That countdown to thirty

I’ve only spent a couple weeks in my 28 year old body, but lemme tell you how that’s gone so far... I’ve gotten sick! Not that sick, mind you, but sick enough that I went home from work a bit early on Tuesday and bought the spiciest ramen I could find at the Korean market to try and open up some nasal passageways. (There’s alternative medicine, and there’s like, my kind of alternative medicine.) 

Now it may just be coincidence that I happened to get sick after a birthday, but it might be that my body wanted me to get the memo about how aging is a real thing.

It does truly feel like I just started my twenties, but they won’t actually be around much longer. On my birthday I joked around about only having two years to finish off everything on my Before-30 List. It then occurred to me that I don’t even have one.

So here it goes; here are the things I hope to do before turning 30. That is to say, here’s me to-do list for the next 24 months:

Get a tattoo.

It’s actually been a long time that I’ve wanted one- the thing that’s held me back for years is being really, really picky about what I get inked.

I’m not really into the idea of just getting a tat just for the sake of aesthetics- if some piece of art is gonna hitch a ride on my body up til the end, I’m gonna want something more meaningful. And I can think of a couple concepts or ideas I’d be willing to give that treatment- I just haven’t found a way to symbolize them just yet.

Visit Wyoming, West Virginia, and Alaska.

What’s up with these three states? They’re the only three out of the fifty that I haven’t seen. Also, if I do get to these three by my 30th birthday, I can claim having seen all 50 states within the decade of my 20’s. Is this a total vanity goal? Yup. Am I still gonna try to go for it? You bet.


Enjoy a music festival.

There’s a law of diminishing returns on this one, the further and further away I drift from the median age of Coachella attendees.

Me at 20: Really wanting to go to Coachella. Having no money.

Me at 30, probably: Not wanting to go to Coachella. Definitely more money than I thought about at 20.

When did these two lines intersect? 

More likely than not, I’d take a more low key music festival over Coachella. Give me Bumbershoot or Pilgrimage instead. Heck, Lollapalooza Chile will do. But it would be nice to enjoy one before music festivals lose their appeal entirely.

Take up boxing.

Little known fact, but I’ve wanted to get into this for years. Of course being an older rookie at a sport that largely consists of your opponent taking swings at your face is just a little intimidating, so it’s been too easy to procrastinate.

Pay off student loans.

I’m using this as kind of the stand-in for all things practical that I’d want to do before 30 so they’d have some sort of representation on this list. Building up some savings, taking steps towards owning a home. That kind of a thing.

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Read these books: 

Essentialism. The Stranger. Man’s Search For Meaning. The Invention of Nature. Between the World and Me. Beloved. Surprised By Hope. Start With Why. Tattoos on the Heart. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The Great Divorce. At least two books by James Baldwin. Bel Canto. Just Mercy. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.

What all these titles have in common are that they all feel like books I should’ve read a long time ago but never got around to. 

Buy a bunch of houseplants.

Every year I make one very attainable New Year’s Resolution. In 2016 it was to stop calling the manatees when I could be calling them sea cows. In 2017? Print out my own photos to put in that frame.* 

*Points at picture frame on mantle featuring a stock photo of an all-white family.

Buying some more houseplants is kind of my equivalent to these really attainable resolutions but for before I turn 30. Will difficulty stop me? No. Will the easiness of procrastination? More likely.

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Visit three more countries.

Travel was such a big part of my twenties, and I hope that it doesn’t let up too much in the next decade. I’ve learned over the years that it’s less about counting the places you’ve been to and making the places count, but screw it. Counting the amount of places is still tempting and the amount of countries I’ve been to is 42.

I always thought it would be a fun milestone to have seen 50 countries by 30, but that isn’t looking very likely. But it would be neat to hit 45! I’m headed to Haiti in July. Any two others?

Build up more of a community around San Diego.

Alright, just to steer this list towards something a little more meaningful than boxing and houseplants, one thing I really am hoping to do is to build a little more cohesion and closeness with people where I’m living.

A cool thing I’m growing into is having roots and a sense of where I’m going to be living long term. Moving around for so much of my twenties mean my friendships are scattered all over the place. With no plans of uprooting any time for the foreseeable future, I’d love to build more relationships that don’t have to be maintained over distance.

Of course that isn’t easy. The consensus seems to be that your thirties just might be the most difficult time in life for meeting new people. But I have the time and space to see what I can do to buck that trend and I’d hope to use the next two years to get a running start.

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Just be thankful.

To be honest, this was a harder list to make than I thought it would be, largely because I’ve had it really good over the past eight years and counting. Most of the things I would’ve wanted to happen in my twenties came to be, and there’s not really any other appropriate reaction to that other than gratitude.

I got married. We got a dog. I’ve had a chance to live abroad, to go on a couple of backpacking trips, to live out of a van, and to spend time in underprivileged communities. I moved states a couple times. I’ve tried out a handful of jobs. I collected the degrees I hoped for and wound up at a job that’s right up my alley.

Sure I could add a few more things to the mix like riding around on an ATV or taking a ski trip with some friends, but ultimately, I’m learning to be more appreciative of the things I’ve been blessed with.

That outlook will probably serve me better for the next decade and beyond than anything else on this list.