It’s official: I’m old.
I’m sure I’ll say the same thing a decade from now, but there is something about turning 30 that makes it seem like there’s an even greater loss of youth than any other age. You’re not a teenager anymore; you’re not in your crazy college years anymore; you’re (probably) not partying in bars and clubs anymore; and the realization that your 20s are over can be hard to accept.
It’s not for me.
(Even if I joke about it.)
I felt more stress leading up to my birthday last year because I was looking at life with the wrong perspective. I was dreading my 20s coming to an end without even thinking about what my 30s could look like, in large part because I had no idea what the hell my 30s would look like at my current point in life.
I was happy with the things that were happening in my life, but deep down I was longing for substance that I knew wasn’t there. When I was graduating high school, I thought that I would be married with one or two kids by the time I was 30 – like my parents – and it sank in that 30 would come and none of those things were going to happen.
There was a point over the summer when I debated if those things were ever going to happen. I wasn’t getting any younger, and the trajectory of my love life was in a dozen different directions – none of which included marriage or children in the foreseeable future.
It took some soul-searching to accept the fact that I ultimately had no control over what would happen with the rest of my life in that regard. Those things would happen, or they wouldn’t, and I had to accept being okay with both options.
It’s been an interesting year, to say the least.
The worst of times
For those that follow my work, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t really written much since the summer. Some people say writing about relationships – be it from personal experiences or just whatever sappy crap is in my head – has been a detriment to my love life, but it has helped shape who I am. There are things I probably know I shouldn’t have written, but if everything I’ve done led me to where I am, then I would do it all over again.
This time last year, I was dating someone significantly younger than me. We were happy, but I think we both knew in our hearts that we did not have the same life plans and that it wouldn’t work out. Breaking up crushed me, mostly because it came out of nowhere, but it was for the best.
At the time, she was probably the best thing to ever happen to me. We don’t talk anymore, and we almost certainly never will, but I still hope life brings her nothing but happiness and success.
Then I met (well, reacquainted with) someone I had wanted to ask out since the day I met her. We were easily the best match of anyone I had dated up until that point, and I was never happier than when I was with her.
That relationship/fling/or whatever you want to call it ended much like the previous one did – completely out of the blue – and it messed me up for a while.
I stopped recording my podcast because I didn’t have the emotional capacity to continue with it. I slept more because it made the days go by faster. I withdrew from activities because I didn’t want to be around happy people or sour their mood with my misery. I was hurt, angry, confused, and defeated.
It felt like any time I got close to someone and started thinking, “This is a really good thing. Everything is going so well. This could be it,” it just ended. Without any kind of warning. It felt like I was disposable.
It felt like I didn’t deserve long-term happiness.
I know this wasn’t her intention, but that was how I felt. We’ve talked since the split, but only sparingly. I could see us hanging out as friends one day, but it’s not something I’ve put stock in. Ultimately, I just want her to be happy.
I told my best friend over the phone that I was ready to give up seriously dating. Rather than seeking out a relationship that would hopefully lead to marriage and children one day, I began to accept the potential bachelor life.
No significant other or children would mean no commitment to anyone.
No commitment would mean no expectations.
No expectations would mean no heartbreak, which was the best selling point.
And then my life changed forever.
The best of times
Those who know me know that I love karaoke, and that I go weekly.
I was out one night, sitting in my usual spot, and I saw this gorgeous girl in a cute flowery white top. There was something about her; something more than thinking that she was pretty or that maybe I should go talk to her. There was something about her that told me, “You have to talk to this girl.”
I didn’t know her name, or if she was single, or really anything about her, but I knew that I needed to talk to her that night or else I would regret it.
We hit it off immediately, and we talked for weeks. Then came what could have been the defining moment in our connection with one another: She asked where things were headed, and I told her that I still needed time to heal if things ever had a chance of working out between us.
I was a roller coaster of emotions, and I didn’t want her to be a part of that hell ride. I knew I needed to clear my head and completely get over my recent experiences before anything serious could happen with her.
She could have easily walked away, and I would have had no right to stop her. If anything, I would have understood her not wanting to deal with the drama. I was broken, and it was not her job to fix me, nor was it my place to expect her to do so.
Instead, she understood.
She knew all about what I was going through and allowed me to sort myself out, but made sure to tell me she would eventually want something serious. It was a perfectly reasonable request. I wanted the same thing, but I had no earthy idea when I would be in a place for that kind of commitment.
After keeping myself at a distance, I let myself fall for her and asked her out on a real date.
We said, “I love you,” four days later, and the words spilled out of both of us like they were waiting to be set free.
We said we were going to marry each other about a week later, and we knew we meant it.
Everything in my bones knew she was the one, and that still holds true today.
One benefit of having so many failed dating experiences under my belt is that I’ve compiled more firsthand data than most of my friends combined, and I’ve applied what I’ve learned from those experiences to every situation going forward.
I’ve learned what I want in a partner; I’ve learned to not ignore gut feelings telling you something may be off; I’ve learned what it means to truly be there for someone; and perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned what love really is.
I don’t dwell on missed experiences anymore. I’ve learned from them, sure, but I don’t worry about what went wrong or what could have been done differently. Instead, I look forward to the future.
I am the happiest I have ever been. It’s not even close, and I know I have her to thank for that.
The days leading up to my birthday weren’t consumed with thoughts of, “My 20s are over,” but rather, “My 30s are going to be incredible,” because I know what we have planned for them together.
And that brings us to today: Exactly one year from my last life update.
I have friends who care about me. I have family who is always there for me. And I’ve met the love of my life who I had convinced myself never existed. If this is 30, then life is pretty damn good.