Last July, I turned 30. I had been looking forward to turning 30 since I turned 20, so it to me, it was a pretty big deal; I wanted to celebrate (and I did). After 30 years of being relatively uninterested in celebrating the anniversary of my existence on the planet, it was important to me to step it up for this one. I was fabulously lucky in my friends and family humoring me about it too, and I had a great time strolling into my third decade.
I had considered, and even attempted, as part of my increased acknowledgement of the occasion, writing one of those "30 Things I've Learned Now That I'm 30" lists. Then just a "I'm 30, Here's a Stream-of-Consciousness" Essay About What That's Like" piece. Then, an, "I'm 30 and I know a Couple of Things, But Here's 30 Things I Want to Learn Now" list. All were considered, all were attempted, all were scraped. Who cared if I was 30? Lots of people were 30. Lots of people learned plenty, listed those lessons and wrote about reaching the same milestone far more articulately than I ever could. These were not other people's comments. These were my own.
One thing I've discovered in my experience as a 30-year-old is that, while I had no angst about reaching this particular age and no specific expectations about my 30-year-old life, I have come to require, seemingly quite recently, higher standards for myself. My personal self-censorship is one of my many personal weaknesses and currently, it is the one annoying me the most. It feels like -- probably is -- a cop-out.
In July, it manifested itself as "no one cares what you've learned or haven't figured out yet, so shut up." Daily since then, I have noticed all the little or not-so-little ways it creeps up -- in not calling out friends or family on behavior that is hurtful. In not calling out sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise prejudiced language or behavior. In continuing to silence the ideas I have about expressing myself.
While perhaps (read: of course) my not expressing myself is not particularly detrimental to the world, my not speaking up about those everyday symptoms of bigger, far-reaching injustices, is. My keeping quiet when maybe what I might have said would have been of help or consolation or indicate an understanding to a friend is detrimental to them. My lessons learned and not shared are lessons never passed on to people who maybe could have used them. My attitude of silence is no longer best.
That said, the floodgates are not about to open -- I do know enough to know there are certain times when I absolutely do not, nor should I, offer up my thoughts to friends, family or strangers. Equally, though, there are times when I should, or could even. The 'coulds' are the times I've most harshly silenced myself historically, and are now where my energy is most concentrated around speaking up. I have come to believe that in claiming some space to write or talk about those personal, if uninteresting to everyone else, issues/thoughts/lessons/etc, I will get better at claiming space to speak up about those bigger issues and realities that do impact the world. I want to participate. I won't do that by biting my tongue in conversation, or ripping up everything I ever write.
I'm 30, and that's one thing I've learned.