When Turning 30 Gets Complicated
(This is a bit rambly and I’m writing it as a therapeutic exercise, moreso than an actual blog post. Just a warning.)
It’s been 18 days since my father passed away on January 16th, 2018 at the age of 58 after a long and difficult illness.
And today I turned 30.
Turning 30 has a weird stigma attached to it. Maybe not as much now as in years past but there’s still something about going from 29 to 30 that makes a lot of people uneasy.
I’m well aware that 30 is not “old,” like, at all. It doesn’t mean a person has to suddenly be something else… but there’s still something there. Society expects just a little bit more from a person once they’re 30 versus when they’re 29.
I also realize I’m in a stable position for a fresh 30-year-old. I have a wonderful partner, a career, a house, a car, and three books published with a fourth on the way. We millennials are not known for being settled by the age of 30.
My twenties were much happier than my teen years and I don’t expect that to change much in my thirties.
For the past few months, I’ve been going to physiotherapy for back pain caused by an issue with my hip. My knees crack loudly when I bend them. I’ve also noticed a few extra lines and creases appearing around my eyes. These minor reminders, albeit faint, were ever-present reminders of my upcoming 30th birthday.
Since my dad’s death, I’ve had some fears about death that I’ve never had before, mostly about my husband and I. I tried to ignore those fears as they wormed their way into my thoughts at night while I tried to sleep. I’ve been relying on over-the-counter sleep aids to go to sleep on a regular basis since the final days of Dad’s illness. Now, these dark thoughts have found their way into my dreams, causing me to wake up crying from nightmares for the first time in my adult life.
I thought I was going to be fine with turning 30. I haven’t been dreading it at all. But around midnight last night, I officially turned 30 and everything came together and resulted in a tearful panic attack. Turns out grief and fear combined make for a nasty, sneaky pair.
In the morning, the skin around my eyes was swollen from crying. I looked like I’d had an allergic reaction to something in the night. I poked at the puffiness and, for a moment, seriously wondered if this is what being 30 looks like. Overnight, the skin on your face relaxes and lets go. BUT HOW DOES IT KNOW I JUST TURNED 30?
Cold water got the skin back in place thankfully. Its time will come eventually but the day is not today.
I slept a few more hours and had some time to reflect and do some frantic Googling. I felt much better. I find the more I understand something, the less I fear it. Turns out developing a fear of death (yourself or a loved one) after a family member dies in quite common. That combined with anxiety over turning 30 left me in a vulnerable emotional state.
Turns out my midnight sob session wasn’t such a weird reaction after all.
Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.