Thoughts on Turning 30

May 28, 2023
Kingston, New York 
Tessa and Jill

    When I asked my friends how it felt to turn 30, the response I received was mostly that it was as big a deal as you made it. Most of my friends were card-carrying 30-something year olds for years before me. I felt like I got it - more money, better relationships and a sense of self, less fucks to give on whether people liked you. I could get behind it. After going through what I thought was my Saturn’s Return in my 20’s (only to find out it actually only began this year), I was ready to GTFO of my 20’s. I was ready to join all my confident, wise, disposable income-having friends in their 30’s. 

For me, it felt like a heavy lingering smell in the air entering the room a few months before my birthday. I really, really felt it. I can be overly sentimental, and birthdays are my national holiday for unecessarily intense self-reflection. Some stuff that came up:

- I’ve seen a few important friendships recently fall apart, and I took them all pretty hard. Friends who didn’t really try to keep up or stay in touch, friends who didn’t have a handle on their insecurities and projected them onto me, friends who never showed up or got in touch when I decided it wasn’t my responsibility to show up over and over again without reciprocation. The way I grew up meant that I’m constantly looking for signs that people don’t actually love me, that I’m constantly looking for ways to be a good girl to keep those relationships. By showing up relentlessly, by being compassionate even when it blows past my own needs, by being helpful and fun and good company. What I ended up realizing was that long-standing and important relationships shift and will continue to shift because we are all shifting, every single day. We’re constantly meeting and re-meeting each other and negotiating the shared future of our relationships. Change is the only thing we can plan for, and we can almost never plan for how other people act and change relationships we’re involed in. I have spent so much of my 20’s hyper-fixated on how everyone thinks of me, how much they love me. A little abacus in my heart counting every word, action, gesture. Being surrounded by dozens of people at my birthday party (maybe I was also on a little mushrooms) made me realize I was missing the forest of people who loved me for the handful of trees who no longer wanted me. Life is too short for that.

Image from @mysticmoonmedicine

- I had a plant ceremony recently that dealt primarily with darkness and shadow (in myself and in the world - I can only describe it as being put through a washing machine of hell), and it took me a few weeks of being in my white angsty man in a cabin era to allow my body to process how dark that experience was.

One version of me that has been hard to embrace, is the one that wants to be acknowledged and loved by others, and that self lives in the shadow that was confronted in that ceremony. It’s a desire that stretches into the deepest part of my smallest self, born from a childhood without support or love from others, and I’m so ashamed by it sometimes that it’s easier not to look. In not looking, I’m not giving myself the very thing I want — to be seen fully, by myself. I think it’s hard for even the most self-aware therapy nuts amongst us to be able to see fully behind the veil that protects us - the shitty behaviours, the secret anxieties, our common need to be cared for and loved. In purposefully squinting when looking at my shadow, I miss so much. I miss all the beautiful parts of me that are all mixed up with the people pleasing, the selfishness, the depression that has lived under my bed since I was a teenager. I can’t have one without the other. In avoiding the dark parts, I miss everything.

- I was under the impression that Asian women don’t get cellulite. I think it was something someone told me when I was 13, the age old cliche that Asian women don’t age (until we turn 70 and shrivel up into a prune). I’m starting to get cellulite, which has been accompanied by weight gain, and a new version of my body. I’ve been in the same 5lb weight range since I hit puberty.

Dealing with the physical changes of my body has returned me to a hyperfixation that has not been present in my life since I was in my early 20’s. I remember someone recently told me that women spend so much work and time getting used to the bodies and selves they cultivate, and then once you’re like, hell yeah,  I can navigate this, it switches up on you and the process starts again.


- To celebrate, I co-hosted a Memorial Weekend joint birthday party with my friend Jeremy at his home upstate. He barely has neighbors, at least not ones you can see or hear, a private creek and a hill that happens to be the perfect angle for a slip ‘n’ slide. We had 100 people come and eat hotdogs, dance, gab, and roll around in the grass, and a few of us stayed at the house and hung out the day after.

At one point my friend Jill was blowing bubbles in circles around her in a circle, my friend Trevor was doing handstands in the grass a few meters away, and my other friend Tessa was drinking a glass of wine in her bikini lying in the sunshine. We were fully in our bodies, making photos for fun, playing frisbee and being giddy 30-somethings in the sun. It was a wet dream for me, and everything I have ever wanted. To have fun with people who love me and can roll around in the grass with me.

I’ve spent the last ten years living in New York trying and trying to find the people who fit, who could love me. It felt like an impossible task because I spent so much time in my 20’s concerned with trying to become someone important and cool and consuquential. All of it has finally melted away to reveal an ironic truth - that I’m still just the same person I was at 15. It took me so much searching and fussing to simply return to her. Which is cool! And silly. I spent so much time searching for myself somewhere else when I was right here all along.

- I know less now than I ever have, and I know more now than I ever have, and thank god for that.

Image from @fariha_roisin’s IG Post, link to original video of his convo with Maya Angelou here