I knew this day would arrive, but I was hoping it would wait a few more years until I was emotionally mature enough to handle it.
Today I am officially 30 years old. I have yet to become emotionally mature enough to deal with the fact that I am no longer in my 20s.
Turning 20 was fabulous. I was no longer a teen-ager. Turning 21 was even better. But once 25 rolled around it occurred to me I was no longer a "young adult." I lost all self-composure soon after when I plucked out my first gray hair. Since then that gray hair has returned with a vengeance and brought a few buddies.
I realize turning 30 isn't a bad thing. Almost all of my friends are over 30 and they have yet to buy walkers or retirement homes in Florida. We no longer do incredibly stupid things simply because we are young -- or at least we don't tell anyone when we do. We realize that life is short, that seat belts are not an option and you pay a high price when you do something that goes against everything you believe in.
While as a reporter I may pride myself on usually being the first to know things, I let my guard down a bit last Saturday, missed all the little cues that my friends and family were brewing up something fishy. Imagine my astonishment when, after returning home from dinner and a movie with a friend, I found a ton of people in my house, jumping out from bedrooms and from behind furniture, yelling, "Surprise!"
Didn't they realize I was almost 30? My aging heart might not have withstood the shock.
As any 30-year-old Gen X-er would do, I decided to search the Internet this week to find any reassuring information about turning the big 3-0. What I discovered was depressing.
Apparently life is all downhill after 30, at least physically. Hormone levels start to drop after 30, muscles begin to shrink and bone density begins to decrease, all signs that the aging process has begun.
If that isn't frightening enough -- wait -- there's more. The cells become larger and are less able to divide and reproduce. Among other changes, there is an increase in pigments and fatty substances inside the cell (lipids). Many cells lose their ability to function, or begin to function abnormally. The connective tissue changes, becoming increasingly stiff. This makes the organs, blood vessels and airways more rigid, according to the National Library of Medicine Web site.
But that's not the best part. After 30, organs like our hearts start to lose an average of 1 percent of its organ reserve a year, that "extra" ability that organs have above the usual needs. For example, when we are young our heart is capable of pumping about 10 times the amount that is actually needed to preserve life.
But on a brighter note, I discovered our psychological health is found to steadily increase after 30. This is good news. If I have to sit back and watch my cells lose their ability to function then I might as well do it with a positive attitude.
According to three California studies involving 236 participants over a 50-year period, being productive, having good interpersonal relationships and behaving compassionately toward others are signs of our psychological health and can improve dramatically or moderately after 30.
My friend Susan Kohls, who turned 30 last October, e-mailed me the other day with a few pearls of wisdom. She said that our 20s was a time of self-discovery and for making mistakes. Our 30s will likely be our greatest decade.
I guess there is only one way to find out.
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