On Turning 30

I turned 30 in October. While I am not one of those who lament the aging process, I am trying to get my mind around everything that is turning 30. Whether you are right there with me, well past it, or approaching it, won’t you join me in rationalizing this glorious yet confusing milestone?

Here goes nothing…

I thought once I got out of my 20’s I would feel like a real adult. Boy, was I wrong. 30 is a dangerous age. On the outside, I’m a card-carrying adult who people, on most counts, seem to take seriously. That doesn’t, however, leave me any comfort. On the inside I feel like I’m pulling off the biggest scam the world has seen. Why would  they listen to me? I’m just a ki…nope…not anymore. I’m old enough to know what I’m doing, young enough to feel like I don’t, but too old to fall back on any youthful excuse. Playtime is over. 30 is dangerous.

At 30, I can run some startling numbers. I’ve been out of high school as long as I was in K-12. By now, I could have gone through college 2 more times. I can now, with a firm memory, look back on certain things and say “That was twenty years ago.”  Who knows? I might be saying that to a 12 year old kid, to whom I can logically say “I’m old enough to be your father.” Shocking.

Now, in my neither green nor ripe age, I’m already starting to say old man things I feel too young to say.

“Rain must be comin’. My knee is acting up.”

“I can’t eat donuts. They give me heartburn… No, not even one…I SAID I CAN’T EAT DONUTS.”

Turning 30

Just today I snapped the car radio off while a new country song was playing and remarked to my wife, “It just sounds like a bunch of hollering to me.” She laughed and told me her dad had uttered the exact same words when she was a teen. I didn’t care. It DID sound like a bunch of hollering.

As a lifelong student of music, I have probably spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the great musicians over time–Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney, Cobain, Mozart–puzzled at  how they could exude the kind of brilliance they possessed. How could they revolutionize their craft and create their most stunning work mostly in their teens and twenties? I’m starting to think, now that I’m out of my twenties, that maybe artistic excellence relies heavily on both genius and the bravado of youth. I don’t think about it as often now.

There are some upsides of turning 30. It seems now I don’t really care that much how I appear in public. I don’t feel the need to look, sound, or act cool. My swagger is fading. I don’t think I’ll miss it. I just want to get some sleep and to be left alone.

In public, I used to feel the same irritation toward college kids that I felt about high schoolers while I was in college. Now I just ignore all of them unless I’m in a store and want to know where the nearest bathroom is. At 30 I always want to know where the bathroom is.

So what is 30? It’s a dangerous middle ground.  I’m not a kid anymore. But I feel like it. I’m not middle-aged. But I feel like it. Right now, for me, 30 is the place to be.

How about you? Thirtysomethings sound off! 40 year olds (and above), does it get any better? Does each milestone present its own challenges?


The Beginning
About Jared Tullos

Husband and Father to 3. Doodler, Tinkerer, Stinkerer. Regional Standout in Staying Alive the Goodest.

As a Southern country boy living in the city, I have experienced both the horror of gridlock traffic and the hilarity of seeing a chicken eat a snake.

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  1. I felt the same way turning 30 two years ago, especially about stuff that is now 20 years in the past. This year we just passed ten years out of college, so now everything feels like it was way in the past. And all the stretching you have to do to warm-up for your warm-up when working out. Damn, I’m old.

  2. At 54, I can say that I began to feel like an adult just a few years ago. The trick is to balance the feeling of a stable life with a good set of beginner’s eyes. Never get old. Listen to lots of new music. Always work out. Find new stuff to do all the time-learn to sculpt or jump out of a plane or start doing musical theater. I feel stable & calm, but I still feel about 32 on the inside (and at 32, I was far from stable & calm.) And, thankfully, despite a few serious scares of late, I am healthy. As Jimmy Valvano once said “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” The day you give up and “act your age” is the day you start getting ready to die.

    • That’s really great advice. I’m actually starting to live my life that way little by little, and the payoff is great. I’m starting to revisit old passions I had when I was a kid, drawing for instance, and I’m in better shape now than I have ever been despite some back problems. “The trick is to balance the feeling of a stable life with a good set of beginner’s eyes.” Good stuff right there.

  3. I would never go back to my 20s. “Those weren’t the days,” is the refrain around my household. In a couple of months I’ll turn 40, and I can say that the 30s have been absolutely fantastic. But my outlook on things entering the new decade is brighter than ever.

    My tip for feeling young: ride a bicycle. Always.
    (I still get carded for beer occasionally. Something’s working. Maybe the beer?)

  4. Stephen Lilly says:

    I am 38, and what I can tell you about my turning 30 is as follows: At first I started acting old, and then I starting feel old. Through a series of events, I quit acting old and for the most part I no long feel old. In short, your attitude will determine what 30 does to you,

  5. 40 is a harder hit than 30. That’s when people who are truly still children in your mind are working at the same company you are; you might even have to respect their input. 40 is when things that seem perfectly normal are defined as “old-school”. 40 is when teachers, police officers and doctors might just be younger than you, and you’re not convinced they have enough experience. 40 is when you realize that no matter how much you try, you will not know the latest, coolest band. And yet you still don’t feel as grown up as you thought your own parents acted at this age. You’re still waiting to feel like a real adult; all responsible and stuff. But as said already, you really are only as old as you feel. Attitude (and perhaps a bike) will keep you youthful for a long time.

This is what I think...