This last week, I turned 30.
Surely I know that to some, this decade milestone should still make me feel young, spry, and full of life, but to a younger version of myself it’s an age even beyond what I pictured when I said those infamous words, “someday when I grow up …”
In celebration of my third decade, my husband and I took a trip north to Duluth to visit some close friends. On the morning of my actual birthday, we found ourselves wandering up to Gooseberry Falls State Park. After a scenic drive along the lake, we tagged along with the late-season leaf peepers and made the trek through crunching leaves to find ourselves (panting) on top of some autumnally scenic falls. Real desktop picture level views. Blended colors of burnt auburn and gold slowly devouring the fading green – a true sign that the seasons were changing. After a few hilarious jokes about who would be pushing whom over, I found a flat rock close enough to the falls that I felt my heart keep rhythm with the rushing waters.
The falls have aged, too. Over time, they’ve eroded and cracked, expanded, frozen over, maybe even dried up, and yet, they are still doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.
SARAH JAYNE JOHNSON
It is hard to not be introspective on your birthday, especially when it marks a new decade. As I sat, I thought about how quickly my years – especially the most recent one – seemed to fly beyond me. The sand in my hourglass, it seemed, was heavier than ever. I thought about how inconsequential it must be to exist only for people to marvel at you – to solely serve as a backdrop to those willing to make the hike. Mostly, as one does, I thought about my shortcomings: Have I done enough? Have I wasted time? Should I be more of a “30-year-old”? Should I take time to actually figure out what collagen is? As I stewed, I looked again to the falls beside me. Rhythmic ripples swirling through the water only to fall and foam at the bottom and settle. It’s then I realized, the falls have aged, too.
Over time, they’ve eroded and cracked, expanded, frozen over, maybe even dried up, and yet, they are still doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They still exist in their little part of northern Minnesota – leaf peepers or not.
I began to see the laugh lines on my face in the ripples of the water. I saw friends to guide me in the surrounding trees, and friends I’ve lost along the way in scattered branches on the ground. I saw my family in the serene, soft swishing of the fresh foam, helping me find my calm after spiraling off the falls. In all the rocks the water ran through, I saw the first boy I slow danced with, and my first dance at my wedding. I saw the colors of all 30 of my Octobers rustle in the whisper of a wind that comes and goes. A View-Master of a short life, long-lived through vivid snapshots. Pictures that kept me afloat.
I’ve been 30 for nearly three whole days now and boy, do I have a lot of wisdom. Like that maybe my 30s are for recognizing that I too have a place amongst the woods. A place to fall and be free, and a place to simply be still in my own shortcomings. A place to be grown up.
After one last feel of the cold water, I grabbed my husband’s extended hand and left my rock. It was time to keep flowing.