why “things you shouldn’t do after 30” articles are absurd

There has been a recent explosion of online articles with a focus on what is and isn’t appropriate beyond a certain age, and maybe because I now fall into the target demographic or because these have been blasted all over my Facebook newsfeed, I’ve begrudgingly read a few. There is of course the ubiquitous “things you shouldn’t wear past 30” slideshow, deeming animal prints and large sunglasses too racy for 30+ women, and shirts with words or brightly colored sneakers inappropriate for 30+ men.  There are articles about how the adult crowd should appropriately decorate their space (no framed music posters or unmade beds, but you must have bamboo blinds and stainless steel appliances), conveniently followed by links to buy all the things you need to be a proper” adult. And if you thought, okay, I know how to dress and furnish my home, but how should I act, there are plenty of lists of what behaviors you should have given up by now (beer on Thursday and sleeping in are no-no’s).

There are also the articles about all the things you should do before you become 30. Because as these young writers know, after the golden twenties, none of us want to DO things or express ourselves.  I’m pretty sure I read one article that actually called 30 the beginning of the end… 30?! Seriously, I had no idea.  For some reason, I thought humans were starting to live into their 100’s, but it’s hard to keep track with all this online information. You know, probably because I’m aging or whatever.

Speaking of which, how the heck did we keep track of what was age appropriate before the internet? Gosh, with so many articles, how will you, the newly old, keep track of the many new age based rules governing appropriate behavior? So overwhelming!

Fortunately, there is a way to cut through all the confusion! These articles all have one thing in common; the word should. As in you should stop wearing anything fun; only wear tops that can be considered blouses and pants you can call slacks.  Anything that gives you a rush, you shouldn’t do that, but you should revel in the excitement of trips to Bed Bath and Beyond, because at this age, you should only be excited by nonstick cookware and thread count. Your weekend hobbies should be having one drink at a chain-owned restaurant in an outdoor shopping mall and making sure your home is as meticulously organized and color coded as an IKEA display. Mostly, after 30, you should stop having so much damn fun.

Seriously, fuck those articles. 

Ooops. The article about the things women shouldn’t say after 30 would probably advise I clean up my vocabulary, especially in my very public blog, because anything else would be inappropriate. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of social constructs or rules dictated by poorly written click-bait articles, and I’ve never been good at appropriate. But seriously, have I learned nothing from my 20’s?

Don’t you worry.  I’ve done some reflecting, and made my own list of things you should NEVER do after 30.

You shouldn’t (unless you want to, because I don’t make the rules either)

  1. Conform to social mandates that require you to show up as anyone but yourself, no matter what age you are. Because hopefully at this point, you’ve been around long enough to figure out that you have free will, and that showing up as you feels a lot better than fitting a mold.
  2. Judge others by what they wear, own, how they choose to express themselves, or what they do for a living. Do what makes you comfortable, let others do the same. If you don’t like wearing zebra print leggings because you don’t feel it’s age appropriate, cool. But leave the person who wants to rock them alone. You aren’t a teen on the movie Mean Girls, you are an adult.  You have no excuse not to support and encourage free expression.
  3. Hold back who you really are. So, you aren’t 20 anymore. Thank god, because hopefully you’ve used those years of wisdom to learn to love yourself enough to do what makes you happy, not to gain the approval of others, because you know maturity has less to with what you wear, say, or own, and more to do with confidence and showing up authentically.

Really these apply to any age.  And even if age is just a number, there is something to be said for more years of experience.  Being 20 was great, mostly I didn’t have these weird wrinkles in the corners of my eyes, but boy was I clueless. With years, come wisdom.  And, hopefully instead of using those years to begin accumulating knowledge of age appropriate fashion, what constitutes a stylish home and brag-worthy career, we can use that time to begin to acknowledge that life is finite.

As in…You won’t look back from your deathbed and wish you’d been more socially appropriate, but you might  regret the way you inhibited yourself and the opportunities for joy you turned down, because you actually paid attention to some silly fabricated social rules.

The point being, the real thing you should do is whatever makes YOU feel alive.  

Sidenote: If you are one of the people who has written an article about what people should or shouldn’t do, no offense intended, but maybe just maybe you should commit more energy to loving everyone for their outrageous and timeless wonderfulness (including yourself 🙂

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heart shaped glasses, hoarding, and infinity.

