My Trouble With Turning 30

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Turning thirty was always going to be strange for me. It is, after all, the age at which my Mom lost her battle with cancer. It’s an odd feeling, knowing I have almost outlived her when, in the big scheme of things, I still feel so young. Sometimes I think about our respective timelines, how different they look, and the fact that if she’d put off having children until her thirties like I am (fingers crossed) then I wouldn’t even be here. Every day I think about the fact that I have made it this far with my health still intact. The same could not be said for her. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It’s the just luck of the draw. The nature of things. The way the cookie crumbles. Like most things in life, it’s maddeningly arbitrary.

I am trying not to be overly morbid about turning thirty, but it can be hard when Mom’s death casts such a large shadow. Obviously, I knew the day would come when I had officially outlived her, but for most of my life that day has seemed far off. Now it’s almost upon me, and that knowledge is proving difficult to grapple with. It’s made even harder by the fact I don’t know anyone my age who has been through the same thing. I know people who have lost parents, some of them tragically young, and I know of people who have hit the same milestone later in life and found it difficult. But I don’t know anyone my age, and that makes all the difference. I’ve got people I can talk to but no one who really understands. They nod sympathetically and say they know it must be hard for me, but they don’t really get it and I can’t expect them to.

As strange and saddening as it may be, it is something I simply need to accept and get used to. Before the year is out, I will officially be older than my Mom ever got to be. That will be my reality going forward every day for the rest of my life. She herself would not wish me to dwell on it, nor to spend my thirtieth birthday being sad, and so I shall do my best not to. I owe it to her to ensure that this new decade is the best it can possibly be. That means approaching it with a positive attitude, making the most of the opportunities that come my way and pursuing the things that make me happy. That’s what she would want, and that is what I intend to do.

This is the decade in which I’ll get married. One of the first decisions I made was that the necklace she wore on her wedding day would be my something old. We’re going to rethread the pendant and the pearls and then wind them through my bouquet. It seems a fitting tribute to a woman who was herself remarkably skilled when it came to anything craft-related. It often goes through my mind that she could have done my hair on the day or maybe even made the bridesmaids’ dresses if she were still here. But she isn’t, and so I must keep her with me in other ways.

On the subject of other ways, I’ve said for years that if I have a daughter, I’d like her middle name to be Jayne. I can’t not choose it; it would feel like snubbing her, and that is simply inconceivable to me. I’m just glad she had a decent name, and one that works well with a whole variety of others. It isn’t just her name I wish to pass on though. Any children I have will know about their nanny in heaven as soon as they are old enough. I don’t really believe in heaven-at least not in the religious sense-but perhaps we can buy a telescope and locate the star that is named after her. For you see, there is a Jayne Elizabeth looking down on me from the sky, just not in the way you might think.

Turning thirty was always going to be strange for me, but strange doesn’t have to mean bad. It will if I let it, but I don’t intend to. Instead I intend to meet this new decade with a bucketload of gratitude-for my enduring health, for the people I have around me, and for the exciting events that are still to come, beginning with my wedding. Mom barely got to see her thirties; I plan on making the most of mine. Not to do so would be in insult to her legacy, and that simply will not do.

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Lauren Phillips is a language teacher and writer with a deep love of words in all their forms. She uses writing to help her process her own tangled thoughts.

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