I have a list.
A couple of months ago I was fresh out of a relationship, coming to the end of a long term freelance gig and finishing up a novel which I’d been working on for a long time. After moving back to Seattle from New York City about a year ago, I’d been living in my parents’ beach house so I didn’t even have so much as a lease to my name. I felt like I could either freak out because my life was once again in a state of flux or embrace a moment that might never come again.
So I made a list: thirty things I want to do before I’m thirty. Why thirty? Mostly because it’s my next milestone birthday (in a little under a year and a half for those keeping track) and as a writer I love nothing more than a self-imposed deadline, it’s a way of making things happen just as the act of list-making is. You put a thing in writing, you give yourself a deadline and magically things happen. This strategy works well for writers and other diligent masochists because in order to be effective, you must fear yourself and your own capacity for self-flagellation. Do they teach self-flagellation in MFA programs? They should.
Let’s get one other thing out of the way, I don’t think thirty is old or in any way some magical number. I do not think I will awake in the morning of April 5th, 2012 and arise a fully formed adult person who has Everything Figured Out. There’s something wonderful about being in one’s late twenties, you at last don’t feel like a complete novice—in work, in life, in love—but you also don’t feel too far along in everything to turn back, you can still start all over. For me and for a lot of my friends who are around the same age it’s a time when a lot of Big Questions begin to come to the forefront. Is this really the career I want to be in? Is this the city I want to put down roots in? Is this the person I want to marry? These issues have a sudden sense of urgency they never had before when we were in our early twenties and still in the very experimental stages of adulthood. With thirty in your sights there is the sense that now is the time to change what needs to be changed; it’s not going to get any easier to relocate/change careers/break up.
We all have moments when we are struck with the deep sense that time is precious; whether from something as pleasant as a vacation that comes too quickly to an end or from something as painful as the diagnosis of an illness, every once in a while we really feel the days going by us. For me this is one of those moments and so I choose to embrace it, to make it an adventure. Because the truth is, time is in some sense always running out; it’s not limitless, not for any of us. So what do you want to do before you’re 30? Before you’re 40, 50 or 60? Before you’re married? Before you’re dead and gone? Before it’s too late? Because someday it will be too late. Ask yourself—really ask yourself—if not now, when?