I’m sorry to be a Valentine’s Day cliche, but I find myself thinking about love.  I imagine this is what you are thinking… Ohhhhh, love as a topic in February, how VERY original, ughhhhh Jenny, c’mon… but before  you think I’m high on sugar from chocolate hearts, let me say… today I’m not thinking about the romantic, “I want to run off into the sunset” kind of love.  I’m thinking instead of the Namaste “the divine in me honors the divine in you” unconditional kind of love.  The love that lets us recognize the soul connection we have with all others.  This love is the love that transforms, that invents us, that sets us free… and we don’t need a greeting card or chocolate to give or receive it.

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A student gave me these last year on Valentine’s Day; heart shaped glasses made of construction paper and red saran wrap.  I’m not embarrassed to say they are one of my most prized possessions; worth more to me than any expensive gifts I’ve received, because as I look at them, I remember how much I learned about love from that class of 4th graders.  My heart grew about 40 sizes bigger during the time I worked with the youth in East Dayton; every moment was an opportunity to understand what it meant to live in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong… last year the week before Valentine’s day, I think my internal dialogue went something like this; “Oh NOOOO, I’m single and it’s awful because I don’t get flowers!!!   WHO is going to buy me something made of chocolate? Waaaah, boohoo, I’m lonely, waaaaaahhhhh. ”   And instead of wanting to give anyone sweets, I jealously listened to the person I had feelings for talk about his girlfriend and felt an almost uncontrollable urge to nail him in the eye with a candy heart.  In other words, I was feeling neither loved nor loving.   

But a funny thing happened when I walked in the classroom at work the afternoon of Valentine’s day; I watched as the kids exchanged cards not with one person but with everyone in the class, and then they started showering me with cards too.  They filled each other’s desks with Sponge Bob valentines, Disney valentines, Justin Beiber valentines…cards, candy, stickers, and love.    I was blissed out not only because they had filled my purse with the same tokens of affection and decorated my arms with some super stylish temporary tattoo hearts, but because watching them love each other had woke me up.  My silly adult brain thought I needed to have a Valentine, and these brilliant kids reminded that love isn’t reserved for one person, it’s a way of being.  Love isn’t a thing we do, or a word we share, it’s a fire that’s bright and alive in each one of our souls, and we are all here to fan each others flames.

When we were kids, we didn’t scramble to find a date on Valentine ’s Day, and we didn’t give a card to just one person.  Instead, we bought a box of our favorite cartoon or TV show character themed cards, and we shared that thing we loved with every single person we knew.  Whether it was a piece of chalk flavored candy that said “Call Me” in almost illegible red letters or a lopsided construction paper heart, we gave a token of our love to every kid in our class, we gave one to our teacher, we gave them to our parents… we showered everyone in our kid-sized universe with love.  We realized that love wasn’t something we give in small amounts to a select few, but something that we can and should share with everyone.     

Then we got older, and we started to only share that love with ‘special’ people, with the people we were most fond of.  Eventually, maybe we started believing that we should probably only use the word love with our boyfriend or girlfriend and family.  That love was something we could only share if it was returned, we certainly didn’t offer affection to people we didn’t know, nor did we share love with those who hurt us.   We started believing a myth; that love is something we have a limited amount of to give, and that we should hold onto it until we found the right person to share our love with.  We became love hoarders!

So when my student gave me these glasses, I think he was on to something.  We used to see everyone through heart shaped glasses, and we gave our love freely.  This morning, I went to a new spiritual center, in a new place, and I was that stranger, the lonely person who didn’t know anyone.  Yet, at the end of service, we sang Love is All There Is, and as I looked to my left and my right, I realized that I wasn’t a stranger, nor were these new people beside me, but that we all had one thing in common; the ability to love.  And in that moment, I loved those ‘strangers’ as much as I love my family, my friends, and my boyfriend.  And all day I’ve been buzzing, nourished by the unrestricted love that allows us to look at a stranger a someone we know as ourselves, the love that allows us to not just know on a cognitive level, but to feel in our soul that separation is an illusion.  

And not to discredit my lovely boyfriend, who I’m sure will do something creatively romantic for me on the 14th, but I think he’s going to have to share.  Because, I’d like to be everyone’s Valentine, and while I can’t send over 7 billion cards (with adorable puppies on them- my 4th grade valentine of choice!), I can share my words and act each moment from my heart.  As one of my dear friends reminded me today, infinite and unconditional love like that has to be shared, because the love that reminds us how connected we all are…  that is love that will change the world.

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To see myself in everybody, and everybody in myself, most certainly is love. – Nisargadatta Maharaj