The roaring 20-somethings

Off the Beat

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I absolutely cannot wait to turn 30 years old.

I know, I know. “But your 20s are your golden years! The time to explore yourself, take risks, be spontaneous!” So far, it doesn’t quite seem like it. Some people may look at these words and tell me that I’m naive, that I should enjoy my college years and what comes right after, that I should be glad that I’m only 21.

Well, according to my past two years — my hometown started regularly burning down, I had a nervous breakdown that lasted an entire semester, my dad died, I burned out on academics and I spent almost all of my 21st year in quarantine — there’s not too much to envy here. Hate to be a downer, but so far, this decade has been nowhere near ideal.

It’s not all bad, of course. I have my health. I’m on track to graduate soon. I have wonderful friends and great relationships with my family members. I can’t complain too much. For some reason that feels confusingly unknown, despite the clear-cut list above, it still seems a little unbelievable that these are going to be my “golden years.”

To me, the question stands: Why would anyone favor the decade known for making mistakes and figuring yourself out? Shouldn’t the best years, then, come after that? When you’ve learned from the hardships of your youth and have some tighter grasp on who you are and what your purpose is? I’m not saying I’ll have it all together in a snap on the morning of my 30th birthday, but I think I’ll be darn close.

Popular media has always shoved negative stigma into aging: You get tired more easily, your body “isn’t what it used to be,” life is more cyclic, you have more responsibility or stress or taxes or whatever it is that 30-year-olds have to worry about. But all of these things noted, I would much rather have to pay for my own insurance and keep closer tabs on my metabolism than have to experience the beginning of my 20s ever again.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched the Lady Gaga documentary, “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” on Netflix for the first time. Lady Gaga doesn’t ruminate on being in her 30s — such as being single and feeling more sure of herself than she ever had — but somehow, she doesn’t need to talk about it for it to show.

“I feel better than ever, you know?” she said in her kitchen, hair in a messy bun, making breakfast around a company of warm, supportive friends. Feeling better than ever — it’s been a particularly long time since anyone my age has really been able to say those words.

I’m getting to the point in my life when the famous people I adore are the same age as me. Even more intimidating are the ones who are younger than me. I was listening to the song “Treacherous Doctor” by Wallows, a band of fellow young 20-somethings, and realized I’m starting to find myself more and more in what I consume. As the lyrics of the song go: “Love in teens and life in the 20s/ Nothing much to look forward to/ I can’t help but cry on vacation/ Is this the way to exit my youth?”

Exiting my youth? Is that what’s happening?

Maybe I’m jinxing myself — maybe I’m romanticizing my 30s because I feel as though I’ve missed out on what all those other people in their 20s get to experience in the movies. Is it too cynical to say you missed out on your 20s when you’re only just about to turn 22? Am I overlooking too much?

The thing is, I don’t know how much those people in their 20s were constantly thinking about environmental crises, another round of the plague or mass unemployment, among other anxieties — maybe 10 years from now, things will be better. Right now is a chaotic time to be in your 20s, but hopefully enough progress will be made within the world and within myself that my 30s will see me at my best.

In the end, I’m excited to feel more in control of my life — to be more settled in my career, to drink at my friends’ weddings, to not deal with men in their 20s anymore, to feel more confident and secure. Maybe I am 13-year-old Jenna Rink, racking on her closet door and screaming, “I want to be 30!” Maybe things will change, but I crave the day when I can assertively tell people, “I’m 30 years old” or “36” or whatever comes after, not an ounce of shame at mouthing a number higher than 29.

Aging is a beautiful thing, and I find that women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and so on are some of my strongest role models for all that they’ve experienced and overcome. I don’t fully know what’s coming, but if I look far enough ahead, I can have something to look forward to in these outwardly trying times.

And as they say: 30 and flirty and thriving — I can’t wait.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall’s semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.