Hey beautiful people!
I am roughly 4 days from my birthday and staring 30 right in the face. One thing that I have seen a lot is posts claiming that 30 is the new 20, along with all types of algebraic equations so that people don’t have to call themselves what they are. (“I am 20+10…NOTTTT THIRTY”!) More power to you, but…
What’s wrong with 30?
Before I begin, let me state the fact that this post doesn’t come from a woman who has done everything that she set out to do by 30. Not even close! I look back at lists that I wrote, and depending on the day, I either laugh at my folly or shake my head in despair (kidding.) But this post DOES come from a woman who is saved by grace, oand that means that even my missteps have the aroma of a second chance clinging to them.
Here is why, for me, 30 is not 20
- At 20, I was in a dead end situationship.
I haven’t been a serial dater, so I don’t have a whole lot of horror stories, but the ones I do have are pretty spectacular in their awfulness. I can’t remember which, but if the years line up correctly, I was either wasting my time with the African boy who was trying to marry me quickly for citizenship (yes, really), the Friday’s waiter boy who told me that I was too “white bread” (i.e. not willing to live on what he considered the wild side), or the Armenian Hopkins boy that was perfectly content with making out on a computer chair in his dorm room but not much else. These weren’t all simultaneous, I just can’t remember which one I was talking to 10 years ago. The common vein that runs through all three is that none of them valued me. This has something to do with their own respective immature mindsets and EVERYTHING to do with my lack of self worth. Let me be transparent here: I am aware of the dating mistakes in my lineage. I know what I want out of a relationship–and I “knew” back then, too. But a love language of words of affirmation that was unrefined and not prayed over manifested itself as CRAVING acceptance and love from some pretty incorrect sources. In order to have a love language, you have to love yourself enough to know what you need from somebody else. My 30 is not my 20 because I love and like myself enough to know (and bounce back quickly to knowing in my weaker moments) that I am worth a lot to God spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. As He whispered in my ear at 24: “you have saved yourself this long and THAT’S what you give yourself to? No, girl”
- At 20, I was in unhealthy friendships.
See above. When you don’t know who you are or Whose you are, you are liable to accept whatever comes your way because you are grateful for the company. I was friends with people with whom there was an unhealthy balance of power—I was constantly seeking to make them happy and there was no reciprocity. There was also a lot of drama present–I was spending time with people who were making unwise choices and reaping the results. I’m not really a fan of Tyler Perry’s movies, but one thing that Madea said that has always resonated with me is “I would rather be by myself in the corner with a puppy and a goldfish than live with somebody in my house and wonder what the h*ll they’re here for.” I often say that peace is paramount in my life. I am past the point where drama and pettiness and tit-for-tat and controversy is fun. Of course, I love people and I value what they bring to my life, but I also wholeheartedly believe in getting a return on my investment–not in money per se, but in energy, effort, and time. The Bible says in Romans 12:10 to take delight in honoring each other. Another translation says to outdo each other in showing honor. I have some friends that I see once a week and others where we go a couple of months between visits, but the greatest common denominator in all of the people that I count as close friends is that current of reciprocal love that flows between us. My 30 is not my 20 because, although Madea was talking about her real house, metaphorically, my house is my life and I keep friends in my house whose purpose I never have to wonder about.
- At 20, I wasn’t confident in my professional worth.
Around that time, I was working in an unnamed family fun spot here in Baltimore, and was making exactly 7.00 an hour. Whew. It worked for me because, like your average 20 year old, I didn’t have many responsibilities. I had my license but no car, a Virgin Mobile cell phone, no rent to pay—my little 300 dollar checks were golden! There was one problem though. I signed a contract that said that I was to make 7/hr for the first 90 days, after which I’d have a performance review. If they were pleased, I’d be bumped up to 7.25/hr for another 90 days and then I’d have another review. If they were satisfied with my work after those 180 days, I’d be bumped up again and top out at a whopping 7.50/hr. Somewhere along the line, I got wind that new people coming in the door were starting out at 7.50, with the same quarter raise every 90 days until they topped out at 8.00/hr. In my mind, this wasn’t fair–you mean to tell me that after being a loyal and model employee for a year at this point, someone who was just starting to work there would make the same starting salary as what I currently made after working up to it? But do you know what I did? I complained to myself and commiserated with coworkers…and I stayed there for roughly another year before pursuing another opportunity. Not once did I go to management and state my case and ask for a raise. Not once did it occur to me to challenge the status quo. In the book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change”, Linda Babcock says that 46% of men are willing to negotiate their salary, while only 30% of women are. Out of those above percentages, 39% of men are apprehensive about the negotiation, and 55% percent of women are. While men are expected to bargain, wager, and argue, women fear being perceived as argumentative or a “nag”…simply because of asking for what they feel they deserve. When women DO negotiate, however, they are quite successful. I was a great employee at Unnamed Family Fun Place–I was always on time, respectful, good with families and schools, a team player, and in uniform. Chances are, had I negotiated, I would have gotten that raise! Fast forward to this year in my job as an assistant teacher, I really tried my best to be a model employee. I showed integrity, outperformed expectations, tried to think of solutions before problems arose–and it paid off! I was asked to take on some leadership duties–and guess what some of my first questions were about: compensation. My 30 is not my 20 because I understand that my time and my talent are worth something. People will take all that they can for the free.99 if you let it be known that that is your modus operandi. It is no longer mine.
- At 20, I had analysis paralysis.
I cared a WHOLE lot about what people thought about me. Do you know how exhausting it is to weigh every interaction, every move, every conflict, and every notion against the perceived potential judgement of other people? There were things that I did not say that should have been said and things that I should have protested but didn’t because I didn’t want to make a scene. I looked at friends of mine who have always been the ones to say what others are thinking and thought how much better they must sleep at night compared to me, lying awake with all of the things I wanted to say running circles around my head. My 30 is not my 20 because, while I am still not a fan of a confrontational conversation, I have learned that as long as my Lord and my mama are pleased, I am ok. (Sometimes, not even my mama….we had to work on her excitement for these tattoos and the nose piercing). Everything ain’t for everybody, and while I have a network of trusted girlfriends that have earned the right to critique my life decisions, my life is my own at the end of the day. In the Spirit of the Lord, there is FREEDOM, and that means freedom from the weight of what people think. This year, I pierced my nose, traveled abroad alone, shook my behind at a silent party with my sis and my headphones to keep me company, and drove to Virginia for a conference at the spur of the moment. And it was great. The year isn’t even over yet!
There are countless other examples, but these are four big reasons why I am excited to head into this third decade of my life. I have learned so much, and it is my hope that with these lessons, I can avoid some of the heartbreak of my 20s. I predict that these will be my best years yet!!!