You be you

The moment you turn thirty, you relinquish a few things.

For one, you give up the right to call yourself "young". Sure, thirty is still relatively young, but thirty is a relatively major threshold, the same way twenty is, the same way ten is. It's a landmark that says, or should say, so much about you, and one that comes with expectations, even more of them. One of them isn't "you're young" - and even if you have prepared for it by investing in all these products, nobody will still see you as young. You'll just "look" young, and that comes loaded with its own set of expectations and assumptions. Either you're genetically blessed - that's a rarity. You're probably just vain, or rich, if you're impatient.

You also give up the right to have little to no idea about what you want to be in life. Yes, one song did say the most interesting people are the ones who have no idea what they want to do in their forties, but it's a luxury not everybody can afford. That happens only if you're so filthy rich you can afford to spend the rest of your life, or most of it, trying out passions and seeing what fits you best. No, at thirty you're supposed to not just have an idea of what you want to be, but to have gone quite deep along that route that you can say you've achieved something. Anything different and you're really close to being a hopeless case.

Turning thirty means you're really a grown up now. Gone are the days when you can be carefree, when you can figure things out as you go. You know the thing people around you call "adulting"? There you go. Responsibilities. All you have are responsibilities. Fulfill them. Preferably go beyond what is needed. Kill yourself if you have to. Sure, your life revolves around responsibilities now, and they may be heavy now, but once you make that hurdle, and you hit that landmark, and you enter the new band, those responsibilities are all you have to live for. And if you have a few of them, they'll ask you to take on more of them. "When are you getting married?" "Do you plan to move out?" "You still don't own a car?" "What do you plan to do?"

I'm not turning thirty. I'm turning twenty-nine tomorrow; that landmark is a year away from then. I have been observing, perhaps obsessively, all the people around me, turning thirty, and wondering what has become of their lives, or at least what they choose to show me. Of course, it's the good stuff. It's what we do. It's what we're supposed to do. I know this because some have told me to keep quiet about my problems to, ultimately, protect myself, but I'm not sure I agree with that. It's like lying to myself, and that is the worst thing I can do to myself.

By those metrics, well, I'm not sure if I'm ready. By all measures I can only confidently say I'm coasting along. I'm even slowing down, deliberately, because I have to - the one concession I am giving myself, although at this point it feels more like me dragging my feet. Or so they say. That's what they all seem to say.

"Why are you paying attention to what everybody else does? They don't care about you, so don't care about them. You be you."

I remember when my parents turned thirty. That seemed momentous, but I had no idea about what it really meant - more of, it probably meant something else then than now, now that people like me choose to infantilize everything just to cope. Now they're in their fifties. And yet I feel stuck where I am all this time. I turn twenty-nine tomorrow, and the clock is ticking. People talk about plot twists and breakthroughs and, perhaps, upheavals, all with a cloyingly positive sheen. But not everybody can afford that. Yet, somehow, we should. It's a landmark, after all.

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