The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. July 19 was Mary Margaret’s 30th birthday, so here the final member of the triangle to reach this milestone presents her thoughts on hitting three decades.
Is it really going to happen? I asked myself that earlier this year, slogging through what I would describe as a cold, numbing, autopilot New York winter.
This will sound dramatic, but it’s also honest. Knowing that as minutes kept clicking by, I would soon reach my third decade, and in this particular season of my life, this passage of time felt exhausting. I felt my days less as gifts, more as burdens, and to top if off, I disliked myself for feeling this way. I acknowledge that I was in a deeply negative space, disheartened by the wider political and cultural context of the country and personally discouraged by uncertainty in my own work life. Moreover, this led me to withdraw from family and friends, not wishing to burden anyone else with my own sadness and worry. I’m good at faking it for the general populace, but most people close to me likely knew that I was struggling.
It seemed irrevocable, inevitable and yet impossible that I would suddenly be 30. It’s not the age itself that bothered me especially; it was the fact that it might come upon me while I was so stuck. Time ticked on, but I was mired, uncertain what I even wanted, and therefore uncertain about what direction I should even move in to try and unstuck. I’m a planner. How do you chart the course without any destinations in mind?
I’ll skip to the end of the story for a moment, which is that I’m currently unstuck. A large part of this was related to something I’ve already written about, which was my unexpected opportunity to begin a new job in late May. I’ve loved the opportunity to tackle a new show, work with amazing designer Jane Greenwood (who finally got her Tony award after 21 nominations!), meet so many lovely people, and take on wholly new responsibilities. Not only has it restored my confidence in my own capacity for new challenges, it’s reminding me how much I enjoy and value what I do working in theatre.
I’m not superstitious, but will admit I’ve almost been scared to say how happy this new position has made me. There’s a somewhat silly human trepidation that joy is so ephemeral that voicing it will cause it to vanish. In trying to talk about how hard the past winter was with my Mom the other day, she was initially hesitant, saying she didn’t want to talk about sadness, worried it would take the conversation too far away from the positive chat we’d been having. My point actually was not to dwell on the negativity, though, but to mark it’s ending—to emphasize the lifting of a cloud.
What we’re acknowledging in our sometimes fear of naming joy is a simple truth: we know that no joy, and equally, no sadness lasts forever. I wanted to voice a time of darkness to say how things have changed. Also to voice the darkness to allow that it can and will return, though it may look different. Also to voice the darkness to help me remember later that if it does return, it can go away again.
Here’s what I’m driving at; here’s what I learned in my twenties that I will now try boldly to live out in my thirties. At a certain point, I stepped off the train of academia that neatly organized my time and efforts for the first couple decades of my life. I’ve long ago entered the world of navigating my own course, since you realize pretty quickly that life is not a series of checkable boxes (argh!! frustrating for a person that loves lists!).
So don’t ask me about my ten-year plan, because I’ve decided on this reality- a reality of everything changing all the time. There will be times that I want nothing and times I want everything, there will be times when I’ll strive toward a desired outcome, and times I will fumble without being even able to fathom a way ahead. I will be deeply and crushingly sad. I will be hopeful and joy-filled and optimistic. My ten year plan is to attempt to live on shifting sands, to live with the shifting swells of my own heart, to remember that this exasperating turmoil of even our own thoughts is what each of my fellow human beings is also experiencing.
When we remember this, I think it might lead us to greater compassion for those around us. For me, I also try to remember the constancy of God in spite of my inconsistencies and inconstancies, because there rests my larger hope. I’m going to change as my days tick by. Situations will change as my days tick by. And by the grace of God, I’ll be changing along the way, through whatever joy or darkness I find myself in, into more of who He created me to be.