Where Were You At 30?

My 30th birthday was not only not my best, but might be my very worst birthday. Ever.

That winter I had been patiently waiting for my acceptance letter to graduate school to finally get on with my life and start accomplishing some big dreams.

Well, as it happens, I got my letter the morning of my BIG 3-0. Apparently I hadn’t seen it in the mail the afternoon before, mostly because it was a small, run of the mill envelope – and you know what that means.

Yep. “We’re sorry to inform you that we were unable to accept your application. We appreciate your interest in this competitive program, blah, blah, blah.”

And that was it. I lost control of my legs, my tear ducts and the will to go on. Really.

I just fell to the floor in shock. Actually, at first, I don’t know if there really were tears or just gasps of air. I do remember being curled up in the fetal position though because I thought I was going to lose control of my guts as well.

It was shock. Utter shock.

This was the moment I’d been waiting for for almost 10 years. All of the past decade had been in preparation for grad school and now it wasn’t going to happen.

I just couldn’t move.

I didn’t know how I was supposed to move forward. I was stunned, afraid, angry, ashamed and most of all, lost.

Eventually, I convinced myself to get up and just go to work because I had no idea what else to do.

But how was  I actually going to face teaching that day? How could I inspire a group of students to focus on their education when all I felt like doing was kicking any and all educational institutions in their undercarrriage?

When I thought about anything in the future it looked completely black and I was actually scared I might say something eerie or deeply depressing that would infect people around me with my scary, dark outlook.

So I was really expecting to be a mess that day but surprisingly (very surprisingly) it actually turned out not so bad.

Apparently, when I’m in emotional overwhelm, my default setting is super-annoyingly cheerful girl. I think it was to overcompensate so no one would ask what’s wrong with me. I just needed to forget about the morning and make sure I didn’t get fired for saying something homicidal.

But, strangely, that wasn’t a worry at because after class, my boss suggested drinks and I was totally on board. I decided to keep my birthday a secret the whole night and just enjoy the casual company with a couple of colleagues.

That morning, I really thought I’d never laugh again, but life pretty quickly showed me otherwise. It was a great night.

And then, the next few months were up and down from darkness to light, and back to a lot of darkness. But I eventually crawled out of my funk and got back to reality.

I decided to beef up my application and try again. And through the process I learned a lot about how tough I am and how much I can take.

This was around the time that I started chronicling my journey of being in my thirties and asking the questions about what it means to be an adult today, and how are lives inevitably  and specifically change after the big 3-0.

That journal turned into this blog, and this blog has helped me create a successful coaching and speaking career, so I guess it all worked out.

The thing is, what really shook me on my 30th was that I felt like 30 was the deadline to get my act in gear. That’s why I was so desperate when my plan fell apart. I couldn’t see making any changes after 30 because I thought I was supposed to have it all figured out BY 30.

Once I gave myself a break and convinced myself that there’s life after 30,  I calmed down and started again.

..and I’ve started again and again since then!!

And I’m proud of it.

So how about you?  How was your day when you turned 30?  Or, if you’re not quite there yet, how do you hope your day will be?  I’d really love to hear your story in the comments or on the Facebook page. And check out ashewoodward.com for more for your thirties!