On Turning 33

A few weeks ago, I turned 33. Sam and Little Jedi and I had lovely dinner together and some scrumptious cake, but mostly things were calm and relaxed. Very different from some of my past birthdays (pleasantly so!), but I did find myself contemplating birthdays past and thinking about age and aging. Age is, after all, just a number, and what we consider “old” has changed drastically over the centuries and across cultures. Thirty-three, at this point, is still pretty young.

But our thirties are an age that we expect to see people doing certain things by. I see lists all the time about “30 things to do before you’re 30” or “20 things to do in your 20’s.” Of course, many of these listicles are lighthearted, and many of them revolve around life experiences. Although these lists are often gendered, they are much more expansive than they might once have been. But they’re still expectations–and they are gendered. Now I’m not saying that goals and expectations are inherently bad things. On the contrary, goals are often ways of categorizing what we most want to achieve with the finite amount of time we have, and expectations can be powerful motivators. It’s basing goals on an age and gender that I dislike.

At 33, I find myself: married to a wonderful man; the mother of a beautiful, smart, and emotionally astute 7 year old. I own my car, and even if I do rent my home, it’s a lovely one in New Orleans; I’ve had the chance to travel in Europe and throughout much of the U.S. So what if I don’t own a home or if I am still paying off student loans? Does it really matter that I still can’t wing my eyeliner or that I’m not trying too hard to avoid getting wrinkles? Who really cares if I can’t plan and cook a 5 course dinner party? Why do we evaluate ourselves by this kind of criteria?

So in the spirit of the day, I offer you short list of all the things that I think you should do, not before you’re 30, but just…Whenever you are, whomever you are, and however you are:

1. Make an effort to stop internalizing what the lists say. You’re probably never going to completely stop caring about some of this stuff, because we are immersed in gender and age expectations from the time we are born. Recognize that because of culture you WILL feel pressured by lists, by film and media, and even by people you know. Listen to those voices, but don’t let them become your voice.
2. We’re done here.

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  1. says

    Happy Birthday belated from someone 20 yrs. older than you. 🙂 – I like your list much better than most I’ve seen. I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, given not a lot of time to live and that was back in 2006. Life changed in a flash and lists became non-existant to me. Every moment is a gift and everyone and everything around you is amazing. Just live.. Live and say thanks and try to be kind. 🙂


  2. says

    We are almost exactly the same age, but if I look at my life compared to yours, we are quite different. I like this post though. I’ve been thinking of all these things and you are right. It’s been a pleasure to get to know how you are living life.


  3. says

    Some say 33 is a bit of a mystical age — this being because Jesus was 33 when he died on the cross. Also the double digit numerology, which can signify doorways and new beginnings. When I dream of my dead loved ones, they often appear to be age mid thirties… Hmmm. Anyway, you have accomplished a lot! I hope you have a great year 🙂


  4. says

    A belated happy birthday. I have believe in lists, they are not important. Take each day as it comes along and enjoy it, try to handle it or forget it.
    Think Positive! Hugs!


  5. says

    Happy belated birthday! I do find that those lists are somewhat overrated but your list is the most favorable one. 😀

    once again, Happy belated birthday and I hope you have a great years ahead!
    – from someone that couldn’t wing her eyeliner either.


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