder that I have, through no fault of my own, zigged when society expected me to zag.

So, if I'm not nearly-middle-aged dad by now, what am I? I'm apparently the same person I was in my 20s. Isn't that good enough? Shouldn't it be? I don't know. We're supposed to keep growing as people, progressing toward a point of achievement that will mark our legacy when we're gone. Maybe that's why turning 30 bothers me so much, and why Father's Day is so discouraging this year; I have no sense of what my legacy would be, should I die today. I can point to nothing in which anyone would, or should, take any sense of pride or accomplishment. Of course, family and friends would argue that I've left each of them with something and maybe that should be good enough but for some reason it just isn't. It seems hollow to think that the only thing left behind would be fond memories left in the fading recesses of the minds of a handful of people.

Reading Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan has simultaneously exacerbated and abated my anxiety. Morgan describes Boone's two year exploration of Kentucky as his moment of destiny, believing that Boone must have felt and comprehended how special was his undertaking. Boone by this time had a family and was in his 30s; ergo, even having that which I lack was insufficient to fulfill the pioneer. And yet, I cannot help but wonder what should, or will, be my Kentucky? Have I already missed that opportunity, squandered like all the rest? Perhaps I should be contented to view the future as a wide open frontier, waiting to be explored and settled. And maybe when I turn 31, that's how I'll view it. For now, though, I suppose I'm trapped in my own 29 year old mind of the past.