Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What I've Learned Over the Past Decade

Over the past month, whenever anyone asks me how I am, my answer is always, "I'm turning 30," as though that is a feeling in and of itself. Of course, most people understand. It seems everyone has a story about how terrible life felt as he or she approached 30. And everyone says its better on the other side, that your 30s are fantastic, and I don't doubt it.

But I am still on this side. And it is still hard. Not to disparage the remarks of friends who offer their counsel so lovingly, but the reality is turning 30 is hard for me. I never thought I would be this person. I've wanted to be 30 since I was 23, aching for a time when I would "have it all figured out." When I would be "good at life." It isn’t hard because my life doesn't look a certain way, because I don't have a husband or children or a house or a dog. It is hard because it is all still so much of a struggle. Because I don't have shit figured out. Because I still have to work to brush my teeth twice a day and go to bed on time; to relax and breathe; to use my free time wisely; to invest in relationships that are deeply loving and hence deeply conflicted; to count my many blessings. At 23 I honestly believed that things would get easier as I got older.

But they haven't.

I know what some of you will say. That things WILL eventually get easier, and maybe that's true too. But I think the problem here is that I'm still clinging to the idea of ease. That being "good at life" means life is easy, and that isn't true.

I feel like a broken record when I say we live in a world where we are inundated with the idea that if we can just imagine things they will be. All we have to do is put an idea out into the universe, and it will come back to us. A woman wishes very hard for a husband, and then she finds one. She congratulates herself on never giving up hope. An unhappily employed man wishes for a new job, he gets one. He did that for himself. He envisioned that job. So many of us confuse luck and personal power.

It's a nice idea, but I don't buy it. If I learned one thing in my 20s it's that all you have to do is open your eyes to the world to see the deep, abiding struggle in it. To see individuals in bondage to a system that does not care for or about them, to see loved ones fighting for basic human rights, to see hurt, pain, greed, intolerance and hate.

This sounds dire even to me. Except that the struggle to see can be joyous. My 20 year-old self associates joy with ease. If things were easier I'd be happier. If I had more money, if I was thinner and hence more beautiful according to cultural standards I'd be happier, if I had a husband, if I didn't have an eating disorder, if I liked salad more, if if if if I would be happier. I've spent the past 10 years trying the same thing over and over again. I thought I could wish life easy. I thought I could fight against the world in myself, ignoring oppression, racism, abuses, pain because if those things exist life cannot be easy.

And they do exist. And so... And so...

I turn 30 on Saturday. I will still wear bright colors and crinolines, I will still push inappropriate jokes to the point where Jan cries, "DEBORAH!" I will continue to feel angry about injustice. I will continue to obsess over Peter Dinklage in a teenage girl sort of way, and love popular music. My opinions will still be aggressive and angry. I will still throw my head back when I laugh. I will still be a Debbie Downer at parties. I will still squeal over poofy dogs and fat cats, and I will most certainly still wear my teal, lensless glasses. To be honest I feel like the one thing I want to stop is saying, "When I grow up, I want to..."

Cause here it is. Hell or high water, this is adulthood.

I look back on my 20 year old self and feel sad for her. At 20, I dreamed of having a husband and children and a finally thin body. My scope was so small. I thought all happiness was in those 3 things. And here I am a husbandless, childless 30-year-old fat woman, and there is so much joy in me. I didn't know how good things could be, or how much goodness could look and feel like grief.


  1. Deb, you are one of my favorite poets. Happy early (30th, most awesome) birthday!

    1. Thank you, Morgan! I must say you are one of my favorite as well. xoxo

  2. Deb, I love you. I love you. I love you. This posting made me cry and was difficult to read, because I love you so much. I appreciate the difficulty you are talking about, the desire for ease, the expectation of ease, and the pain that comes with not achieving it. The truth is that the ease is a lie, a lie sold to us by people who write stories about ease because they want their own lives to be easy. The truth, my love, is that ease never comes. But what does come is totally worth it...less anxiety over not having ease and more appreciation for what does matter. You are an AMAZING human being, both for your honesty about how difficult it is for you as well for as you incomparable brightness, laughter, and joy. Darling Deborah, I truly love you so deeply. Because I love you so much, it is hard to see your pain. Because I love you so much, I am privileged to see your pain. Because I love you, I tell you that it does, in fact, get better in your 30's (that part is not a lie...just don't expect it to get easier ;). Because I love you, I encourage you to keep sharing with us and I say to you, on behalf of everyone else who also loves you, thank you, Deb De Laurell, for being Deb De Laurell.

    1. You are so wonderful, Sonya. SO SO SO. I can't wait to hug you in person in a couple of weeks and have some dance parties and sing karaoke and just exist in the same space with you and KelKel. CAN'T EFFING WAIT.

  3. You are a wonderful writer! Happy 30th to you :) Geeta

  4. I promise that 30's not so bad. Same with 31. Honestly, they're not so different from 29, on a day-to-day basis. But I agree that it should get easier as you get older. Sadly, the 30s seem to be as hard as the 20s were - maybe harder (at least so far, and from what I've heard) - but in different ways and for different reasons, if that makes sense. That said, some things do get better (parkerruby is right - it gets better, but not easier). If nothing else, you learn to accept the things that you really can't do anything about, and to appreciate your ability to do something about the things you can do something about.

    You did get at something I've been thinking lately, though: I think we're all disappointments to our 20-year-old selves. But I also think our 20-year-old selves (for the most part) were, as you said, small in scope. So, while my 31-year-old self is a gross disappointment to my 20-year-old self, my 31-year-old self doesn't really care because she thinks my 20-year-old self was a little short-sighted and probably wouldn't understand anyway.

    I think you'll rock 30, Deb, with your bright colors and crinolines and lenseless glasses. Happy early birthday!

  5. Amazing, my dear, just amazing, I couldn't agree more, and your writing is beautiful. And happy early birthday :)

  6. Your blog is wonderful Deb! I think you have some great insights - and they remind me of an article I read recently on Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/article_18544_how-the-karate-kid-ruined-modern-world.html.

  7. Hi,

    Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

    Thanks and have a great day!