Monday, November 12, 2007

On Turning 30 (Personal Post)

I'm having a more difficult time than I thought I would with turning 30. I never thought I would get caught up in the dramatics that are so commonly attached to this crossing of the threshold, but here it is. Normally a birthday for me is just another day. I barely acknowledge the passing of age because it doesn't feel like I'm a year older; it just feels like I'm a day older. I've already spent the past year, so why would it feel like I'm a year older when I'm only actually a day older? I figured that my 30th birthday would be the same; just another day.

But it's not. It's a landmark. I've been alive for thirty years. I've spent three decades on the planet. What do I have to show for it? At least one of those decades should have been spent making something of myself, and when I look at where I am, I feel like that time has been squandered.

If I'd turned 30 five years ago, it wouldn't have been a problem. Five years ago, I was married, I had a respectable career, and I was living independently. I was well on the way to establishing a direction for my life, and I was achieving my goals. Now, it feels like I'm twenty again, only a decade later. I'm no longer married, I no longer have that respectable career, and I'm no longer independent. All of this was of my own choosing, so I'm not blaming anyone or anything. It's just that when I'm 30 and in the same place most 20-year-olds are, it makes me feel the pressures of time more readily. I feel the pressing need to get my status back on par with my age, and I have one entire decade less to do so now. That is as frightening to me as it makes me feel old.

I don't think my problem with turning 30 is actually a problem with age, though. I think it's a matter of facing my current reality. No matter how much I know or how much I've done, it doesn't change where I am and what I'm doing with it. It doesn't matter that I've been a troubleshooter, an avionics technician, a supervisor, and a college-level instructor before. It doesn't matter that I know I can do so many different jobs if given the chance. What matters is that I'm given the chance, and it seems that fewer and fewer places are unwilling to hire someone based on what they say they can do, or even what they have done in the past, but what is down on paper. When you're working 1,110 days in a 231-day work year, you have very little time to go to college and learn every single thing not to do as a manager. I've been forged through trial by fire for seven-plus years, but it doesn't matter because all that isn't documented. Besides, I hate the term "manager" because of the phrase "Leaders lead; managers just manage." I prefer to think of myself as a leader because the military instills leadership qualities in the discerning, willing soldier. Maybe that's why I can't get a better job; maybe my experience is just too intimidating. Or maybe it's because I've lost the desire to be a manager anyway. Mangers are nothing more than underappreciated cogs in a thankless machine.

None of that matters, though. I've just been saying all that to work my fingers. I've been derailed from my life's path, and I've been actively ignoring the enormity of its impact for the past couple years. Turning 30, actually acknowledging that I have one decade less to catch up, is suffocating with anxiety. If I want to ever have children, I need to find a mate, and I'm not getting any younger, thinner, more attractive, or less bald the older I get. Before I find a mate and make a commitment, I need to have a career and a place of my own, and the further removed I get from my previous experience, the more of it I lose.

That is the burden of starting at 30 where most people are at 20. Fuck the experience I've gained; what I need is time. My problem with 30 isn't a problem of age, or pride, or attractiveness that besets most people who have a problem with it. It's the very real and very troubling burden of the lack of time that causes me such anxiety. It's the sudden and striking actualization of my current status in life compared to my previous that troubles me most. It's the acknowledgement that I may never achieve what I most desire in life that depresses me, and it's the depth of an unknown future that frightens me. I have no idea where I'm going to end up or how I'm going to get there, and I hate embracing the unknown.

And time is running out.


[Sorry if this post is sloppy and disjointed. I've had an absolute motherfucker of a day, and I wasn't really in the proper frame of mind, but I was under the pressure to get this out before I had to go to work.]

np: Todd Rundgren - "Day Job"

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