I have been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about my 20’s. A lot. You would think that I would have done this in April, when I turned 30, right? Well. When I turned 30 I was in the middle of doing a rather small thing, otherwise known as re-launching this site. When I turned 30 I was so busy obsessing about what I’d ACHEIVED and what I had to show for my life that, um, I didn’t take time to actually think about where I’d been. Which might have been useful.
I spent the bulk of my 20’s in New York City, making art, being exceedingly broke, drinking a lot of Makers Mark and soda,* working a patchwork of jobs, and doing things that I never imagined I’d get a chance to do. Like getting my BFA in experimental theatre, say, or starting a theatre company, or having Peter Yarrow sing “If I Had a Hammer” in his living room to raise $1,000 for our next production, or throwing a black tie gala for 350 people, or meeting my soon-to-be husband and finding out he was my high school rival (what? yes.), or having the World Trade Center collapse while I was trapped in my apartment building a few blocks away, or watching a gun being fired on my street, or being so broke that I had mice climbing around in my sofa.
So it was a mix, really – a mix of profoundly wonderful and profoundly awful. But the thing about living through the darkest days is it means you notice the small glorious moments, in a way you never did before. You notice them, you absorb them, and you remember them.
When I look back, I see performance art in empty studios at my conservatory, I see a cloud of ash stretching straight up to the sky, I see margaritas in red cups at the end of a pier, I see temp jobs, and yoga classes, and opening nights. I see late nights in Hells Kitchen, and so many production meetings, and walking barefoot around the theatre office I managed in midtown.
I remember being out at a bar, trashed, at two in the morning singing our lungs out. We were singing the lyrics:
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
And I remember leaning over to David, back when we were just friends, sort of screaming over the crowd as I clutched my drink, “You know what? THESE are the days.” And David yelled, “WHAT?” and I yelled louder, “THESE are the days! Right now!” And his eyes sort of widened and he yelled back, “I guess you’re right.” And they totally were. And I’m still sort of in shock that life isn’t exactly the same.
The realization I’ve come to over the last few weeks, is that I really, truly, lived the f*ck out of my 20’s. I may not have emerged with a totally cohesive career (though I’m getting there)… but I did emerge with almost no regrets. Other than a handful of months when I was still almost 19, I dated only pretty nice people. I did almost everything that I wanted to do,** no matter how scary or unsuccessful it was. I did not consume large amounts of toxic anything. I did the starving artist gig. I spent a lot of time discovering what I actually wanted out of life. I moved across country. I got married.
So now I’m trying to wrap my head around 30 – about being married and in my thirties. I know being 30 does not mean what it means in the movies – an enormous apartment, a career making ludicrous amounts of money in an exciting-but-not-usually-lucrative field like architecture or writing, an enormous amount of free time, and a family. Very few people have all of that. And honestly, I wouldn’t have that if I could get it. It’s too soon.
I’m happy with where I am at 30. I know I’m probably not going to have mid-life regrets about not trying enough things before I settled down (achem, perhaps trying fewer than I did might be wise). I have some serious projects to work on. I have a fantastic husband (also he’s hilarious, so I’m lucky like that.) I have places go, mountains to climb. I’m in a good place.
But I’m trying to figure out what it looks like to live the f*ck out of my 30s. Living the f*ck out of my 20’s was easy – poor, New York, amazing friends, many late nights, rambling old house in Brooklyn, plenty to drink. And my 20’s were a break from societal pressures. I had my prestigious degree, I’d earned my scholarships, I’d made the grades, and everyone left me alone to figure the rest of it out. But living the f*ck out of my 30s is different. It doesn’t involve, say, a string of endless late nights at a bar, and trying a million new things. Living the f*ck out of my 30’s looks calmer, but maybe just as gutsy. It means standing up to the new and huge social pressures – time to grow up, give up what you built, move out of the city, get it together (exactly like everyone else). So part of claiming my 30’s, will, I think, be continuing to claim my 20’s. I figured myself out pretty well in my 20’s. I figured out what made me happy, and that I was brave enough and focused enough to shoot for it. So there is no way I’m giving that up now.
When I was younger and broker, and had a very long ride home on the Subway, I remember watching people who got off at the earlier and trendier stops in Brooklyn. They were all in their 30’s, and looked like they had it together. And I used to think, God, I can’t wait till my 30’s. In my 30’s I might have a clue about what I’m doing, or at least have the skills to make things happen. And I do. I’m more established, thank God, and am spending less of my energy rushing around, trying to figure out who I am and what I want and how I’m going to pay the bills this month. I know what I want, more or less, which is huge. I spend less of my energy stressing out about basic survival and money. I’m fairly financially secure, I’ve got a pretty serious and wide ranging skill set. And while I don’t have exactly what I want, I’m willing to fight hard for it.
And I think, really, that’s what living the f*ck out of my 30’s is going to look like. Fighting for it.
Pictures: A handful of quintessential Meg pictures from my 20’s. The first and last are from our theatre company gala. There is me, and David (not at all my boyfriend), and the third member of our triumvirate, our friend Jonny. The middle is me working said 350 person dinner gala. And um, that last picture? That’s probably the quintessential picture of my LIFE.