The Big 30
Today is my thirtieth birthday. The dawn of a new decade, of a new era. The big 3-0.
I remember my twentieth birthday. I mourned the loss of my teen years. I wore a black veil and it was not the happiest day of my life. I feel a whole lot different about 30.
My 20s were an action-packed decade. I graduated from college, had a wonderful four year relationship, ended that relationship to have time to grow as an individual and to experience the single life, moved to the big city, graduated from law school, passed the bar, had and recovered from an abusive relationship, practiced law, left the law to pursue my dreams, saw friends get married and divorced, saw friends get married and have babies, saw friends get married and buy houses.
My 20s were a time of growing, a time of continual growth and learning rather than a time of feeling grown and settled. Of course I intend to spend the rest of my life growing, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever feel that growing and learning and evolving will ever be behind me, but my 20s were a real growth spurt.
I learned a lot of lessons the hard way in my 20. One of the biggest lessons I learned was around friendship.
My twentieth birthday party probably had one hundred guests in attendance. For my thirtieth birthday party, 30 people have indicated that they will be coming, and so I expect about 15 or 20. People became flaky in my 20s. And more than that, I started weeding out the people who were not true friends.
I cut one friend out of my life who cheated with my boyfriend. I gave her the opportunity to apologize, but she never did. A friend you can’t trust and who doesn’t feel remorse when they betray you isn’t a true friend.
I had another friend who abused our friendship. She lied to me over and over, was abusive to herself, and treated our friendship with the same lack of respect with which she treated herself. A person who will take advantage of you over and over again, who will use you for their own selfish purposes, and who you cannot trust, is not your friend.
The other side of this coin is that I learned what is a true friend, and those people who should be held close, come hell or high water.
I have a friend who I have known since I was 6. In first grade, she held the door open for me while I finished putting on my galoshes. To this day, I know that if I need her at 3 in the morning she’ll be there. When I was looking for my first attorney job in vain and was without a home or income, she opened her home to me and shared her bed for months. I may not see her very often — she is married with a house and dogs and a demanding job — but I always know she’s there for me, like she knows I’m there for her.
In third grade, my principal marched into my classroom, small Russian girl in hand, and told me to take care of her. Somehow we spent day after day together, eating her grandmother’s borscht, instant best friends, despite the fact that she didn’t speak a word of English. Now she lives in New York and we visit each other four to six times a year. She knows I’m unemployed, struggling financially, and that my boyfriend and I need space from each other. So she has invited me to spend the summer with her, living for free in her home, sleeping in her bed. When she needs advice, she comes to me. When either of us have a story to tell or need an ear that won’t judge, we always have each other. Always.
When I was 16, I was in a production of “Hair,” the musical. I met a punkish spunky girl who, to cement our friendship, bought me a scary clown from Chinatown. I hate clowns, I hid it away in my closet, and we’ve been best friends ever since. When I finally had the courage to end my abusive relationship, she took me in. I spent two weeks sleeping in her bed. She provided me a safe haven, a friend, and a light at the end of a tunnel. When my boyfriend and I broke up last year, she again opened her home and shared her bed with me. If I need a partner in crime to go to a costume event or a dance club with, this girl will always be down. Likewise, if I need a night of girl talk on the couch and some Real Housewives of NYC, she’s my girl. From the day-to-day to times of crisis, we know unequivocally that we can count on each other.
When I broke up with my boyfriend of four years, a very dear friend took his side over mine and ended our friendship over the choice I’d made. At that time, we’d been friends for nine years, and I couldn’t believe she would make such a choice. A year later, she was still on my mind and in my heart, and I called her and asked if we could bury the hatchet. As it turned out, she was in love with my ex-boyfriend. Which explains the choice she felt she had to make. Maybe she didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be true. Now they’re married and have the cutest baby I have ever seen. All with my blessing and to my extreme joy. After all, everything happens for a reason. I would not be happy confined to marriage and a baby now, but they are the happiest I’ve ever known either of them to be. As for my girlfriend, maybe we needed our time apart to grow, but we are friends now as if a day never went by that we weren’t. A good friend is worth fighting for.
This friend and I have slept in the same bed more times than I can count over the years. Maybe the mark of a true friend is someone you can share a bed with, someone who will share their bed with you.
I may not have the hundred friends that I used to (despite the impression my Facebook page may give), but I have a core group of amazing friends who I can laugh with, cry with, who will help me heal a broken heart, who I can count on under any circumstances, and who can count on me just the same.
At 30, I take stock of my life. I’m not where I thought I’d be. I am between careers. I am unemployed. My relationship and living situation are up in the air. Nothing is secure, nothing is settled.
Honestly, I thought at 30, I’d have all my ducks in a row. Instead, I have something far more valuable than that. I have had a decade of learning things the hard way. Now I know what I don’t want, and a fair amount about what I do. Instead of being where I thought I’d be — tied down to a successful stable career, married, maybe, kids, maybe — I’m where I want to be: with the world as my oyster, brave enough to fight for what I want in life and to cut out what I don’t (and experienced enough to know the difference), and with a group of true friends to be by my side through whatever the next decade may bring.
My 30s are going to be the best decade yet.