I'm 30 years old today. I admit, it sounds funny to say it. I've never been the type of person to think age is a big deal, but there is something a little more noticeable about entering a new decade. Who cares about going from 28 to 29? You only spend a year as a 28-year-old, so it's easy enough to give up. But I've spent a whole decade—a significant decade—in my 20's. It's the decade I most closely identify with at this point. The first two decades of my life—well, I've changed a lot since then. Will I one day say the same thing about my 20's? Actually, I hope so, at least in some respects. But it's ... fascinating, I guess ... to think I could view my 20's in a way similar to the way I now view my teenage years. But why wouldn't I? By the end of my 30's, I will (hopefully!) have published articles in scholarly journals, be working as a professor in (odds are) some other state, be living in a house, and I'll be months away from having a teenage son of my own (not to mention an unknown number of children I haven't even met yet). Those aren't exactly minor changes.
On a more lighthearted note, you know you're an adult (or at least more of an adult than not) when your birthday wishes start to revolve around home improvements. This year, here are some of the (sincere, mind you) ideas I've had for gifts to myself: stapling up the coaxial cable that connects our television to the cable jack (so it's not loose and dragging), putting up a rod in my bedroom so I can hang up a curtain and better block out the light, and (as if I have the money to do so) a new couch. Not that any of these things aren't nice. It's just that my thoughts used to turn to CDs and DVDs when I thought about treating myself to something fun. I didn't think about new furniture or making trips to Home Depot.
In the end, I realize that 30 isn't any bigger of a deal than any other age. It's just that turning 30 is one of those existential rest stops where one can look back on the road traveled so far and marvel at how much ground has been covered. One can also look ahead and try to get a glimpse of what's to come. (One can stop and do this at any point, of course, but it just so happens that, due to convention, they've erected a very prominent rest stop at the 30-year-mark and most people tend to stop at it.) There is some idea of what the future holds, but the eyes can only see so far. The terrain doesn't change too much between here and there, where your vision fuzzes and fades. Nevertheless, you know that some day soon enough, this rest stop itself will be long gone and you won't be coming back. You know this isn't the end of your journey (though some never make it this far—a jarring thought, in and of itself), but sometimes you have to stop, sit down, and kick your feet up before you see just how worn your shoes really are. You take it all in, take a deep breath, (blow out your candles), and head on your way. And in 10 years, you'll do it again.