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A 20s Retrospective: Looking back on a decade

Morning at Tiger Leaping Gorge, China. One of the things on my "before 30" list.

There’s a certain social stigma about turning 30. Not that I’m 30 yet, but I’ve been anticipating it for a few years. I think of the classic When Harry met Sally and Meg Ryan’s discussion about getting old, “I’m going to be forty!” she exclaims, “when?” Harry asks. “Someday,” she responds. Harry says, “in eight years!” “But it’s there, just sitting there like this big dead end,” she explains. Not that I thought 30 was a dead end per se, but I always felt that when I did turned that magical number, I would somehow have things figured out: I thought by that time, I’d have at least some of the answers and would be on my way to being legitimately grown up. Well, as that number quickly approaches, I realize how that was simply a tall order.


An avid list maker, I decided it was essential to make a list of things I needed to do before I turned 30. I started this list a while ago. After completing something on the list, I would secretly anticipate the satisfying task of crossing off yet another thing. You may be wondering what exactly I wrote down on this elusive before 30 to-do list. It encompassed a whole schlew of things: from classic reads to improving my PR in a 10k to climbing the Great Wall.

 

Morning at Tiger Leaping Gorge, China. One of the things on my "before 30" list.

In a way, I felt that I needed to get all the craziness out of my system before entering adulthood; that there was distinct line between the 20s and 30 and crossing into that threshold meant leaving behind my immature 20s. A list was the tangible element of making that all happen.
As I was going through my desk the other day, I stumbled on the list. Folded up and scribbled on with lots of things crossed off, I noticed how I wasn’t even close to having the list completed, and I’m okay with that.
I realize that not all my adventures need to be completed by 30. While there may be a lot of women who are starting families in their 20s, there is still a large contingency that are waiting longer. Since we are living longer, we can have babies later in life and the sense of urgency isn’t following us like a shadow that it once was. This isn’t to say that my lovely Jewish mother doesn’t remind me all the time that having babies is the best thing to happen in your life and that time is running out to get married and settle down.
Despite the fact I believe I’ve lived my 20s with intention and adventure, I still feel my 20s have blown by me as though I was standing still watching a movie in fast forward. I am left with more questions than answers these days. This is not to say I have not enjoyed every year of this decade, quite the opposite—each has been enjoyable, challenging and had its share of sadness. I lost my last living grandparent, bought a house, fell in love, had a fur baby, graduated college, went to grad school, traveled to three continents and watched my baby brother and sister grow into adults. There has been lots of laughing, some crying and a lot of growing.
But I’ve had to ask myself how we measure success. Is it in the amount of money we make? The material possessions we accumulate or the friends that keep us company along the way? I think this varies for everyone.
Not trying to read too much into astrology, I think there is something to be said about the idea of Saturn Return (it is the amount of time it takes for Saturn to make its way around the sun). Saturn Return happens every 27-30 years of your life and you encounter monumental changes that shift you into the next stage. As indecisive as I am, I’ve made some drastic changes recently. I don’t know where they will take me, but I truly believe there is no wrong decision. I’d rather take the chances now then live with regret later. While I’m not ready to trade in “80s night” for changing diapers just yet, here I am staring at 30. And I guess it’s not that scary.

abra
Abra was born in the northwest U.S. and has enjoyed travelling as long as she can remember. As a child, she used to line up rows of wooden chairs in the house and “pilot” flights to exotic places around the world. She’s lived on the States' east coast, sojourned in Paris and lived in Israel. She is now a professional wanderer, chronicling her adventures in articles and blogs. Abra is an avid cyclist, part-time runner, yogini and caffeine junkie.

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    1 Comment

    1. Wow! You have done so much before 30! I am so impressed by your list and concerted effort to explore the world. I hope you know how wonderful you seem and appreciate the many gifts that your life has brought to you. I bet you have some amazing friends who think very highly of you.

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