Recently I turned 31. My 30s have been much happier than my 20s. Had I known this I wouldn’t have been so unexcited or indifferent about turning 30. Now that I’m 31 the mental health journey is much more of a journey than a slog through the mud.
The beginnings of this journey, in my late 20s, were small, halting and often filled with what felt like mental muck that kept me nearly immobile. I felt like it was going nowhere, and fast. It was a season of patience and waiting that I didn’t take to well but I got there...eventually.
Having a birthday during the Before times had been hit or miss for me. I’ve had great ones with all our friends over to share food, games and, really, life together. I’ve had bad ones with a guy showing up at my house when I had just turned 18 and bringing cake, gifts, and off-brand silly string...it was too much and SO awkward because he was at least 4-5 year older and I had NOT indicated interest, we were friends from my martial arts class at the community center. I will never forget it, though sometimes I wish I could, but the whole story makes for a hilariously awkward conversation piece. Ask me sometime and maybe I’ll tell you the full story.
I should say that as I’ve gotten older the birthdays have gotten much better, though it’s never been a super important day for me above other special days. My philosophy seems to entail that I’m getting older, why is this one day more important than the rest when living life consistently well and happy seems more important. Also I never wanted to be THAT person about my birthday, and especially as I got older I didn’t want to worry SO much about getting or being older. It generally feels the same as the previous number. What’s the big deal?
So this year, in the After times, I was, maybe, rather indifferent about my birthday until I realized that it’d be the perfect time to take care of myself. I’ve been learning how to better take care of myself and set boundaries but I haven’t always been good at taking time off when I need it, let alone for fun.
I decided to go big and take the whole week of my birthday off from work and just get a feel for what I wanted to do with my time when I was in control of my days.
Turns out a bunch of nothing is just what I needed. I made the mistake, though I’m not confident I should label it as such, of buying myself a Switch and then a further decision of buying a platformer game, Hollow Knight, that I’ve had my eye on for years. I was nervous because I’d say I am a casual gamer and often platformers can be rather brutally frustrating. I gave Ori and the Blind Forest a try a while back and rage quit when there didn’t seem to be a way around a particular spot. The game was extremely beautiful, I wanted to love it. But, it wasn’t for me.
Thankfully, Hollow Knight has been challenging but not rage quit material. I think it’s actually been a good exercise in patience and learning a new kind of mindfulness. I have often liked hack and slash type games, meaning that I like to get in there and button mash until I win. Not my best strategy but it has served me well for many years, mostly… Playing this game has taught me to strategize and think more as I play. It’s been really helpful for continuing to fully live every moment. Also the artwork and soundtrack are amazingly beautiful. I actually found the game because of the music, I liked the sound so much that I checked out where it came from.
I spent hours nearly every day of my vacation playing Hollow Knight...and it was awesome!
Back to getting older. I’m not sure that I hate it. And I don’t think that your age has to dictate what you can and can’t do with your life. I feel like I’m living my best life in my 30s while it feels like society is trying to tell me that my best years are over. Screw ‘em, I’ve started to finally find myself, I’m happier and more in tune with life than I ever was before. Why do so many people hate getting older? It’s gonna happen whether you want it to or not, so why not go into it eyes open and allow yourself to age gracefully? You don’t necessarily need to like it but acceptance is a powerful thing.
And before anyone comes at me for saying I’m old at 31, please understand that I’m talking about getting older. I do not think that I am old, though I may joke about being SO old with my friends and family. There is nothing wrong with being aware of the passage of time and understanding your place in it.
So, go forth, accept that we all get older and, maybe, spend less time worrying about birthdays and/or aging and more time engaging with and enjoying life. I know I need to hear that from time to time, too.
—A Recovering Design Imposter
PS. This year's birthday involved vegan homemade pumpkin scones and a coconut cream tart alongside Indian food takeout. Everdell, a board game, was played while relaxation was maximized. Just me and the husband. ‘Twas a good day!