Why 30 is the New 24

This month's column looks back on motherhood, new beginnings, and how to emerge from a life slump even better than before.

For several years, I operated under the dismal and fatalistic belief that the best year of my life had come and gone. Never again would I be 24: my hair would never be as shiny, my future never as open and bright, my days never as exciting, my body never as healthy.

It was all a slow yet tolerably inexorable decline from that point: 25 was okay, you see, but just a smidge worse than 24. And 26, 27, 28? Well, those were the years that cemented this whole concept in the first place.

Feeling stuck in a career I hadn't really chosen and couldn't fully stomach, not sure if I was supposed to be young and carefree or suburban and encumbered with family, I sort of lingered through my late twenties. I resigned myself to acceptance. I would just lumber on, content that at least I had done a lot of fun stuff back then.

I had backpacked through Europe, I had lived a semi-glamorous single life in Manhattan, I had spent two years in the rarefied bubble of graduate school, learning for a (non-)living. It was okay that life's challenges were now just the stuff of the daily grind.

Happily, this year has shattered this pattern. I'm on track to claim 30 as the new best year of my life. Motherhood has set me off on completely novel pathways, ping-ponging me into new areas of challenge and reward.

Without the birth of my daughter two years ago, I doubt I would have taken the plunge of leaving my office job for an uncertain but life-changing departure into freelance writing. It wasn't for lack of unhappiness: I kept a running tally of business days I had left to endure for the last month of my pregnancy on a chalkboard in my kitchen. Every morning I crossed off one number and added a smaller, that much more freeing-digit. When I went into labor two weeks early, my husband crossed off the number 10 and wrote "Anna" across it. She had an agenda of her own, and I was happy to accompany her.

I'm doing things now I never imagined. On a whim a few months ago I signed up for a 100-mile bike ride to Montauk Point. Somewhere around mile 75 a commanding exhilaration hit me: it said "you have to do things. You have to do new things. Bigger things, better things, harder things. Things that make a life bigger."

Whatever was on my bucket list is now on a to-do list. I'm training for a triathlon; I'm planning to skydive next month; and I'm sure a marathon will be run in the near future. I'm going to write a book. No, I'm not just "going to write a book," I'm going to write a book. Maybe I'll open a small business. Or two or three.

And then there's motherhood itself, which I always knew I'd enjoy, but I couldn't have imagined how much, or how enriching, and hilarious, and fulfilling it is.

I'm blessed, of course, that my husband supports me in all those ways that allow me to do something I love, and I can't say what the future holds. But suddenly life's horizon is big again, like the day after a week of humid, rainy, cloudy summer days, when you realize, fall is breaking.

A big sky, a clear pathway into something better.

Jennifer September 07, 2011 at 02:31 PM
I really enjoyed this article. I am now 26 and it seems this line has captured how I am feeling perfectly, "not sure if I was supposed to be young and carefree or suburban and encumbered with family". Thank you for making me realize this is a universal feeling and not something only I was struggling with. I am also a graduate of The City University of New York. Nice to see other Alumni in the area. :)
eeeeeee September 07, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Love the sentiments expressed here - realizing that life is pretty much what one makes of it is the most liberating experience of all. Bravo !
Jen Clark September 07, 2011 at 04:53 PM
It might be the emotional day that I am having but thru my tears I write this....if "30 is the new 24"...is it possible that "40 is the new 34"? In reading this arcticle it has made me believe this is true. You can do anything at ANY age, if you are up for the fight! Thanks for the inspiration and for your truthful & heartfelt words!
Jen Clark September 07, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Your writing is refreshing! When you write from the heart you can't go wrong! Fantastic read!
Kristin Pearsall Costigan September 07, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I am eyeballing 30 and this article made that birthday a little bit more exciting. This is a great gut-check and I'm ready to revamp my to do list. Thanks!
Alex Sadowski September 08, 2011 at 12:34 AM
Good article Jackie!! You're a very good writer!


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