Oh, what were you doing, why weren’t you paying attention
that piercingly blue day, not a cloud in the sky,
when suddenly “choices”
ceased to mean “infinite possibilities”
and became instead “deciding what to do without”?
No wonder you’re happiest now
riding on trains from one lover to the next.
In those black, night-mirrored windows
a wild white face, operatic, still enthralls you:
a romantic heroine,
suspended between lives, suspended between destinations.
–from “Turning Thirty” by Katha Pollitt
(want the full text? Google it. . . I have just enough respect for copyright that I’m not quoting the full thing here, but it’s available about the fifth result down, with a little digging)
I’ve been thirty for two weeks now, and so I’ve been thinking a good deal about this and that, about the poem above and Abbie Hoffman and dead rock stars, although they mostly die at 27.
It’s funny to be born near the end of the year–it means always thinking to yourself, “well, 1991–I turned 16 that year, but I was 15 for most of it.” I have always been a stickler about ages. I never said I was going on 16 (or 17, or any other age, for that matter). Perhaps this is because I have always been pegged as being a very different age from the one I am. When I was in high school, people routinely thought I was in college or even graduate school. Now that I’m three quarters of the way through my second master’s degree, people always seem to think I’m a teenager. I know I’m supposed to find this flattering, but I don’t–I end up wanting to go up to them and pull out the three white hairs I’ve sprouted and say, “Look! I have white hair, dammit! I’m 30!”
Now it’s New Year’s Eve, and thus I’m struck doubly with the cultural imperative to ruminate upon time’s passing. What have three decades taught you? What has this last year meant? Where are you going, and where have you been? That sort of thing.
I am not much given to obeying cultural imperatives–or at any rate I would like not to be. I was, after all, inordinately pleased to get flowers on my birthday and jewelry at Christmas. (And sweaters! Thanks, Mom! Your mother is so pleased to see me wearing a pigment!) But I find at the moment that whatever Great Thoughts I had when I sat down have vanished. I shall perhaps return to them shortly–although, as my friend Greg points out, “Obviously, shortly sometimes means ‘in seven months.'”
A happy and peaceful new year to you all.