thirty


Snapshots from my 30th birthday celebrations.

The restaurant was really crowded, but the four of us managed to snag four swivel stools at the bar, which overlooked the glassed-in open kitchen. We gazed through the window and watched our meals being prepared. The 3/4 of us who find men attractive appreciated the view of the rather handsome, heavily tattooed chefs at work, while the one of us who loves ladies simply appreciated the chefs' handiwork. It was novel to be able to give the chefs immediate feedback through the glass: enthusiastic thumbs-up of approval as we took the first bites of our amazing meals. We sipped our drinks quickly and talked about everything that was going on in our lives, and I felt so full. Yes, that feeling could be partly attributed to the duck reuben I was quickly devouring, but also to my ebullient contentment. In that moment, I felt like I'd never been happier.

We talked about how three of us would turn 30 this year. Since my birthday was first on the horizon, they asked me how I felt about it. I feel great, I said. I feel like everything I've dreamed and worked for is finally here. I love my family, I love you guys, and I don't want take anything for granted. I just want to keep working, keep loving, and enjoy it. I appreciate the age I'm at, and when I think about my regrets and paths not taken, I cross off every one of them because each would have led me astray from this moment.

A few minutes later, in the washroom, I saw an unusually non-catty statement scrawled in large letters on the wall: "You need a BIGGER dream."

TouchΓ©.

Thirty is one of those junctures at which I notice a lot of people harshly assess themselves. It's a year-long, full-body, full-life scan that leaves you smug or perplexed or wanting, or all of the above. We feel like it's somehow our duty to judge what we've become, as a rite of passage into 30 is the new 20 bonafide adulthood for millenials. And yes, I do think milestones force us into a corner of opportunity to take stock of what we're all about. But why do we have to be so damn hard on ourselves?

I bristled at the idea of running through the gauntlet of my own judgement, and was determined to not be a jerk to myself, and to appreciate everything that had happened in three decades and be cool with it.

The writing on the washroom wall made me rethink my approach, and that I might have embraced the status quo a little too tightly. Why should thirty be when we stop pushing, striving and desiring? Why not just have the humility to accept that there might be something so much bigger than what you've planned?

Dreams aside, how does it feel day-to-day to be thirty?

I find while the rough edges of my angstier emotions have been buffed away by time, my emotional experience of life has become heightened in an awesome way. Envy has bloomed into luscious swells of admiration; doubt has faded into smaller bouts, now tempered by courage; good fortune begets lasting gratitude that helps cancel out feelings of inadequacy; down days aren't as frightening because I'm quicker to cope and more likely to reach out to a friend; fun is something you create, consciously, and often; and like quickens to a gallop and becomes love more swiftly than ever before.

And love. My love with Brian transcends anything else I've ever experienced. A while back, I was in a really random situation where a male model (I only refer to him by his gender/occupation because that's basically how he introduced himself) kept asking me questions about marriage and happiness and seeming truly doubtful that the two could coexist. I'd just met him, and the situation was more than a bit awkward, but I'd had a few pints of beer so I just told him the truth.

The truth is that never intended to get married until I fell in love with this one person. And while I'm lucky to have loved before, this is the love of my life. I am obsessed with my partner. He hates the word obsessed but I'm using it anyway because that's the best way to describe my all-consuming fixation. I could stare at his face all day and never stop. I often do that until he chides me to stop because he finds it creepy. I love the way he moves, speaks, smiles. I love his mumbled intonation and the timbre of his voice. He's a truly good person and I wish I could be more like him because then I'd be better. My love for him felt like an illness when it first set in, so strongly did it overtake me. Now it's just a condition without which I would be far less than whole. Everything is better when I'm with him.

Besides love, friendship is the thing most closely entangled with my happiness. The friends who have stayed in my life throughout the many times I've moved away, who reach out and make me feel at home wherever I go, those who have come into my life in the new places I've arrived and welcomed me, who inspire me with their own decisions and accomplishments and senses of humour, those are the people who just make life damn amazing. My family members, every one of whom I consider among my closest friends, are the spring in my step every day.

And you, those of you who read and look at my photos and leave comments and ask questions and commission work and invite me to document your lives and put your trust in meβ€”you bring meaning to my work, and to my life.

At any age, I know that for me, love, friendship and all the wonder that those two things create will comprise the richness of my life. For that I am grateful.

A few stray observations and ideas brought about from growing up (learned through my own mistakes):

Don't make pointless resolutions. It's a misguided use of your sense of resolve. Save commitment for meaningful promises. Make them, honour them.

Dial back the negativity, especially that directed towards others. It's bad for your body, soul and social life.

Become a thoughtful judge of character. Observe people and the way they treat everyone, not just you, before allowing them into your life. If someone's a jerk, makes you feel badly, or displays consistently poor moral and/or ethical judgement, out they go. On the other hand, be open to inviting new, good people into your life. Every new friend makes you a fuller person.

Stop competing with others, especially your friends. It's totally pointless and will only make you resentful. Set ambitious goals, and compete against yourself and the dark forces of procrastination and laziness.

Don't be one of those people who finds things boring. If you're consistently bored, you're probably boring yourself. Wake up and get interested and your life will be so much more exciting. On a similar note, don't wait around for other people to fill up your social calendar. Plan, host, invite, and all that jazz.

Likewise, don't be one of those people who is always "disappointed" by things. Oh, that comedian's live performance was disappointing; that movie was disappointing; I'm disappointed by this season's collection; didn't you find that concert kind of disappointing? Disappointment, to me, reveals a tendency to reject truly engaging or becoming an active participant in something. If you don't care for something, feel disgust, anger, or indifference. Feel something, but own it and articulate your opinion, don't just be vaguely "disappointed." Better yet, go out and create something better, but don't waste your words and other peoples' time by saying you're disappointed (usually spoken in a slightly superior tone). Disappointment is the most milquetoast of opinions, and it speaks the language of "meh."

Please, for the love of all that's good, don't take things too seriously, particularly yourself.

Lastly, read Joy the Baker's advice. She's hilarious, and so right.