Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

Don't Wait Until 30 to Learn This Lesson

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset
Photograph by Twenty20

When I was younger, my mind often raced anxiously, wondering how anyone is supposed to know when they've officially grown up. For instance, 30-year-olds seemed downright ancient to me—not necessarily age-wise, but because all the 30-year-olds I knew or knew of had their shit together in a way I couldn't fathom. Newspaper articles and movies all touted 30-year-olds who had profound accomplishments under their belts.

Meanwhile, just a few years before turning 30, I only had a credit card because my parents named me as an additional card holder on one of their accounts. After I graduated from college and applied for a card in my own name, I was rejected and told that having no credit was the same thing as having bad credit. It was tough to imagine how I'd ever feel like an adult when I was still getting calls from my dad asking what I could have possibly spent $17.25 on in a diner where the most expensive menu item was $9.50.

My 20s continued to creep along and I watched friends growing up and out of their studio apartments and unhealthy relationships, while I remained miserably in both of mine. So I started a mental list of everything I figured needed to accomplish before turning 30 if I wanted to be considered an adult. The list included, but was hardly limited to: marriage, children, a fairy godmother to map out my retirement and just tell me once and for all how many deductions I was supposed to have taken out of each paycheck, and an invitation to drink Moscow Mules in the peony garden at Oprah's Santa Barbara estate.

RELATED: What a 20-Something Instagram Star Taught Me About My Mom Body

But when 30 was just a few months away, full-on panic set in as I realized that unless I gave birth to an unfertilized egg, I would not be a mother before my birthday. And only if the guy who flashed me on the subway was just practicing with his private parts before moving on to an Asscher-cut diamond engagement ring would I be married upon turning 30.

Panic then turned to depression as I felt as if adulthood eluded me, along with everything that came along with it, like spoon rests and being called "ma'am."

I felt brazen and bold and brash for the first time in my life. Whatever it was that I wanted, I was going to make it happen for myself.

Then it happened, just like that: I turned 30. I suspected I might wake up on the big day and realize I was farther along than I thought. But, nope. Ryan Gosling was not gazing at me lovingly with a latte and two Splendas when I woke up. I was still as Gosling-less at 30 as I'd been the day before at 29.

The difference, however, was a sense that I'd been given a reprieve. I'd turned 30, and just as the world didn't end on Y2K at the stroke of midnight, I was still there. My carriage hadn't turned into a pumpkin—and not just because I didn't have a carriage (or a pumpkin) in the first place. I took a deep breath of sweet relief as if I had unbuttoned my pants after consuming a Thanksgiving meal for 10 all by myself. College hadn't turned me into a real person. Neither had signing a lease or getting a checking account. It turned out there was no one punching my ticket, and there was no ticket at all.

The clarity with which I saw 30 made me look back on my 20s and realize why nothing that I had wanted to happen was ever going to happen: I'd been waiting for some one or some thing to come along and change my life, when the reality was it was me who needed to be the change. I felt born again, as if having the burden of turning 30 behind me meant I could start fresh and make things happen for me instead of waiting for them to happen to me.

Four months after I turned 30, I gave up my apartment and my awful boyfriend and moved 2,000 miles away from everyone and everything I knew. Having lived in the same state for 30 years, I felt brazen and bold and brash for the first time in my life. Whatever it was that I wanted, I was going to make it happen for myself.

There's not a chance I could have been a sound partner or loving mother in my 20s.

With the benefit of a new town where I knew no one, I forcibly checked my emotional baggage at the state line before passing over it. The first weeks were the scariest and loneliest of my life, but I made myself at least look cheerful while out in public. I forced my way into a career that was only a dream in my previous life, which led me to meeting my now-husband, who is the dad to our most darling (and devilish) daughters.

I've heard people say their 20s were the best, or their 40s. I can't speak yet for my 40s since they've only just begun, but I speak from experience when I say my 20s were a hot mess, while my 30s were the breath of fresh air that infused new life into one I previously thought was a failure. Unlike 30, turning 40 was a joy, as what mattered to me most was just as I'd always wanted it to be, because I'd made it happen.

RELATED: When Your Kid Thinks You're 'Just a Mom'

There's not a chance I could have been a sound partner or loving mother in my 20s—nothing could have penetrated the staggering emotional inexperience that held me prisoner in that decade. I don't wish turning 30 on anyone, but what I do hope for everyone is that being 30 (or any other age that they've similarly put on a pedestal for themselves) gives them the lucidity needed to do in their lives what they previously thought was supposed to be done for them.

Explore More: advice, birthday
More from pregnancy