Last week on the subway I read that the youngest person ever, Eleanor Catton, 28, of New Zealand, had won the Man Booker Prize for Literature. At first, I thought, “Wow, what an accomplishment. Good for her. You go girl.” (I didn’t say this out loud, don’t worry). But then the newspaper just couldn’t help rub it in…
They proceeded to list other amazing people who had accomplished great things by the tender age of 28. Apparently, Michelangelo sculpted the Pieta at 24, Einstein had published his famous paper on relativity at 26, and Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire by 23. What was strange about this list (aside from the fact that Mark Zuckerburg made it on a list with two of the greatest minds of all time) is that it started to make me feel bad about myself. I went from, “You go girl, “ to “Stupid Kiwi biaach,” (again not out loud….but almost).
Later I recognized that my first reaction was more genuine and less manipulated by the silly list. I also realized that as a writer of a blog on age, I should be more sensitive to how age doesn’t determine your worth and that we all do things in our own time. These words calm me still as a little part of me wants a prize for literature, even though I’ve never finished a novel.
I have to keep reminding myself that my plan is different but also that I too accomplished some great things before 28. They weren’t published in the newspaper or discussed on morning talk shows, but I still think they were pretty cool. So allow me indulge a moment and publish them here.
By 28 I had learned a third language, started my own business, and married the man of my dreams.
So, I wish Eleanor Catton the best with her novel The Luminaries and Mark Zuckerberg the best with his billions and I look forward to joining the list of famous accomplishments before 40.
What’s your list? I’d love to hear it and publish it for you here!
Rachel Green’s realization that she needed a plan in the Friends episode I mentioned a few posts ago got me thinking about plans and goals. I have my new action plan for being a writer but I went in search of some old goal lists that I have around to check out what I used to want. I knew they would be strewn with rock star plans and then dreams of academia so I wanted to read them to test out how I feel about those things now. Maybe I had accomplished some of the smaller ones and the bigger goals will give me a chuckle.
Luckily, I have always been a writer and I kept goal list throughout high school and university. In my high school “lyrics” book (my rock start fantasy phase), I listed “play a gig.” There’s a pink, highlighter check mark beside this one and that made me smile. I have played guitar and bass in front of numerous people and one show with a punk band when I was seventeen. I’ve never had a paying gig but I don’t have a desire for this anymore. I think a new goal for music is to play ukulele at an open mike night.
In my university diary I had a detailed list of how I would become a professor – a year-by-year plan. It also includes “be published before I’m thirty.” Sorry, twenty-two-year-old self, but I’m working on it.
I found it interesting that I never included get married on any list. That one was a surprise. A great surprise. I think that was the point of this for me – to remember that as much as you try to plan, there’s always a chance your goals will change, not happen for a better reason, or your achievements will be better than you could have imagined on any list.
Dare to look back, and if you don’t have lists, start a new one. I like to keep mine in my phone so I can review it when I’m bored or waiting for my dinner partner to get back to the table.
I’d love to hear your comments on new goals you’ve made or old goals you’ve changed!
It’s Canadian Thanksgiving and the tradition for the past five years is that my family goes camping and hiking in Lake Placid, New York in the beautiful Adirondack mountains. Most years it’s just my mom and me, like this year.
We camp at night but we eat dinner in town. There are some really cool places that don’t care if you’re in your dirty hiking gear. One restaurant called “The Cowboy” even has a drink called “Painkiller,” which is perfect after a grueling day of mountain climbing. The first year that I wanted to try one I couldn’t believe they asked to see my ID. I was twenty-six, for God’s sake – five years over the drinking age in the US.
That following March I went snowboarding in Vermont. At lunch, after a few good hours on the slopes, I was burning for a cold beer. Again I was asked for my ID but I didn’t have it. I was fuming. Why would I think to bring ID with me when I’m twenty-seven? How old do I have to be before I can stop carrying my passport in my snowpants? (Maybe until I stop wearing snowpants, you might say…)
This past weekend I was asked for my ID at the restaurant after a big hike. I had my ID with me but I couldn’t help but hope that the waitress, who was probably younger than me, feels a little stupid after seeing that I’m ten years over the limit. My mom says to take it as a compliment but after all of this contemplation of my age in so much depth it feels like a slap in the face for someone to think I’m not “adult enough” to drink. I know I shouldn’t take it personally and it’s for everyone’s safety, so I guess I’ll just continue to carry my ID wherever I go, maybe into my forties.
Last week I finally found a used copy of Friends, Season 7 on DVD. I’ve had most of the seasons for a few years now but could never find Season 7 for a good price, or at all. I started watching it this weekend only to see that the episode, “The One Where They All Turn Thirty” is in it. What are the chances? Well, I think they’re pretty good, now that I have opened the door to this conversation everything to do with turning thirty is entering my life.
In the episode, Rachel freaks out because she feels she hasn’t accomplished enough by thirty and isn’t sure if she’s on track. She cries when Chandler’s card calls her a grandma because she isn’t married and has no children. She finally calms down when she realizes, “All I need is a plan.” This realization that takes her two minutes off-screen to figure out took me two and a half months. Ahh, the magic of television…
Luckily, the message is the same. If you are looking towards your thirties, focus on your plan. Stay the course or change it – quickly. A solid plan, goals list, and maybe an indulgent day in front of the television with your favourite thirty-somethings will all help to whip you into shape and make your thirties everything you dreamed of.
Though it’s embarrassing to admit, I watched the full season in a weekend, I will say that I found comfort in the fact that by the end, (though we don’t find out until Season 8) Rachel is pregnant – exactly what she dreamed of on her thirtieth birthday.