I was 12 the first time I saw 13 Going on Thirty.
For all my fellow 90s babies, please tell me I’m not the only one who remembered the main character, Jenna, saying she couldn’t wait to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.”
At that time, I don’t remember whether I was wishing more to be 13 or 30, but something was clear: it looked fun to be an adult working for a magazine in New York City while dating a professional athlete. This was what thriving meant to Jenna, except that she realized she wasn’t and she wanted to go back to her 13-year old self and make different choices.
Over the years I’ve watched 13 Going on 30 probably half a dozen times, but it’s been a while since the last time. It’s been on my mind, though, because I’m about to turn 30!
I don’t know what I want this post to be: a rant about the silly expectation of having one’s life “together” by age 30, the even sillier idea that there is such a thing as having one’s life “together”, or my attempts to accept the fact that I’m turning 30 years old.
Probably all of the above.
Wow. Me? A thirty-year-old? Or as one of my colleagues said, “A member of the 20s alumni club.”
My biggest “dread” when I have a birthday is the expectations that I assume people thrust upon me because I’m a year older, or, in this case, entering a whole new decade. There’s something about turning 30 that makes me feel like I should have my life together.
And yet, I loathe that phrase: have your life together. What does that even mean? I grew up determined to be married with kids by the time I was 30. I would not be one of those older moms, I vowed. Well, I’m married and we have one child (the cutest one on the planet, obviously). We own a home and I have a job. So I guess I’ve made it, according to my arbitrary standards? *Shrugs*
Yet, it feels incomplete, like there’s always something more. And I know it’s because God needs to have more time in my life and all of the various distractions du jour need to have less time. Less scrolling, more praying.
I think my big lesson in my 20s (see me there talking about my 20s like it’s in the past?) was that the ache for “more” will always be there, but I will continue to feel like I’m rotating furiously on a hamster wheel if I think following in the footsteps of Eat, Pray, Love is the answer. Or if I think collecting awards or honors will quench that thirst. Or if I think “burning it all down and starting from scratch” while I abandon all of my life’s responsibilities will help. Even if I think marriage and having children (which are both good and beautiful pursuit) will heal this ache, I will be disappointed.
I thought marriage and children would magically heal me. No more insecurities, no more anxieties or frustrations. All past wounds would be healed overnight. I’d never complain about my husband or my children because I’d be so eternally grateful for them that I’d be able to laugh off any annoyance they caused because thank God I had them. HA!
But I have these things and I love them. And they’re not enough because they’ll never be enough. Why would we seek God if we feel totally filled up by the people and circumstances in our life? Like Mathew Kelly says, we all have a God-sized hole in our heart. I need this daily reminder because I often think, I’ll feel filled up once I accomplish X,Y,Z or once I do A,B,C.
Your Life Isn’t Together Without God
The one thing I keep coming back to, though, is that I wouldn’t want to live this life without God. None of us are living without God; whether we want to admit it is a different thing. He sees us even if we refuse to acknowledge him.
To borrow Mother Teresa’s words, I’d rather be faithful than successful. My hope is that I really lean into that. I want to want to be faithful rather than successful. I probably need to spend more time praying and less time marketing my novels.
I want to be clear: That doesn’t mean success in worldly terms is bad. In fact, when people create art or food or literature that is true, good, and beautiful, then it’s natural that it’s going to be a hit! Go search for the art from Pax.beloved or Salt & Gold Collection and you’ll see what I mean.
I think we get in trouble when we’re willing to go for that when it involves ignoring what we think God is calling us to do. To achieve “success” while growing in virtue is what I want. If I make lots of money, but have not grown in virtue, then I feel like I’ve failed.
Recently, in a homily at Mass, the priest was talking about the famous reading with Mary and Martha while Jesus visited their home.
“Martha, burdened with much serving, came to [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’
The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.
Usually, I focus on how Jesus was calling Martha to put down her spoon, so to speak, and tend to what is most important. But at Mass, the priest made the point that even though Mary put Jesus first, that doesn’t mean we can’t ever be Martha. In fact, we all have to be Martha at times. Someone has to cook. Someone has to clean. If they had all sat around Jesus, there would have been no meal to share.
I don’t think Jesus was criticizing Martha’s actions; he was pointing out the flaw in her mindset. She was anxious and worried. Mary was calm because her thoughts were with the Lord. So I think there’s a way to act like Martha and think like Mary. Sometimes that will lend itself to scrubbing down a pan after dinner and other times it’ll be an hour of silence in Adoration.
So maybe my goal in my 30s is to embrace both Mary and Martha.
I want success only if it’s a byproduct of my faith. I want to become a great writer, but only if I grow in virtue. I want this blog and my podcast to grow in readership and listenership, but only if I grow in virtue.
Soon I will be thirty, not flirty, and trying to thrive. Please, pray for me!