I cannot tell you exactly how old I am in this photo, but in my mind's eye, this is the year I began looking into the mirror and wondering what I might look like one day, who I might be, what being "older" would really mean. Of course, to the little girl in this photo, "older" was mostly likely twelve, maybe even sixteen, never twenty-nine or thirty; to the girl in this photo, those years did not yet exist as comprehensible one-days. And yet, thirty days from now, the girl in that photo will be thirty years old - I will be thirty years old.
In order to be honest about what I'm doing in this space, why I've decided to carve out a very public nook within which to make sense of what turning thirty means, I need to admit that I've not been gracefully embracing this upcoming turn into my third decade. I've been doing the big tally in my mind, the one that seeks out the best of the past, the grand moments and big wins, the mental tally sheet that reminds me, ever so gently, of what I have not done, and second guesses what I have.
The temptation to look back, second guess, and compare is strong and often unforgiving, and my usual remedy for such a danger zone? Don't look back. Crawl under the covers with a flash light and a good book and just keep going - move forward, grow up. The reality? I cannot move forward without what's come before, and looking back isn't even necessarily in the game, as much of it is not behind me, but in me - a part of the almost thirty year old that I am.
So, the question is, how can I embrace turning thirty in way I can be proud of and doesn't end with crying in a closet (as classy as that may sound)? Maybe what I should really be asking is, how can I remember that I'm more than just the sum, or lack thereof, of the big wins, whatever those may be? Everyone has their advice and so much of it has been shared with me recently along with numerous eye rolls and many, many exclamations regarding "the best years of my life". And while I am grateful for all of that, even the frustration with my plight as it grounds me when necessary, I know that I have to carve out my own way through, find my own answer to these questions.
And so, as an answer of sorts, for the next thirty days I will reflect once each day on an experience that changed my life - a little piece of the puzzle of sorts - beginning with my first birthday and ending with my thirtieth. It's an assertion as much as a reminder, a nudge to my mind and my heart to pay more attention to what counts, maybe to redefine what that measure even means to me. I've made a list and I'll work my way through in somewhat of a chronological fashion, though I'm only relying on my memory for this, so I ask that you forgive any small inaccuracies as mistakes of the mind rather than misleads.
Some of the experiences are seemingly more significant than others, some so small that it might be hard at first to see their value, but that's part of it, I think, to figure out what matters in a time when it's all up for grabs.
A life, lived, is one that is done honestly, openly, respected and shared, cleaned and painted; a life, lived, is remembered.