Why I’d Never Want to Be 30 Again
Eight reasons to celebrate life now
Suzanne Braun Levine was the first editor of Ms. magazine. She is the author of several books about women in Second Adulthood, including Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, Fifty Is the New Fifty and, most recently How We Love Now.
Why would I never want to be 30 again? Let me count the ways:
1. I am happier now. Back then, one misstep or misadventure would, as I lamented, “ruin the whole day.” I have become much better at taking things as they come. Several recent studies confirm that we get happier as we age, because of a mellowness that comes with time, along with an ability to roll with the punches. According to neurological findings, as we get older, the brain literally filters out minor annoyances and disappointments.
2. I’m less popular now. I used to be a people-pleaser. As soon as I found the voice to sing the “I don’t care what people think” anthem, I was off and running — talking back to anyone who was putting me down, taking advantage of me or was just wrong. I now take pleasure in being disliked by people I don’t like. It’s a refreshingly honest state of affairs.
3. I’m more forthright. I have figured out that I can take the truth and, even more important, I can tell the truth. Well, sort of. I’m still working on not sugar-coating bad news, disguising criticism as faint praise, and laughing when I really want to tell someone they have hurt me. Every time I succeed, I feel closer to my goal of authenticity in everyday life.
4. I know who my friends are. In my 30s, I didn’t have time for friends. I was too busy with work and family. But in my “new 30s” I have made new friends, reclaimed long-lost schoolmates and rediscovered people whose lifestyle (late nights, lots of travel, dating) made it too hard to stay in touch when mine changed. I can’t imagine the rest of my life without the friends I have come to call “my circle of trust.”
5. I have let go of my prized collection of grudges and disappointments. I used to be the one who never forgot a slight — to myself or anyone I loved. Indeed, I often found myself seething with resentment long after the offended party had forgiven and moved on. I just can’t be bothered with stale old baggage any more.
6. I find other ways to spend my personal time than watching my body deteriorate — unless it means sharing a good laugh with my friends. I like my body for what it can do and for being healthy and strong. Back before it began to sag, it looked better and could do more, but the truth is, much of the time I didn’t like it any better.
7. I kind of enjoy making a fool of myself. Dignity isn’t such a priority any more. I am told that you don’t really lose all sense of shame until you become a grandparent, which I am not. I will try out some unseemly behavior just for the fun of it. I recently signed up for a chanting (as in "om") workshop — though I passed on an invitation to take a hula hoop class. I can risk failing at something without feeling that my whole being has failed.
8. I cherish the glass half full. The precious moments in the day, the lovable qualities — amid the flaws — in my husband, my own spirit and skills are all gifts I count every day. As we often hear ourselves say about our circumstances, “it’s better than the alternative.” Even if the alternative is to be 30 again.