On 30 (or, in the belly of the firefly)

So I turned 30 this year.

It was a lovely day. I slept in, kissed an apple-cheeked baby, ate good food, and spent the evening with friends. But after sleeping in, and before holding my best friend’s beautiful daughter, I walked out to my front porch with a cup of coffee, sat down to greet the morning rain, and I cried.

My tears confused me, because as far as I can tell, I’m not sad about getting older. I greet my thirties with mostly enthusiasm, knowing many undiscovered things await me in the next decade. But as the dawn of my life breaks to late-morning sunshine, I’m left to wonder: as new opportunities open up, which opportunities are closing to me?

Never again will I have the opportunity to be fascinated by fireflies, to turn cartwheels without turning my stomach, to live unconsciously in wonder of the world around me.

Childhood used to feel near at hand. Now it is more of a feeling than a memory.

That morning on the porch, I made a mental list of Things I Should Have By Now–now that I’ve breached the cusp of that 3-0 barrier. When I was 20, for example, I assumed that at 30, my life would have all the benefits of being A Real Adult. Of course I would have a husband, a house, a garden, perhaps even an apple-cheeked baby of my own.

But I don’t have any of those things. My life looks nothing like I would have expected it to at 20. I have a Master in Divinity and a churchy career. I rent a two-bedroom apartment. I hardly ever drink martinis (and they’re never dirty). But I do have a sweetly loving partner, a bright blue front porch, and a very cranky, very hilarious cat.

The last decade of my life I have lived in Quito and New York City, and I have visited Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Tromso. I have lived accomplishments and blunders, awkward encounters and transcendent moments. Life has provided me with a dramatic and privileged opportunity to glean all I possibly can from this world. How could I be disappointed by all that I have learned and experienced?

And yet, how could I not feel grief at the conclusion of such a decade of opulent discovery and reckless joy?

I do not fear the future, but I do mourn the loss of the present, of each moment as it passes. It skirts our grasp as we hold it.

(Perhaps the reason we have so much trouble staying in the present is because it is always leaving us, and because it takes so long to arrive.)

At the center of realizing that I am now 30 is the understanding that I will never be 12 again. And even though I am happy, sometimes all I want is to stare into the belly of a firefly and have no idea how it works, or how any of it works, and to be captured by the wonder of life

without consciously knowing that is it already passing me by.

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5 Comments on “On 30 (or, in the belly of the firefly)”

  1. julievanscoy says:

    this is a lovely post– you are an excellent writer!!!

  2. Tech Tard says:

    I agree with the above comment. Your writing is just beautiful!

  3. Happy Birthday.. does it still count? I wish you a wonderful new decade, full of all things new and new meaning for things that are old. The present is always coming and is always here, i’m glad you enjoy it :)

  4. armoni says:

    l am in the middle of 20s but l already feel those like looking back and looking at my life…and sometimes find myself even like living in the past and feel myself older than l am. :) l am hopeful more for 2013 but also have fear some little for future and aims. But still lm glad…and may be the important thing is not always having those classics like a house, car, baby, etc. you have your life with love, the way you look at life. everybody has his/her happiness in their own way. The important thing is may be that! :) having your happiness and your way of it. It is much more sweet than having in the classic way. Having the way you love.

  5. Katy Pye says:

    I got here via Freshly Pressed, which I rarely tap.

    Absolutely stunning writing.

    This is brilliant —

    “Perhaps the reason we have so much trouble staying in the present is because it is always leaving us, and because it takes so long to arrive.”

    I’m putting it above my desk.

    Thank you.


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