I recently turned 31. So far, it feels pretty good.
There’s just something about being out of the tangled, insecure, woods that were my 20’s that feels refreshing.
I’ve gone from thinking I knew it all at 21 to realizing, ten years later, that I know very close to nothing at 31. And I’m okay with that.
It’s liberating, to get away from feeling like I need to get everything figured out. 30 taught me that that’s never going to happen. I will never know the right time to do anything, or be anything, or say anything. Opportunities will flow through my life in moments, like sand through my fingers, and it’s totally up to us to recognize it and clench our fists, even if we’re not ready.
I mean, as a person with anxiety, there are moments where this idea that anything could happen is terrifying. Like, I could technically get hit by a silent Prius Uber tomorrow. Yikes.
But then, it’s exhilarating. Anything could happen.
That means anything good. Or fantastic. Or exciting. Or new.
Because if life has taught me anything, even the things that seem terrible can often turn out to be more than okay.
I swore up and down and across and diagonally that I would never be a teacher.
And it is in teaching that I have found my purpose in life.
Or tomatoes. I always told people I hated tomatoes. “Really?” they would ask, dumbfounded.
“Always have, always will,” I would comment confidently.
Now I freaking love tomatoes. Not as much as teaching, but still, my point still stands.
Turning thirty was amazing to me, and whenever I would do something new, or say something to my Uber Vanilla VP, or people just like her, because I just had to call out their ignorance, I would think, because thirty. Like, at 29, I was still at the edge of Insecurity Woods and was hesitant to come running out of them like a banshee because, what would people think?
Somehow, when I turned thirty, that didn’t seem to matter that much. What started to matter more was, what I would think of myself if I didn’t do what I thought was the right thing.
It’s like the moment I entered the wide open space that is my thirties, my insecurities shriveled and fell away, like dead skin or a scab. My resolve and confidence shifted into place and solidified somewhere inside me. I literally felt like I grew a stronger backbone, my vertebrae firmly holding each other up. Holding me up.
Suddenly, it wasn’t whether I could be confident. I am confident.
It wasn’t whether I could look strong. I am strong.
It wasn’t about wishing I could trade my armor in for paler skin and blonde, straight hair. I have armor, but I am committed to the fight so that others don’t have to wear their’s.
It wasn’t about choosing which culture I wanted to identify with. I choose to be a proud Latina woman who grew up in the United States and therefore, can identify with both cultures with the same ease that some people go between seasonal creamers in their coffee.
It wasn’t about trying to hide my naturally curly hair and full lips so that I seem less different to the majority of those around me. I learned to love these features, because they are the same features of my parents and my ancestors who have fought to bring me to where I am today. My differences are also what defines me and sets me apart. I’ve learned that that is a good thing. Also, my lips look damn good in a bright red lip.
All because thirty.
Now, looking at thirty one, I wonder what this wide open field has in store for me. Maybe an amazing new view as I go into teaching 8th grade. Maybe a few landmines as I navigate this interesting new decade.
I’m ready for it all. Because 31.