When you are almost thirty, you pass slowly through the face moisturizer aisles and begin to think maybe it’s time. Your face no longer looks like a Maybelline commercial when you wake up in the morning. Instead, your eye lines remind you of your mother’s.
Blue eye shadow is generally, as a rule, out. Mascara is in. Eyebrows have gone from thick to thin to thick again. You wear sunscreen and bug spray, while secretly worrying the sunscreen and bug spray might kill you with their toxic cancer-causing molecules.
Being almost thirty means you are invited to cleaning parties and jewelry parties and face cream parties. It means you can actually buy something at these parties if you really want. It means these parties have hors d’oeuvres and maybe even jalapenos wrapped in bacon with warm, thick goat cheese instead of chips and store-bought salsa. It means you may have broiled the jalapenos yourself. It means you know how to broil.
Being almost thirty means you still laugh with your head back, in a carefree manner, but you’re aware when you might be laughing just a little too loud and the little old lady across from you is giving you the side-eye. It means, at a wedding, you don’t worry about finding someone to dance with. You dance to “I want to lay with you on a mountain…” like you are twenty-three again; and the nostalgia bites you and you can’t help but feel sad in a way you never did then.
Being almost thirty means you may own an actual pristine $200 black suitcase—but not in the neon pink or leopard colors you once coveted at twenty-one. It means you can plan a European vacation, but you can’t really take that many days off work right then because of other commitments, so you plan to go later. It means you are still trying to make the very last payment on your student loans, anyhow.
Being almost thirty means you spend the Fourth of July with children, eating watermelon, and watching toddlers wide-eyed and doubtful with their first sparklers. It means Fourth of July is more fun than it ever was when you spent the whole night longing to find a boy to kiss under the red, white, and blue splashes and booms of color.
Being almost thirty means you’re done with twenty-something listicles, unless they reference Britney Spears and ’90s culture. Instead of reading “Twenty Ways to Be Hot So a Boy Will Like You,” you read about #blacklivesmatter and ISIS and you worry about the world.
Being almost thirty means “iconic” old-school toys at the end of the Target aisle are the actual toys you once played with for hours as a kid, so as you run your fingers over the old house phone that you could ring the numbers on, you resist the urge to buy it for old time’s sake.
Being almost thirty means you don’t call yourself a young twenty-something anymore. It means you’ll no longer use “young” as the precursor to any other descriptor—after all, no one says “young thirty-something” or “young forty-something.”
Being almost thirty means you have struggled through a few dead-end jobs with people you didn’t like and cried in the car driving away from work, hoping no one saw you to witness how unprofessional you could still be. It means you may have been on antidepressants. It means you know when you need help with medication and when you are just fine.
Being almost thirty means you have a whole page on your resume and you don’t have to keep your camp counselor experience roasting marshmallows in the summertimes to beef it up anymore. It means you may have received a promotion or two, and you feel like a new giraffe, finally standing on your own wobbly two legs in the world.
Being almost thirty means other people want to take you seriously and you command a presence in the world. You are #adulting every day in the check-out aisles and in Chick-fil-A when you wear high heels. It means you can say no to things that make you uncomfortable and you don’t worry that it’s your problem anymore.
It means your circles are growing comfortably, sweetly smaller in scope, and you have narrowed it down to that special few.
Being almost thirty means you can drink a craft brew at a party or be so overrun with children that the beer cap never gets popped off. It means you have your women—the ones you know you can call or text or ask for a home-cooked meal when you are out of luck or having some kind of surgery. It means you feel humbled by generosity instead of expecting it.
Being almost thirty means you know what crown molding is, and if you have it. It means you know how to change a lightbulb and maybe how to strip a deck. It means you can whip up a cake, even if it’s only from a box.
If you are almost thirty, I hope you have people who have seen you through the awkward stages, and a group of people who understand if you are struggling with church politics or any kind of politics or if you are just struggling in general. I hope almost thirty means these other almost-thirty-somethings can disagree with you and still love you to pieces. If you are searching for God, I hope you’ve found a way to explode the way other people put him into boxes like a diamond ring tucked away in black velvet and never worn. I hope you are able to treasure him and still feel he is unknowable and beyond you. I hope he is year-by-year being shattered into the bigness and greatness that is him.
At almost thirty, you attend a concert and realize it is overrun by tweens and their worried helicopter parents, trying to bump into each other as little as possible. They are dancing the dance of trying to let go, and you have already let go almost a decade ago now.
Unlike the first week of college, when you cried your eyes out in the dorm room bathroom and told your mom nobody liked you, you talk to your mom without crying three times out of four. The other time, you still cry.
Being almost thirty means you still dance in the rain when it starts pouring at the concert, but you make sure your iPhone is tucked safely into your bag first.
Because you are almost thirty, you grasp hands with your spouse or your best friend or your sister. A wet strand of hair flips into your eyes, and you feel very you and very, very grateful. It’s the strongest you feel God is here. You feel him in the bass guitar, and in the rain, and in the hand tucked around your waist. You feel him in you.