turning thirty

m. werneburg, 2001

The big 3-0. No more care-free twenties. Now it's time to stop 'closing' bars and living in a bachelor sty, right?

Nah. Do numbers really matter in life? We certainly put a lot of stock into one another's age. Whether it's a matter of what our society lets you do by a certain age (what the hell has age got to do with voting, for instance. Imagine how much more liberal society would be if you could vote at 16, when you still care about the world, and could no longer vote by 60, when it seems everybody's just hanging on to what they've got). A friend told me that it's commonplace in Japan for people to say, "Hi, what's your name? How old are you?" This clearly recognizes the need of that society for your age-slot.

I turned 30 in 2001. Strangely – and I've heard another 30-year-old say this – it hasn't seemed as important, yet, as turning 26 did at the time. When I turned 26, I decided that it was time to:

  1. do something about my worsening health (e.g. 'go off' wheat and dairy)
  2. get my career moving
  3. resume dating (it had been some time, by then)
  4. get a haircut (see #2, #3)
  5. replace the sneakers with 'casual' leather shoes and the t-shirts with something involving a collar (see #2, #3)

That year, I quit the job that had dead-ended, changed my wardrobe, grew a beard, stopped eating wheat and dairy, went on shots for my allergies, got a haircut (I had ears, who knew), and yes, even dated. I also bought a bicycle, joined a softball team, and generally started living outside of the office. I even managed a tattoo.

What did any of this have to do with turning 26? 26 was obviously past the middle of my twenties (or so I thought, it was actually when I turned 25 when that happened, but 30 years of age is still five whole years off at that point, and when you're out drinking with the boys four or five nights a week, who's got time for that kind of thinking?). And being halfway to your thirties meant no longer being a kid. 30 was inarguably adult, even in a society where the insurance companies—evermore our ultimate arbiters of reality – don't think you're worth should be tying your own shoe-laces until you're 24.

So turning 26 was a moment of stock taking.

Not so, turning 30.

Instead of asking myself if I'm where I thought I was going to be at this age, I've been quite pleased with myself, almost congratulating myself on the milestone. To think that just breathing in and out and remembering to eat once in a while counts as an accomplishment is pretty amusing (or is that depressing). But I can honestly say that I've had no sudden realization that it's time to rework my life, to 'retake control' or make 'improvements'.

on the importance of finger counting

It's a good thing we have ten fingers to make base ten our counting system. If we had, say, sixteen fingers, we'd have a base-16 counting system. We'd be waiting until what we now think of as 48 years had passed before we'd be celebrating the big 3-0.

Imagine the other changes. Our computer keyboards would be a real mess. In fact, such keyboards would probably have only three lines, with 19 keys per line. Golf would probably be a one-handed activity, as would photography and playing the piano. Of course, with a completely reworked numbering system, we'd be living in the 1250's, and the Y2K bug panic would still be some 750 years away. And the Beatles song would have gone "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm uh... 40?"

Of course, there has been a fair bit of upheaval in my life in the months preceding and following my 30th. I got into a scrap in a bar and in doing so injured myself (I suppose this means I 'lost' the fight) only a few weeks before the big day. My fiancée and I then split up only two months after my 30th. Then my eventual return to Canada was followed by a decision to leave Toronto for Vancouver, where I embarked on a year of joblessness. So, perhaps there's been something happening deep down, but it's nothing like the shock I got when I turned 26. I didn't wake up on the morning of the fight and say, "gonna find me some drunk who's taller and younger than me, and pick a fight to prove I'm still young and able". Nor did I think, "30, man, time to rethink this marriage concept". These are things that happened.

Maybe when I'm 36, I'll take note again. Until then, a musing on why 30 should have any significance at all: it all comes down to the fingers. And frankly, I can't get too stressed about anything to do with arithmetic.

When I turned 36, I did come back to check this page. I even wrote an update. But I retired that when I turned 40, and now I've added another update at 45.

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rand()m quote

(In which I leave the final word to someone else.)

You have to choose between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the Government. And, with due respect for these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the Capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold.

-George Bernard Shaw

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