So, today is my thirtieth birthday. How about that?
Generally I, Patrick D Ryall, do not bother celebrating my birthday, (and today is no exception apart from this post, really) because age is just a count of how many times the Earth has gone around the Sun since I got born and that isn’t terribly relevant to me. Sure, years are a useful unit of time measurement, but they really don’t mean anything about me as a person. And yet, even with that in mind, there are some things that can be inferred by my turning thirty: The primary being that I’m no longer in my Twenties. I’m now a Real Adult, instead of a New Adult. Or something. I’m in a different category than I was just days ago, is what I’m saying. I don’t know what the categories are called.
Sure, I’ll grant you that today’s society has pushed back Real Adulthood much further than thirty. People probably say things like “Fifty is the new Thirty” so I’m supposed to rejoice that I’m not old. All the thirty-year-olds in movies are likely to be overgrown young people and many in real life seem take their cue from that. People crave their youth, for whatever reason, so they’re constantly pushing the societal definition of youth higher and higher. But not ol’ PDR. I don’t care about aging, really. Some people fret about it and can’t believe that they’re getting old. And you’d think that someone who has been as concerned with his mortality since such a young age as I was would worry, but I don’t. Getting older has more than enough benefits to make PDR okay with it.
For one thing, I have never fit in with my age group. Not when I was a kid, nor a teenager, nor any other time. I never knew the popular trends of the day. I am always late learning about what shows are popular, I never know anything about music, and I have worn the same style of clothes (t-shirts, jeans) no matter what fashion does around me. Now, obviously, my age group is still my age group. They’ve all grown up with me. So my not fitting in with them will continue. But we’ve all continued aging away from the Young People of Today and they’re the real popular culture now. That’s what is so sweet. Someone in their Twenties? They’re generally still expected to be somewhat hip. But I’m in my Thirties, now, so I’m free from that! As I said above, Thirties are still considered pretty young these days, but the difference between me and some teenagers is now so insurmountable that my never speaking to one who isn’t a cashier is perfectly fine. When I hit my Forties, I’m pretty sure, is when I’m actually allowed to be wholly alienated by youths, so I’m ahead of the game there, but I’ll take what I can get. I’ve been an old man in my head since I was around fourteen, so this is just my life is finally catching up.
I’m also lucky that there won’t be any “Holy Crap, I’m Thirty Now” shock for me. I’ve thought of myself as a thirty-year-old since I was twenty-eight. Why? Bad memory, I guess. But in any case, I’ve been calling myself thirty for years in my head (and occasionally out loud when people ask me my age and I don’t want to do math or remember what year it is) so I’ve already moved on to being, like, thirty-three mentally. If, at any point, I genuinely am caught off guard when my age occurs to me, it’s because I’m actually younger than I am.
Naturally, round-numbered ages are a good time to take stock of your life and see how you’re doing. And it’s times like this I notice that I am nowhere near getting married, having kids, buying a house, and winning a position of great social status and material wealth. But I wasn’t aiming for that stuff anyway. There’s some stuff in that list that I’d be down with, but for the most part these goals are just things we’re peer pressured into thinking are important. I’ve not deigned to base my life around achieving any of them. The unfortunate flip-side of this, however, is that I’m also not achieving much in the way of PDR-mandated goals. I’ve not done nearly so much travelling as I’d like, my writing output is improving but is still less than ideal, and I’ve not overthrown the currency-worshipping culture we live in. Perhaps the most alarming thing I do get out of turning thirty is when I remember that I started working my current job when I was twenty-one. I’ve wanted to quit for at least eight years, but I haven’t because I can’t think of another way to not be homeless.
But in the end, I can take that sense of failure as I turn thirty, because I had that same sense of failure when I was twenty-nine and before that. But now I can more liberally use phrases like “When you get to be my age…,” “Back when I was young…,” and “Kids these days…” I mean, sure, I used all of those already, but now it is slightly more justified. And in the end, that’s what aging is about: It’s a license to be as cantankerous and ornery as you want.