The Last Big, Fat and Unpleasant Lesson of My 20s - driftyland

Unless I get a magical gap of free time before now and Friday, this is one of my last posts of my 20s.

It feels weird.

I want to preface this post by saying that I hate I’m writing it. It feels sad, vulnerable, and generally, the subject matter isn’t super uplifting. It embarrasses me that I’m feeling this way. That this happened.

But if I’ve learned anything in the past decade, it’s to lean into discomfort. So here we go.

A few weeks ago, (I believe it was around Memorial Day), I was trying to think of something low-key to do for my birthday. I didn’t really want a party, and since I was going to Europe the week before, a trip was out. July 14th is convenient this year, perhaps a universal favor for entering a new decade.

I was in Detroit when I had the idea.

“What if I had people write me letters for my birthday?” I asked Sandra, my fellow 29 (now 30) year old friend.

She thought it was a good idea, too. It was far enough away to give people notice, wasn’t asking much. Then, walking through her kitchen, I remember breaking my rule of never saying anything over confidently out loud.

“Yeah,” I laughed. “Unless I don’t get any.”

In the weeks that have passed, I’ve solicited the letters via Facebook and through conversations with friends. They could be anything, I said. The plan was for people to send them to my parents house (so I could be surprised), and my older sister Beth would bundle them up and send them to me by the 14th.

Flawless plan, right?

Side note: It’s probably best not to try to be surprised on a birthday.

I couldn’t wait for those letters. Annabel and I talked about how I could spend my birthday night opening them. I was really curious about what people would say, how they would say it – that’s the writer in me.

It felt good, exciting and gave me something to look forward to while simultaneously distracting me from the fact I was turning the big 3-0. I’m generally the oldest of my friend group, my co-workers, and despite the assumed wisdom that comes from that, I’ve always felt just a little uncomfortable about it.

But the letters would make it easier, a small voice told me.

So earlier this week, the project manager in me texted my family to make sure I received them by Friday.

“I’ll pay to overnight them,” I told my sister. “Just let me know how much it is.”

Her response caught me off guard. She’d send them, sure.

But there were only two.

“Wait… two?” I replied.

It didn’t sink in right away. I temporarily took on the role of an elementary school child who didn’t get any valentine’s or assumed her birthday invitations got lost in the mail.

“Are you sure?” I asked. She was sure, though, she said a few people had mentioned they might send letters later on.

The sweeping disappointment that followed shook me. I cried. I called my mom (who I rarely call for things like this), exploded my feelings all over her, and listened as she said Mom things like, “well, maybe some are coming to your house,” or “a lot of people don’t really like to write, Missy.”

Then, came the words that (unintentionally) made me feel the worst.

“I thought you’d be happy with whatever you got,” she said.

Because I had, too.

The truth is that I hoped I’d be a little wiser, or more informed by 30. Now, on the cusp of it, there’s still I haven’t figured out about myself, about my life. I guess I had wanted the letters to color the occasion a bit, to give me some kind of solace that I wasn’t entering the next phase of my life without anything to go off of.

Because despite my preference for solo adventures, solitude, and staying occupied… it gets really lonely. Like claw scratching your heart lonely. I feel like life has presented me with a lot of opportunities for growth through solitude, but at the same time, I’m tired and yeah, sometimes it makes me question why I’m not closer to people.

The absence of the magical letters reminded me, overwhelmingly of a few things:

  • I was going to turn 30, if I wanted to or not.
  • I was still single AF, if I wanted to be or not.
  • I wasn’t really any wiser or well informed.

And of course:

  • I would turn 30 alone, without a lot of answers.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, but I’ve been a lot more emotional lately. I feel the fatigue that I’ve heard other people talk about, about how life never becomes predictable, and everything always changes. That nothing ever works out the way you thought it would.

There’s something so liberating, yet terrifying about that.

After I had my good ugly cry (we all have those sometimes), I wandered over to a bar in Wilmington, Bottega. They were having a songwriting workshop (I’ve been to one before), that was mostly just a circle of musicians practicing their originals.

“Do you play anything?” a bright-eyed, guitarist asked.

“No, I just write.” I mumbled.

I wasn’t really there to engage with anyone, initially. I just wanted to get out of the house and distract myself. As soon as my mood was apparent to everyone there, I just kind of listened as other people played their songs.

As the night went on and I heard their music (as well as some awesome covers, head over to my Instagram for that), I started to feel lighter.

One girl, in a long, colorful gypsy like dress sang about a boy wasting her time. Another man strummed his guitar and painfully sang about someone he had memorized, before losing her completely. And more. And more truth. And more pain.

So…maybe I don’t have to be alone in these types of feelings. Maybe there’s some solidarity in that. Maybe there’s something to be learned there, as well.

Although it’s tempting to seclude oneself, to break off and hide in solitude, the big takeaway I have from the past few years is how liberating it can be to get vulnerable with other people. To face my loneliness, confusion, and struggles head on. To use those feelings to emphasize with others, to make those feelings productive.

Or maybe not. Either way, I’ll see. Tomorrow is the day, and I’ll be going into it as the person I am right now – not the once imagined, more sophisticated version I thought I would be.

Whether I want it to be or not.

And there’s something kind of liberating and honest about that, too.