To kid me, teenage me, and even most-of- my-twenties me, 30 seemed a world away. 30 was an abstraction, an ephemeral point in the far-off distance where I would miraculously and totally have my shit together.
By the big three-oh, I’d have achieved all the successes, which to me meant something like writing the Great American Novel and thusly being featured in The New Yorker, being as skinny as a model yet eating a diet consisting of promiscuous amounts of expensive champagne and stinky cheese, fatty lamb and pasta that the future me rolls out from scratch, having a bespoke and Instagramable wedding without trying too hard to the man of my dreams (I had these fantasies pre-Insta, too, in the Pinterest of my mind), travelling the world many times over, never dropping popcorn down my shirt, etc.
On September 25, I’ll turn 29, which means the bridge between my present self and my ideal-30 self is looking precariously short.
When I was 23, I dated a guy who had a nervous breakdown on the eve of his thirtieth birthday. He quit his job by throwing a chair at his boss, started chain-smoking. “Have some sympathy,” my mom said, “30 is hard.” By his 31st, we were long broken up.
Will 30 be hard? Things for me have gotten pretty much better and better with every passing year. Since college, I began and quit—or got fired from—a long lineup of jobs, moved across the country and back again, switched careers, read boxes of books and filled up shelves of journals with my ramblings. My heart has been smitten and broken and overjoyed. I got lost in Bangkok and found in Brooklyn. I made friends I love so much it hurts.
28 has been pretty incredible thus far. I got a book deal. I started graduate school. I’m in love with an amazing man who loves me back, sans drama and definitely sans throwing chairs.
And yet. My stomach is unquestionably convex. I sometimes wake up sweaty with anxiety, my brain a cyclone. I have new student loans and a freelancer’s sporadic salary. There are no rings on my fingers, unless you count the typewriter key I snagged at the Marheinekeplatz flea in Berlin last year (which is pretty cool, anyhow).
Last week, I sat at the kitchen table in my friend’s many-million- dollar apartment watching the sunset over the Brooklyn Bridge out the window, feeling both contented and jealous. She’s married to a Hedge Fund guy. I love this friend. We are talking about our ambition, the hustle of making it as writers in New York City, of “making it” at all.
“You know,” she says, “I’ve been thinking. At 30, we have another 30 years of this ahead of us. Maybe more.”
It hits me that 30 is not the end of anything. It’s just the beginning.
I still want all those fantasies. But what’s the rush?
I also want a whole lot of things I have right now: cool cheap jewelry, time to read books, laughter so hard I pee a little, a good editor, a porch with a potted plant I haven’t yet murdered, friends who have my back, a fridge full of good cheese, adventure, love that subsumes me.
It’s been wild, and it’s getting better all the time.
Written by Hannah Howard
Hannah Howard is a writer and food expert who spent her formative years in New York eating, drinking, serving, bartending, cooking on a hot line, flipping giant wheels of cheese, and managing restaurants. She writes about delicious things for a living, appears in food videos, teaches cheese and cooking classes, and hosts culinary events. Her memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, is forthcoming with Little A in 2018.
Hannah’s work has been featured in VICE, The New York Times, Thought Catalog, AMEX OPEN forum, Serious Eats, New York Magazine’s Grub Street, refinery29, SELF and Cheese Connoisseur.
Hannah mentors women recovering from eating disorders on building a happy, healthy relationships with food and themselves. Hannah lives in Brooklyn, New York.