At the top of the year I wrote down six goals I planned to accomplish by June and even took a picture of the page so I would be reminded of these items when I looked through my phone. Sunday was probably the first time I actually looked back at that photo — and consequently remembered what I’d written down — and I realized I’d only accomplished one goal, thought I was about to achieve another but didn’t, completely forgot about two of them, said eff it to a fifth, and basically knew the sixth one was a long shot. It probably wasn’t a good idea to come across that sheet of paper 10 days before my 31st birthday.
Turning 30 was a big deal, mostly because society says so, though my coworkers also did an amazing job of making me feel like 30 year old’s lives matter last May. But turning 31? Not so much; mostly because I still feel like I’m in the same place as 30, but this year no one’s going to shower me with chocolate covered strawberries and well wishes, assuring me great things are to come in the next nine years. I was supposed to get that message last year and do something with it.
Just to be clear, I’m not the type who thinks 31 is old, though apparently other people do. I recently told a woman I would be 31 May 10 and she replied, “I won’t tell.” Wait, is it supposed to be a secret? Said woman was of the non-melanin sort who typically have more hangups about age than Black women so I let her be. Still, there’s a part of me that’s like damn, so I guess I won’t be making anyone’s 30 under 30 list — something I knew long before this week and even last year. But birthdays are kind of like Valentine’s Day, you don’t realize what you don’t have until everything around you draws attention to it. There’s another part of me that’s also thinking if I’m going to reach the estimated life expectancy of 87 years that the 401K financial adviser who visited our office last month so causally shared, I better get my sh-t together, fast. There’s also a third element that involves binge watching House Hunters International and Half-Priced Paradise on Netflix this past weekend that had me wanting to quit my job and move somewhere where sun, warmth, and friendliness isn’t a rarity as it is in New York right now. And then just as I saw an opportunity to teach English in Colombia for $400 a month, a figure which doesn’t even cover my monthly penance for getting a college education, a notification for a Sprint bill for $871.53 hit my email and I remembered I had real sh-t to deal with, like someone in Michigan stealing my identity and going ham buying tablets and adding phone lines to my account. Essentially, I’m inundated with first world problems I’d rather forget in favor of moving to a third world where sayings like “pura vida” and “no worries” actually mean something.
I guess the thing is now that I’m in my 30s and not looking toward them, I have to really ask myself what I want my life to look like. The likelihood is a third of it is already gone and the choices I make now set the tone for how I’ll live out the other two-thirds. Unfortunately, I don’t have the slightest clue. Some days I want to become one of the most prolific and thought-provoking African American writers of this century and a leader in the digital media space, other days fading into obscurity while freelancing on somebody’s island seems like a good bet. Do I want to be 50 wishing I would’ve done X,Y,Z when I was young? No. Do I want to be 75 singing for change on the subway platform because I put adventure before financial stability? Also no. And if you’re wondering why the latter was such an extreme outcome, that’s how my brain works; hence all the stress, pressure, angst, I have about this next year and making it count somehow.
The bright spot in all of this is I have signed up to go on a holistic retreat to Costa Rica for a week the day after my birthday. It’s a seven-day experience of wellness that I hope will give me some clarity about my direction once I return to the states because, really, the issue isn’t that I’m getting older; it’s that, in my mind, I’m not moving forward. And one thing I can’t live with, no matter how many more birthdays pass, is stagnation.