I’ve literally written this piece about 17.5 times, maybe more. Yet, every single time I called myself being “done,” I couldn’t get my finger to agree and push the “publish” button. So without further ado, I give you… 30. (curtains open, lights dim, and anticipation filled the room.)
Winter Is Coming
Three MFn Zero, three decades, 360 months, 1,560 weeks, 10,800 days, 259,200 hours. Now mind you, none of this includes leap years because my math isn’t that good lol. But there is something about this number… Something filled with victory, reflection, assessment, regret, joy, hope, sadness, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I’m going to be honest…comparison. But let’s back up a little.
The 9th day of one spring morning in 2019, I turned 29. My sister was the first to call me (as always), and the rest of my friends, family, (& exes), followed suit. Nothing to write home about. But while everyone was texting, singing, calling, and my grandma was trying to do her best to figure out how old I was without asking. I was … searching. Searching for a word, title, song, scripture, fortune cookie, adjective, omen, or just plain understanding of how I was feeling. From the moment the calendar changed and with it my age, I felt…different. The kind of different you can’t put your finger on. The kind of different that erects permanent partitions, left forever to tell the story of the inception and conclusion of a season. A door was shutting behind me, but I had not yet walked through another. I was in an interim land of ambiguity, and winter was coming. I was swimming for my life through an ocean of emotions, choking, gasping for air, and the only thing I could think was… I AM ALMOST 30.
The thought alone brought an anxiety that poured concrete in my shoes. Thirty. Like bruh, what in the entire fuck?!? I was just 20 like a week ago, jigging my life away, and trying to figure out which caf was open… who let me become an adult?!? And there it was… Fucking adulthood. Being in your 20s has an ease to it, a forgiveness, a buffer. 20-anything equals a pass to make mistakes, learn, and to try again. People refer to the 20 somethings as “babies,” and other affectionate terms. There is grace there, there is understanding there, hell… you can still ask for money there. #bigfacts
“You’ve Arrived At Your Destination”
But 30? In my mind, for as long as I can remember, 30 was always a state of arrival. It was the difference from being a nursing major, and being a nurse. From watching the football game in the student section, to watching with your family. It was the fruition of eduction, jobs, and experience. I envisioned the house, the car, the taller than me dark chocolate husband, kids, linen 2-pieces, Essence festivals, and having McDonalds money but realizing you have food AT HOME. It was evidence of growth. It was hearing the GPS say “you’ve arrived at your destination.”
So I began to (as the old folks would say) look back over my life and think things over. Tallying the score card:
- I thought I would have a house – but was renting
- I thought I would be married – but was hella single
- I thought I would have kids – but didn’t even have a dog
- Work was good monetarily but otherwise empty
- And I still couldn’t wink, whistle, fold a fitted sheet, or bowl without the bumpers.
Something was just not adding up. And everyone (& everything) around me was more comfortable than a grandad in his “good chair” letting me know it too.
Death By Interrogation
A few months into the finality of 29, I had a conversation with my grandma. At 86, I had LONG learned to filter her words more than once before letting them reach my being. She is a woman a few words, and even fewer emotions. The conversation went a little something like this (for some reason I hear a DJ scratching a record here).
Me: Hey Grandma, how are you?
Grandma: I’m good, what are you up to?
Me: nothing, just working.
Grandma: Can I ask you a question?
Grandma: Do you want kids?
Grandma: Well you need to hurry up, you don’t have all day.
Me: (Rolled my eyes so deeply it almost hurt, paired it with a disappointed shaking of the head and a deep sigh)
I searched and found a BS reason to get off the phone, wished her well, and hung up. A less than 5 minute conversation had changed my entire mood. Grandma:1 , Me:0. Defeated.
Two things really bother me about this. One, is the normalcy of this conversation, and conversations like it. The social acceptance of berating young people with deeply personal and intimate questions based on where society says they should be. It is the gradual undressing of a life while all sit and watch in eager anticipation. Question after question, the not so subtle reinforcement that ones entire value is predicated on marriage and children. All while being expected to smile, nod, be polite, and then tend to your wounds in private, as to not offend the verbal assailant. I had taken my last shot in silence…
The second thing that bothers me about it is the hypocrisy. my ENTIRE life I have been told to worry about boys later, keep my head down, get my education, that I “better not” get pregnant, to get a good job, travel, and THEN find someone to settle down with who is my equal, and who loves and appreciates me.
But somewhere very shortly after 27, the tune changed DRASTICALLY. It went from focus on me and I will find someone along the way, to being overly critiqued. Everything I did was the reason I didn’t have a man. I was told men don’t like natural hair, that I should go out more, consider dating shorter men, be done up every time I leave the house. My stepfather believes I am single because my manicure and pedicure don’t match. It went from be yourself, to be who they want you to be so you can find someone. (Because apparently my natural state of being will scare the men away). It went from find someone, get married and THEN have a baby, to just pressuring me to have a baby like I was a breeding horse. The standards out the window, and the message was clear, time was running out and I needed to grab somebody, ANYBODY, before the music stopped and I was left without a chair.
But what was most up for debate? My body. A PROUD thick girl, I was told I was single because I was too heavy. I started to lose weight and thats when the true colors started to come out. Then it was, “just lose 10 more,” overdramatic “OMG you look AMAZING,” and constant talks about food and trendy diets. However, the one that hurt the most was not from a family member, but a friend. When talking about my goal weight and size, I was constantly reminded of how small I looked in college, not so gently nudging that weight should be my goal in lieu of the one I had set for myself. (Genuinely liking myself with a little weight on me). But the bomb over Bagdad came in a later conversation. I was talking about my journey, how proud I was of myself, and my excitement. I was told, “yeah, cause you had got real comfortable being a big girl.” Shocked, hurt, and embarrassed, I said nothing. My family had always been critical, but to have my friend join in, I was officially being attacked on all sides.
No one was concerned with my mental state, if I was happy, if my career was going well, or my interests. Nope. It was just be everything you’re not so you can get a man. Message received. Loud and clear.
In The Weeds
Some of you may remember a TV show called “Weeds.” It was a show about a widowed housewife who starts growing and selling marijuana to support her family after her husbands unexpected death leaves her and her family in debt. The show also has a recurring focal point on exposing the flaws in her seemingly perfect & cookie cutter suburban town.
As I began to think about where I was, where I wanted to be, and where everyone else was telling me I should be, the theme song came back to my remembrance:
“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there’s doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”
It took about three days to get this song out of my head, but it spoke to me. I needed to be reminded that we don’t all have to experience the same things, in the same order, and that coloring outside the lines was ok. I did not want to simply go through the motions to “come out all the same.” And while I was busy checking boxes and taking tallies, I had forgotten all the life I’ve lived, all the obstacles I’d overcome, and how it was MY story to write the way I saw fit. And under no circumstances was I going to offer up anything even resembling apology for it. A paradigm shift.
(Next up: Part II)