Tuesday, January 11, 2011

meditating on 30

An interesting thought has been weaving through my life these days- I will, in two and a half years, be turning 30. It jumps up to conscious level when I look in the mirror and notice the fine lines around my mouth, and I realize that these will become deeper. When I contemplate exercise, and realize that the days of bouncing from weight to weight will not go so quickly, and that my skin will not shrink as smoothly as it used to. That when my dental work becomes the central focus of my week, I realize that the downward slope is pretty much here. That upkeep is more necessary than before.
Physical degeneration aside, I have been contemplating the import of 30. This seems to be the age of true adulthood in our culture. There is no contesting your grown-up status, when you are 30 or older. In our culture, there seems to be a sense that 30 is when you ought to be aiming towards getting settled in your life path. The early 20's is a time for finishing the task of education, putting the final shine on your career path. Late twenties is still flexible, but decidedly less so- you can shift careers, move, get married, etc. But you probably ought to know what you want for the rest of your life and go for it.
By 30 it is hoped that you are settled in some way. By 30, you ought to have your feet on some solid ground, so to speak. And so I find myself contemplating the number, the age, the stage in life.
The age has significance for me since my husband and I decided we wanted to be done with child-bearing by then. So I have two and a half years to have at least one more child, if not two more. I fully acknowledge the arrogance in such a decision- that's fine by me, I own that I can't say for sure how many more children I will have, or when they will come. God knows, God's got the whole thing covered, and that's good with me. If He decides that my husband and I should foster children, adopt, or whatever, cool. I love the idea, but my husband is a little iffy about it. Ok, God's got that covered, too.
But back to 30. The age of settling, age of adulthood, the age at which you really ought to have something certain about where you're traveling in Life's path. It's got me thinking about a dream for one's life. If one is not on the path to accomplishing a life dream by thirty...what then? What if you don't even know what you want yet?
So far I've been discussing a vague sense of things that I have from all the cultural input, my own upbringing. I don't really have a settled idea.

What if I have not yet accomplished my dream by the time I'm thirty? What about this number seems like a guidepost or worse, a deadline? And what exactly is it a deadline for?

I'll speak for myself, and myself alone- I know too many people living such wildly different lives that to speak otherwise is purely ridiculous. This is the sense I get from that particular age- That 30 is a guidepost for living well in your own (changing) skin, in a much deeper way than before. When you were fifteen, who you were changed daily, at times minute to minute. (I know I did) The goal was to ride those ferocious waves on a sturdy craft- to keep your hand on the rudder and always aim True North (Christ). At fifteen, living in your skin meant keeping your eyes and ears open and sifting things thoroughly- what was true to you, what came from the world- who you should be. And always comparing this to Christ. At fifteen, you don't know what is essentially you and what isn't- not yet.
At twenty you are slightly more hormonally stable, but the search for who you are in still in full swing. What comes from inside you is panned and sifted with great reverence- you are seeking yourself, your true earnest self. Hopefully by now you are more easily able to differentiate from the voice of you and the voices of the world. And as ever, aim True North. I was extraordinarily infatuated with me, at that point in time. I was experiencing a real honest to goodness sense of puppy love with all the things i was finding out about myself. It was all undertaken with great seriousness.
At twenty-five, I had obtained a patina of cynicism. I had seen myself, and for the most part, was tired of panning. I had ridden all the rides, and the whole theme park of self-discovery was dull. By that point, college was pretty much over, my friends had gone off with their lives, and I had had much of my tidy preconceptions shaken. At this point, I should have gotten deeply involved with ministry. Self-examination is good up to a point- after a long period of adoring attention paid to every thought and feeling and whim...you get rather ugly. Self-focus is not attractive, to yourself or others.
So between then and now, I went through a terrific shaking. I hit rock-bottom, got married, and shortly thereafter, had a child. A terrific shaking. I had my entire life shaken clean, and then had the focus moved firmly away from me. First, it was on my husband, then it shifted to include my child, and while I still keep an eye on anything dramatic going on inside myself, it is not nearly as reverent.
Who I am is pretty settled. How I react is pretty easy to predict. I can point to those role models in my life that influenced my daily functioning, I can tell you my hopes and dreams for my family, and for the most part, I am content to put my own personal goals aside for the next ten years. If I ever finish that Graduate degree, in whatever it may be, then hey, cool. If I never set myself apart by getting published for my fiction, then hey, ok. If I don't raise children who know who Christ is, who love others and serve others well, then I am NOT ok with that.
And so...30. I can see after writing all this that 30 is about being comfortable enough with yourself to be able to rise up and serve others. The focus by now, I believe, should be on those around you. You have come this far- you have survived all those awkward years, and have come out hopefully wiser and more tempered. You have faced yourself. And you are no longer infatuated. This is what I hope for- for myself, for my friends, and for my children.
To come out of your twenties sure of yourself, aware of your particular bent, and no longer desperately trying to be someone else. Whatever life accomplishments you've gotten under your belt is actually kind of moot, for me. If you have or have not gotten married, bought a house, had children, graduated college, climbed Mt. Everest, successfully launched the coup d'etat of a small African nation...whatever, you won't get any flak from me.
Let me acknowledge those who have come through hardships far beyond my experience- those of you who did not have the luxury of getting to know yourself through your twenties for whatever reason- God bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you. I know that God rocked my world shortly after having my first child- and I'm sure He will again, as I gather too much detritus on my ship for fast sailing in His wind. But I understand that this is a blessing. God doesn't give a hoot about 30. He's outside of time, and wherever you are, be open and willing and God will take you through the rocking, the shaking, and you will come out with a new understanding of who you are.

I suppose then, 30 is an arbitrary number. What it means to me is a sense of settled understanding. A friendly acceptance of who I am, what I am and most importantly, what I am not. What I will not have in my life. A friendly acceptance of that fact. I like that. A graceful settling of my heart into the life God has given me. oooh, I like that.