By Julianne VanWagenen
turned 30 this month. Ten years ago today I was packing for my first trip abroad, to study for a semester in Rome. Twenty years ago my hair fell to my waist and my favorite shirt was a Looney Tunes denim button up. Thirty years ago I was the new arrival to a delivery room.
People ask you if you feel old when you turn 30. I look in the mirror at this girl, at this woman, and see that she has gray hair now. She has frown lines. She has a hair that grows out of the mole on her cheek; a mole that doctors say must be removed. She wears a polka-dotted t-shirt and a skirt that flutters when she twirls. She has a sparkle in her eye and a giggle on her lips. She sits on a stool in her bedroom and reflected in her mirror she sees her childhood stuffed animal propped on her bed. Is she old?
Some people you're only as old as you feel. I roll the aches out of my neck and back. I do a few plies and a cambre for good measure. I do feel old when I dance now. I feel a body fighting against itself and gravity, the muscles taught and heavy.
But how you feel isn't just physical. I still put on my rain boots to jump in puddles. I still swing at the playground when I'm bored. I still gaze up at sunlight through tree leaves and marvel at the improbable coincidence in time and space that I am.
There are grey moments, I admit. Today found me crying on the toilet seat, listening to Fabrizio De André's song Se ti tagliassero a pezzetti:
e adesso aspetterò domain / and now I'll wait for tomorrow
per avere nostalgia / to feel nostalgic
signora libertà signorina fantasia / Lady liberty, little lady fantasy
così preziosa come il vino così gratis come la tristezza / as precious as wine, as free as sadness
con la tua nuvola di dubbi e di bellezza. / with your cloud of doubt and beauty.
A friend came to stay with my family last week and I found him in the living room one morning looking at an old photo album. I sat down beside him and we laughed at the girl that I once was, with bright, long blonde hair, short skirts and high heels. I had dark eyes and lips. I had football-player prom dates, a clique of blonde look-alikes, and a smile that I no longer recognize. He was surprised to see where I'd come from, the bud I'd been before the blossom. I was chagrined and not a little surprised myself.
Entering into a new decade is not about being young or old. We do not age linearly and phases are not marked by calendar years. Life, and change, is often incremental and sometimes sudden. I breathe deep and let go. I let go of the pretty blonde me and me who cried in the bathroom. I let go of the past and all of the images of the versions of myself that I've been. I hold onto the memories that have shaped me.
Se ti tagliassero a pezzetti
il vento li raccoglierebbe.
I toss myself to the wind and let the world gather me up.
How does it feel to be 30? I smile at that girl in the mirror. It's a tricky feeling, both scary and beautiful. It feels like being alive.
How a college boy treats his cat can presage what life's behavior has in store.
Recovering from a broken soul can take a year and a month, if you're lucky.
Cutting down on flying miles can let you travel back into family, at a time when it matters.
Therapy is an American East Coast staple, but why it matters, and if it matters, is a tougher question.
The sudden death of someone you love can produce worldly shock waves.