I turned 31 last week. People are expected to have some large existential am-I-getting-old-am-I-a-real-adult-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis when they hit the big three-oh. I didn’t, so I was half-expecting it to hit me this year.
It still didn’t.
Why? Who knows. Maybe because I spent the second half of my twenties having this crisis, and, dare I say, either answered some of the above questions, or have worked out a reasonable proxy for the answer, or learned to rephrase the question?
Am I getting old? Yes. No-one’s getting younger, except Benjamin Button, and he’s got his own set of problems. But I’m in pretty good health. I’ve got no chronic diseases. I’ve accepted that my metabolism is more suitable for post-apocalyptic survival than the modern-day beauty standard. If I want to fit the latter, I’m looking at a lifetime of starving myself, and that’s not my idea of a good time. Making myself fitter for the former, though, means actually making myself fitter. So I’ve been exercising on and off for about a year now, I ran my first 5k this spring, and I’ve been pleased to find that even semi-regular cardio and exceedingly basic yoga are enough to stave off any back pains brought on by my multiple desk jobs.
So: older, yes. Frailer, hardly.
Am I a real adult?
I celebrated my thirty-first birthday with my two friends from middle school, drinking rum and coke – from a coffee jar, because I gave them the only two clean glasses in the apartment I’m currently renting in Kyiv, my home town which I’ve been visiting this month. Does that sound very adult to you?
Then again, I’m reasonably capable of solving problems that I face in the course of daily life. Then again, I am apt to complain about those problems on social media, to my husband, my sister, and whoever else is willing to listen. Then again, I am usually solving said problems even as I’m complaining. Then again, I tend to complain about people who complain too much. Then again and again and again, I have a tendency to lone-wolf my problems (which means I complain yet reject offers of help, or specifically avoid complaining to those who are likely to offer said help) and take on too much responsibility and crash and burn, and refuse to talk to people when I’m crashing (even though informing them of the fact of said crashing would be helpful) and, and, and…
Then again, I’m aware of these things I’m doing, so that’s a plus?
Some say that adulthood is a process. I think adulthood is a gumbo. You throw things in to boil together, you scoop out a bowl when you’re hungry, and other people will take some too, and some of it might spill, and things might bubble up to the surface that you haven’t seen in years, and others might add their own ingredients, and it might taste better on some days than others. But at the end of the day, you’re fed, and so are the people around you, and, with some luck, you’ve got a cool idea on what you want to add to the pot tomorrow.
(Disclaimer: I’m a white person whose highly romanticized version of gumbo mainly comes from Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad, but I know a good metaphor when I see one. Also, someone make me some gumbo.)
To sum up, am I a real adult? NEXT QUESTION!
What am I doing with my life?
Oh, right. That was the next question.
It’s the biggie, right? Yes and no. Because I know what I’m doing with my life: I’m a writer. I write novels and comics for life, and everything else for a living. I hope that after many years of hard work, I can make a modest living just from my creative writing, but if that point never comes, it won’t be a tragedy, because I don’t hate my paying job.
The Guardian recently wrote that “A good night’s sleep became the ultimate status symbol”. Arianna Huffington is largely credited for that, and my first instinct is to roll my eyes at someone who advocates the value of sleep while having nine assistants waiting on her – but if I try to imagine myself with even one assistant, I can see the epic struggle for delegation that I’d have to fight against my control freak self. So, good on you, Ms. Huffington, even though as a writer who likes to get paid for my work, I profoundly disagree with your business model.
But if a good night’s sleep is a status symbol these days, then the air is getting pretty thin around my bed – because after finally landing a freelance gig that I enjoy, I work hard on refusing the call of sleep deprivation. I
have learned am still learning to budget rest into my schedule, and to tell the client if a deadline is indeed too tight for me. I’ve worked myself into hating my job in the past. I actually like this one, and I don’t want to grow to hate it.
As for my art, well, I recently got a book deal for my first novel. More importantly, I’ve been writing novels for some five years now, and I think I’ve learned how to write a decent book. Even more importantly, I’m writing the story I want to tell. I strongly believe that’s the order of importance. Love for your art > skill in your art > commercial success in your art.
So there we have it. I’m 31. I don’t presume to have all the answers, or to have life figured out (that was something I used to think when I was 25). I don’t pretend to be 100% comfortable with being a “grown woman” – otherwise I wouldn’t feel flattered when I get ID-ed to buy alcohol, or when someone disbelieves the answer when asking my age. (Because a woman is supposed to always be youthful, and all that crap? Another time for this can of worms.)
But I do feel that I’m leveling up at an acceptable pace. After all, the age 30 technically counts as, what, 30% of life expectancy (or more like 40% where I come from) – but I count my adult life from the age of 20 or so. The age when I really started making my own decisions, rather than coasting in the carpool lane with my family’s ideas. It took me five years of that adult life to figure out what I didn’t want out of life. It took me a few more to figure out which one of the things I do want I want the most.
So, yeah. I’ve still got a ways to go to be the millipede from that comic at the top of this blog, but I’m growing a few extra pairs of legs every year. (Now, if only I could teach each one of them to use their own keyboard…)