I turned thirty last week. In gay years, I should be in hospice. But honestly? I would rather digest a Kia Sorento than be twenty-two all over again. That’s not to say that I don’t miss certain things; I remember those times with fondness—going out almost every night with my friends, all of whom still lived in the same city as me, overdrafting my bank account with reckless abandon—without batting an eyelash—because my horizon didn’t extend past the night, and being able to take more than a sip of alcohol without flirting with death the next day.
I miss the traditions my friends and I had and the possibilities that each night offered; when uncertainty was welcomed and not the source of my anxiety as it is now. I miss taking the places for granted that have become either TD Banks or luxury condos. I miss the smell of my favorite bar—the sweat, the whiskey, the heat. I miss bumming a cigarette from a stranger only to end up spilling our guts to each other on a stoop across the street, someone whose number I still have saved in my phone as “Queen with the Teal Wig.” I miss finding my best friend’s lipstick print somewhere on my body the next day. I miss my rituals for getting ready: the transition from day glam to night. I miss hearing “Young Americans” by David Bowie and feeling a surge of adrenaline pulse through me, reminding me that New York City is ours and safe in our very-capable hands. I miss the fame that exuded from all of us, because we were all superstars—we were just waiting for everyone else to catch on. I miss cheese.
But that’s it.
The things I don’t miss far outweigh those that I do. I don’t miss the overwhelming insecurities, the unchecked trauma and mental illness, the self-destructive behavior I was prone to, threatening my life on more than one occasion. I was a mess. I still am, but the chaos is now controlled and regulated with a combination of medication, therapy, and other methods of self-care tailored to my personal health and needs. I still have my traditions (doom scrolling, misting my plants, repeating ad infinitum). And I’m still trying to figure things out—the things are just different. (What the fuck is a Roth IRA and why are people telling me I need one?; Have couches always been this expensive?; Who is Post Malone????)
I thought turning thirty would warrant a flagrant display of flamboyance, some extravaganza that involved scrupulous planning and demanded well-thought-out execution. Fireworks—metaphoric or otherwise. But my thirtieth was loosely planned, and it turned out better than I ever could have imagined. First of all, it was in the middle of the week; we cannot risk throwing a wrench in the momentum of energy we’ve established. Hijinks are high-risk now. Probiotics are in.
I read from Born to Be Public on the eve of my thirtieth at The Franklin Park Reading Series, which is a series I’ve dreamt of reading since I was a baby writer. It was my second time reading there, and the support of the literary community in attendance was not unlike the feeling of walking into my favorite dive eight years ago. Same love, different faces.
The next day—on my actual birthday—I had cake for breakfast (MILK BAR) and then got my ear pierced at Claire's. Then I got diarrhea at a Le Pain Quotidien across the street. There was no other way I could celebrate turning thirty. This is the me I was trying to figure out in my twenties—I’ve arrived.
I’ve had some folks ask me if there was any significance of getting my ear pierced on my birthday. I guess, kind of? I wore a clip-on hoop for like two years straight in college, so I thought I’d finally seal the deal as a wink to twenty-one-year-old Greg. And I got it done at Claire’s because of course I did. And then, because the universe was not going to let me forget that I was turning thirty, some tween was like, “You can get your ears pierced here????????”
Is Claire’s NOT a thing anymore? What’s next, GROCERY STORES???????????
It’s okay if you need to lie down after reading that; I needed to take a sabbatical after hearing it. But it didn’t rob me of the simple joy that I had derived from doing that one thing at least 10,000 thirteen-year-old girls were probably doing at that same moment. This is something I’ve noticed about getting older: overlooked joy. Finding it in places where I hadn't thought to look or never spared longer than a passing glance. I feel the words from books I read more deeply, and hold them a little closer—sometimes reading them aloud and relishing every syllable in my mouth like a white woman in a yogurt commercial. I’m moving at the end of the summer and am already planning which vintage tub I want to buy and to paint blush pink and plant bulbs in because I like the idea of bright yellow daffodils blooming out of a pink vessel, the contrast a feast for my eyes. I like thinking about unpacking my mountains of books and where their new home will be, which title will be placed in which line of vision because something from that author moved me and I want to be reminded of it every single day.
This shift in perspective has rolled over onto my perception of self, too. I feel more comfortable in my skin. I pay attention to my body, to its wants and needs. I check-in with myself, making sure to stay in touch with every part of me, even the things once relegated to a storage unit whose key I have long since thrown away. I dress only for myself now, shedding the pressure—both self-imposed and otherwise—of looking and acting a certain way. All my tattoos are for me and only me, my body a canvas for the story I choose to immortalize.
That’s not to say that I don’t feel insecure some days, about my craft or the way I said something or the way I look, talk, or act. Some days, I look in the mirror and immediately want to throw a moist bathroom towel over my reflection. (If Claire’s is over, so can be your disgust for the word “moist.” Bitch, where is the outcry over “DISCHARGE”?) But my baseline self-esteem and attitude—towards myself and others—has elevated toward the kind of gentleness I needed ten years ago.
Don’t be fooled: I still welcome the asteroid that will be The One. Some days, I still hope to roll over and fall directly into a volcano. Everything is still terrible! But if I can exert agency to make things less terrible, I will. And I’m so thankful for this lesson that can only be learned in time.
Now please utilize yours to email me your favorite recipe for borscht.