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  • VALENTINA MONTOYA ROBLEDO

ALWAYS BEFORE THIRTY


I just turned thirty. I have been approximately what is expected to be one third of my life in this world; and the lyrics from one of Shakira’s songs from the album “Pies descalzos” keeps ringing in my head: “women will marry always before thirty, otherwise they will dress saints even if they don’t want to…” I never imagined turning thirty; in my head it seemed like a very distant number. To be honest I am far away from what I thought it would mean to reach the third floor—as we say in Colombia—though wrinkles have started appearing besides my dreaming and observant eyes.

I wanted to be an adult since I was a little girl and I equated adulthood with turning thirty. I never wanted to ask for permission for anything, I wanted to make my own decisions and earn my own money. I liked adult conversations about business, politics, marriages and death that were always present in our dining table. I wanted the power that came with being an adult, mainly because I though I would have certainty and security; I would have the clear and safe track of that person who knows where she comes from and where she is heading.

I grew up with the idea that thirties were a point of no return. I imagined for a long time that I would be married, with kids, and that I would own a car and an apartment. I would have a super job and I would be a successful professional. Literally, I grew up with a supermarket checklist that I was checking, as I grew older.

I am neither married or have children but I am profoundly loved and cherished; I don’t have an apartment but a bright home filled with music and a super roommate; I don’t have a car but instead I have a bicycle that allows me to ride around the world at my own pace; I don’t have a super job, but every day I wake up excited about my studies and the ideas that light mini fireworks in my head. Above all, I am far from having any clarity about my future but excited with what is yet to come.

Actually, very few adults have clarity about their lives. They are far from being the superheroes that I saw from the chair of my childhood. Many thirty-year-olds that surround me have started to become fanatics to anchor themselves to a strong idea. Among my friends, I start to see those who desperately started a path towards economic success and status, thinking that both will give them the tranquility they need. Others have started searching for spiritual paths and they increasingly speak about God and interior growth. There are also some that like me, have searched for anchors in professional and academic development holding onto an idea that frees them from the fear of not having a clear path. Each and everyone of us has searched for coping mechanisms to respond to the shocking path towards adulthood, which is far away from the sense of certainty that society has sold to us.

Since the moment the illusion of certainties fell in my life, I have started to give a new meaning to the thirties. Without giving up on loving, I have broken-up with concepts, plans and people from my past. Accepting I am not a golden coin everyone likes, have left behind friends I grew up with and with whom I thought I would always share moments of sadness and happiness. I am learning to accept the sufferings we all undergo in the face of the changing path of life. I have learned to live more calmly, trusting what is yet to come and I have stopped running to start appreciating and enjoying, but overall to celebrate each tear and each smile.

One day, when one of my heartfelt friends turned thirty, I called her to congratulate her and thank her for the path we have traveled together. I asked her how she felt and she told me it was hard to turn thirty, that she was old now. I was terrified by her response precisely because it seemed too obvious. We live in a society where the most valued characteristics are beauty, youth (especially for women) and wealth. Supposedly we stop being young after we cross our twenties. I asked my friend whether she was happier now than when she turned twenty and despite her previous response, she said yes. She felt happier for feeling freer, more confident and less worried for what others say about her.

The answer my friend gave me is the same one that my mother has given me for a long time and that only now I am beginning to grasp. She always told me she wouldn’t go back even a year because every moment that passed she became happier. I completely agree with my friend and my mother. Despite what we have been told for a long time with phrases such as “school is the best time of your life”, “The past is always better”, or “we are just moving to old and stupid”, I am far from feeling that way.

I am thrilled with turning thirty and ready for what will come. I am surrounded with the love of my friends who have become my family. I have passed through beautiful relationships and I have met new people that fill my heart. I have learned to understand my parents as imperfect beings and to thank for everything they have done for me, and with that I have started to understand my own imperfections. My boyfriend asked me what is my goal for the time I turn forty, and my answer was: “Being even happier than now I turn thirty…if that is even possible.”

NOTE: This translation of the original post “Siempre Antes de 30” is for my friend Mamello who is turning thirty today. Thanks to Laura Correa for her edits.

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