As of October’s end, I have – officially – outlived my 20s.
To Child Me, I’m ancient. To actual ancient people, I’m a child. To new acquaintances who ask my age, I’m a constant surprise, because ‘twould seem I still look like a college kid, notwithstanding my one or two inconspicuous gray hairs.
Based on Twitter memes mocking the concept, I can only guess that there exists Some So-Called Authority trying to dictate exactly what you “ought to” have accomplished by the time you reach your thirtieth year.
I, for one, refuse to waste a moment searching online for what these “ought to”-s might be. At best, it’ll prompt my derisive laughter. At worst, it’ll trigger my brain’s depression chemicals. Forget somebody’s “should haves”. I’ll focus instead on my “did”-s.
…Which by no means need match anyone else’s achievements/experiences! We’ve all done cool or mundane or magical things that others haven’t, and missed out on or chosen to forgo cool/mundane/magical things that others have done. That’s called life, and mine’s just one of ‘em.
Fortunately, I think I may be able to scrape together a list that lets my sleeping depression chemicals lie. In my first 30 years, I have…
1 = Written. A lot. Most of my millions of words may never see the light of day, but a hefty number of them have actually been read by friends and kinfolk, fans and strangers, and even paid for with legal tender, because— well, let’s be real, the “because” deserves its own number on the list.
2 = Published Myself. And been published by others, on occasion, but it’s been mostly me by my proud little lonesome.
3 = Fed Waterfowl from a Balcony (Midwest, USA). Because the condo of my earliest youth had a pond in back, and what is bread for, if not getting thrown down to ruin the digestion of muttering ducks and cruel Canadian geese?
4 = Paraphrased Shakespeare from a Balcony (Bamburg, Germany). That one little corner of the cruise-sponsored guided tour demanded my theatrics! And from all I could tell, at least the cute tour guide enjoyed it heartily.
5 = Made Several (Official) Best Friends. The cousin my stay-at-home mom babysat while her parents were at work. (We sometimes see each other at family gatherings, still.) The girl from church with whom I made up silly saying-hello traditions and sillier home video variety shows. (Haven’t heard from her in years.) The pen pal from art camp who acknowledged my characters as people before I’d even embraced the author life. (We emailed back and forth for ages, only for her to simply… disappear… and then reappear on my radar, just the other week! #ThanksForSomethingFacebook) The little sister whose tagalong attentions I shunned, and whose validation for my various artworks I chased, and who is sometimes like my twin born three years late. (We make time to trade inside jokes over the phone and online, every so often.) And – latest but far from least – the writer bestie with whom I make my home.
Oh, sorry, Will Scarlet. And you.
6 = Driven the Dangerous Back-Mountain Roads of Maui. And somehow avoided rolling off a cliff so as to tell the tale!
7 = Memorized “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Which has come in handy during tedious work shifts when I needed to keep my brain musically entertained, let me tell you.
8 = Won Gold Medals in Classical Piano Competitions. In spite of appendages that turn blue with cold when I get super stage fright.
9 = Learned to Actually Love Making Music On My Own Terms. My Bach may be rusty beyond easy repair, but there are songs in my heart that demand to be set free however I’m able. And on that note (pun acknowledged)…
10 = TOTALLY BOUGHT A LUTE. Which was an actual bucket list item of mine, so brava, wannabe minstrel.
11 = Owned a Dog. Good old Maximillian Devineaux Shipley. To this day (well… night?), I have occasional dreams in which I need to feed him or let him out to do his business and wonder why I’m still taking care of a cranky old doggo that got put down in 2012. I guess that’s part of what they mean about those you love never truly leaving you.
12 = Lived in a Tiny German Village. I miss the million wooded trails.
13 = Lived in a Gigantic (Yosemite) National Park. Ditto, plus the rivers and mountains and waterfalls.
14 = Engaged in Some Hippie ‘Trust Fall with the Earth’ Thing. If Tirzah and I ever turn our Yosemite times into memoirs, that story will get told.
15 = Sleepwalked through a Fire Alarm. Would’ve just plain slept it through, but my sisters insisted I evacuate, and were most flustered when I refused to go anywhere before I’d found my socks.
16 = Worn a Back Brace for Scoliosis. Come for the straightened spine, stay for the laugh whenever you can con someone into punching the hard plastic armoring your torso.
17 = Yelled at People in a Faux English Accent for Money. Renaissance Faires: Where Dreams Come True.
18 = Gotten Countless Hopeless Crushes. First on fictional people. Then on real people I’d never meet. Then on real people I had met. Then on fictional people I had met… Doesn’t matter where it falls on the chart; everything’s painful.
19 = Realized I’m Asexual. Which hasn’t saved me from painful crushes, but I guess self-discovery is its own reward?
20 = Discovered Why Adults Take Naps. Child Me had no idea.
21 = Watched the Sun Shine Through Falling Rain. I’m not being all deep and metaphorical here. We’re talking literal weather, and it was hecka pretty.
22 = DESPAIRED. I mentioned my brain’s depression chemicals, right?
23 = Become an Auntie. I did not know why aunties fussed about being aunties. Then I got a baby nephew, and darned if he didn’t make off with half my heart.
24 = Visited Manchester (England), Unaccompanied. And got a great hat and jacket, while in the neighborhood.
25 = Maybe Figured Out How to Compartmentalize Setbacks So That a Bad Moment, Bad Hour, Bad Morning or Afternoon or Evening Doesn’t Have to Equal an Entire Bad Day, Bad Week, Bad Life. This alone may facilitate me surviving to make this kind of list at 50.
26 = Been Asked, While Eating Meat, Whether I’m a Vegetarian. Another one for the memoirs. <_<
27 = Attended Two Funerals for Strangers, Since I Was in the Neighborhood. And was unable to attend a couple funerals for people I actually cared about. Go figure.
28 = Thrice Been a Wedding’s Flower Girl, Once a Bridesmaid, and Once Maid of Honor. I’ve no plans to ever try my luck as a bride, but there are fictional fellows who could show up and change my mind.
29 = Not Murdered Anyone Yet. There’s still time.
30 = Believed in Magic. Past tense for nothing. I believe in it still.
Happy 30 years of life to me! Wanna help me celebrate? You could make buying (and/or reviewing!) a Danielle E. Shipley book a thing you’ve done – whatever your age. 😉
What’s a cool, mundane, or magical something YOU’VE done with your life, so far? Share below!