01/03/2014 10:18 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2014

30 Is the New 30

Aimee Atkinson

Well, hello there, 30. You came faster than expected, slightly uninvited, but finally within arm's length. Some people ignore you. Others are frightened by your very name. There are those angered by your looming presence. And still many more who are nervous about what you hold in store. But as I stare you down face-to-face, I will be different. I will embrace you. For with your impending arrival comes the realization of a lifetime (and just a little bit of credibility, though my Dad does still tell me to "buckle my seatbelt" from time to -- always).

It's true. I turn 30 this January. It's a milestone for the ages, as any individual who is turning 30 undoubtedly feels. Yet, how could this be? 30 is a number that surely belongs to an adult. 30 sounds so... old.

I am certain it was just yesterday that I was earning a meager "pay my rent or buy dinner" first salary as an Assistant Account Executive on Madison Avenue. (Thanks to my parents for graciously allowing me to do both.) It couldn't have been more than a week ago that I enjoyed a long Sunday brunch with the girls at Flying Biscuit after an even longer Saturday night at the highly feminist "golf pros and tennis hoes" frat bash. And perhaps just a month prior that I spent blistering summer days eating one, sometimes two (I have low blood sugar) creamsicles, rehearsing the color war rendition of Bryan Adams in "Summer of '96" with my forever friends at sleepaway camp. Tina Fey tells me, via Bossypants, that only underprivileged, Jewish, extremely Christian or obese people will understand this camp reference. That's good enough for me. And, while these sweet memories are on the brink of my brain, they are, indeed, just memories.

Throughout my 30 years, I was always yearning for something, never quite satisfied. When would school end already? I really deserve a vacation. Or, why did I end up more than a foot away from the curb during the parallel parking section of my drivers test? Did the instructor really need to go out with a yardstick and measure? Now it'll be months before I get my license. And, when can I assert my independence as a college girl? I'm definitely mature enough for that, whatever that means. But then, why is senior year dragging? Why don't I have a job yet? And finally, are all three years of law school that important for my boyfriend? (Note that boyfriend is now my husband, so I guess it really was worth the wait.)

But, how I did truly miss those endless summer nights where responsibility was someone else's word? And I would have given anything to return abroad for just one more semester, absorbing England (and Wagamama) with every fiber of my being.

Now, as I approach 30, I finally understand. If I am always looking towards the future or remembering the past, how can I possibly enjoy the present? It's a piece of advice I've heard many times before, but couldn't fully absorb until now. I needed these 30 years of experience, friendship, love, family, setbacks and success to get me to here.

The wishing. The wanting. The worrying. And the waiting. It all seems so silly now. What was it all for? And at what cost?

If these first 30 years are any indication of the next 30, or the 30 after that, they will be here in a blink. So, 30 is a time to stop. Enjoy. Be. Time is precious and it is important to make each and every second count. My memories are beautiful, and I will hold on to them tight. But I now recognize that I don't need to relive them because I can carry them with me forever to help shape my current world. And I will always keep an eye on the future, as it holds more opportunity than I will ever know. But I won't allow myself to be so distractedly driven that I can't see how good today is. For today is good. Today is great.

Earlier this year I, like every other twenty-something woman, read Sheryl Sandberg's bestseller Lean In, desperately searching for some guidance as a new working mom. It shook me to my core and made me second-guess how I had decided to live my life. Maybe I needed a five, hell, a 10-year plan. Though, after months of reflection, I acknowledge and accept that everyone is different. Maybe some women do need a 10-year plan, and that works for them. I'm not saying my type A personality is above a plan -- because I am the definition of a plan (e.g., having a detailed itinerary for every relaxing Sunday afternoon) -- but maybe my plan is not so long term. Maybe focusing on each minute or hour or day is the perfect solution.

So, to me, 30 is a welcome opportunity to see how unbelievably superb the present is and to allow happiness, whatever that means in this stage of my life and always, to reign supreme.

Thank you, 30, for getting me to this point. Maybe some people get to their "aha moment" sooner and others not until much later, but 30 is just right for me. Because, as I look into the eyes of my beautiful baby boy, with my husband by my side, my cup runneth over. Yes, today is absolutely perfect.