It’s a new dawn, it’s a new decade

Today is my 30th birthday.

OOF. That feels weird to write — I’m 30. Thirty. I am no longer in my twenties.

I took stock yesterday, the last day of my twenties. I have a few extra gray hairs these days, for which I blame the dissertation, but some of it is certainly my family’s early-gray genetics kicking in. I happen to (mostly) still wear the same size clothing as I did when I turned 20, but over the last couple of years my weight has redistributed itself quite a bit. Not getting dressed up for two years of covid also has me looking at the dresses I’ve had since college with new eyes, realizing that some of them are too young for me now. The acne that has not slowed down since high school continues to plague me, so I guess adult acne is my life now. The Internet tells me that 30 is the age when you have to stop taking your lovely youthful skin (HA!) for granted and start protecting it more — so I recently bought a gentler face wash and the cheapest under-eye cream I could find, and I hate to say that they might actually be helping.

Everyone valorizes (or dreads) the age group above them, thinking those are the people who really have it together. As I progressed through my twenties, I alternated between feeling like an adult and feeling like…well, a fake adult. Somewhere along the way, thirty became the threshold of “true” adulthood for me: when I’d no longer be quite so much a part of the young crowd, when I’d (hopefully) be out of school at last, when maybe I’d have a kid, be put together and know where my life was going.

Well…sort of?

It’s true that I am no longer regularly the youngest at any given gathering, and I’m on the older end of the group of friends we’ve made since moving to Virginia. And yet, I get the impression that our lack of offspring (which is very much by choice) causes some older folks to lump us in with a younger crowd — as if our lives haven’t really started yet. Which is laughably inaccurate. (Also, we have a dog, and he’s toddler-like enough that I think he should count.)

It’s true, too, that I am finally out of school. In fact, my PhD commencement ceremony is today! It wasn’t worth driving back to Iowa for, but it is a fun coincidence that after years of saying I’d love to be done with school by the time I’m 30, the final hurrah happens to fall on this day. I still haven’t fully shaken the constant, baseline guilt and stress of being a graduate student: I still find myself worrying that I’ve forgotten something I have to do on the weekends, when I all I really have to do on the weekends these days is laundry and sleep.

The newest addition to my laptop sticker collection.

But it’s still true, too, that I have no idea where my life is going. Some of that comes with the territory of having hitched my metaphorical wagon to an academic: we could end up anywhere, depending on what the job market and Lady Luck happen to throw Morgan’s way. The new difference, though, is that I’m much more okay with that uncertainty these days. It used to terrify me, perhaps because my own career was also a massive question mark on the horizon, perhaps because it was just too much to contemplate on top of the anxiety of being a graduate student. But since starting my current job — which I love, and which is 100% remote — I’ve felt a lot more sanguine about the state of my life. It’s amazing what a little financial security will do for your mental health.

So much has happened in the last decade. I’ve lived in 3 states and 2 countries, and visited several more of each; I’ve completed 3 degrees and 2 graduate certificates; I’ve gotten married and rescued a dog; I’ve learned to knit socks and sweaters and do color work; I’ve bought, and totaled, my first car; I’ve tried weed brownies (to no effect, alas). I can’t wait to see what the decade of my thirties will bring!

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