Turning 30 And Communicating Desires

People can't read your mind. I've been realizing more and more lately the importance of clear communication. And the importance of asking for what you want. People can't read your mind.

My two year old often assumes that I can read his mind and then gets terribly upset when I do something that he didn't want me to do or don't do something that he did want me to do. He screams and cries and acts as if I have horribly offended him and somehow violated his rights. I'm trying to teach him that the only way to truly have our desires met is to clearly communicate them. You have to ask.

I get frustrated and upset with my toddler's outbursts over un-communicated desires, but I'm realizing that often I act exactly like my toddler. I want Bryan to do something but don't tell him (or at least don't communicate clearly in a way he understands) and then I get upset. I feel frustrated when my in-laws give Thad a nap and it makes it difficult to put him to bed, but I never told then not to. I feel sad when I feel like my birthday is just another day, even when I never communicated that I wanted it to feel differently. My reasons for not communicating may seem more understandable than my toddlers - I want to avoid facing the insecurities that the conversation may bring up. Understandable, maybe, but in truth no different from my toddler. And really my lack of honest communication doesn't get me anywhere.

So, I'm trying to be better about communicating more clearly what I want upfront. One step I'm taking towards that is communicating what I want for my birthday this year. In a strange way communicating about my birthday seems even harder than other steps towards communication that I've taken.

Birthdays as an adult have always felt a little awkward for me. 

I don't really like having all the spotlight on me. But, when I'm honest of course I do want a day to be celebrated, recognized...seen. We all want that don't we? We want to be acknowledged and celebrated every now and then. Even those of us who feel embarrassed and uncomfortable by the attention, still want it every once in a while.

When you're a child birthdays give you that attention and you don't have to ask for it. Maybe that's the main reason why birthdays feel so awkward to me as an adult. If you want to be celebrated you have to ask for it. You have to plan your own party and invite people to come. Or ask someone to do it for you. For me this always stirs up all kinds of insecurities and uncertainties and plenty of negative self talk...

"...don't bother people. It's just a birthday, it's not really important. You didn't do anything. Just lived another year. Everyone does that. People are busy. Even if they like you, you shouldn't ask too much of them. Just stay in the shadows, And don't bother people. It's not that important. You're not that important..."

Yuck. Don't you hate negative self talk? It just feels...yuck. And I'm really pretty good at it. Blah, blah, blah.

This year I'm not going to listen though (...Or at least I'm gonna try not to). I'm gonna plan myself a party. I feel a little more freedom to ask to be celebrated this year because it's a bigger birthday and a little more culturally acceptable to make a big deal about it.

July 7th, 2012 will be my 30th birthday.

Thirty. It feels both significant and insignificant all at once. I have honestly looked forward to turning thirty for pretty much all of my twenties. I know I'm an odd duck. But, something about turning 30 sort of captivated me.

It all started when I was in college. I remember having a conversation with a friend around the time she turned thirty in which she talked about how turning thirty brought her a new acceptance and appreciation for herself and her body. That was when I first started looking forward to thirty, although later I started to think maybe her deeper acceptance of her appearance had less to do with her turning 30 and more to do with other things (then again I now wonder if there was some truth in connecting this to turning thirty).

Through that conversation I somehow started to create this picture in my head that I'd have life figured out by thirty, or at least know who I am and be really comfortable in my own skin by then. The degree to which I secretly thought of 30 as this end-all-be-all age seems sort of funny now, but there it was, my love affair with 30 had begun.

When we were in Prague I got to celebrate with a number of friends as they hit this milestone. We also had some dear friends there who had already passed this hurdle. All of that took some of the mystery, fear, and the common, "30 is so old" felling out of turning thirty. My desire to be thirty grew. I wanted to be part of the club.

But during that time thirty also became a little demystified and lost a little of it's magic. I remember one dear friend turning thirty and associating every self realization, every good bit of growth in her life with turning thirty. Statements were commonly started or followed with "maybe it's because I'm turning thirty", or "since turning thirty". I remember talking with her about how excluded her statements made me feel and about how I heard in them that anyone who isn't thirty couldn't have the sort of growth or self awareness that she now had as a 30 year old. I somehow felt threatened and put down by her connecting positive growth with an age. I think largely I was just jealous. Jealous of an age - yeah, I am an odd duck.

I became disillusioned with turning thirty. My desire to turn thirty became even stronger (so that I wouldn't feel like the slightly excluded young one in the group), but I also started to feel like thirty wasn't magically gonna cause me to grow leaps and bounds, as I had previously thought. I wasn't going to suddenly in the course of one year become a more enlightened, self-aware, godly person just because of the number of candles on the birthday cake. I wasn't gonna have life figured out at thirty.

But, here's the thing I realize now as I get closer to thirty myself, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, 30 is just another birthday and growth comes primarily through active intentionality, not just the year on your birth certificate. But, thirty is also not just another birthday, growth does come through age and there's a reason that people make a big deal about thirty. It is a big deal. Something does happen around thirty that is a little bit unexplainable. The things that concerned you in your twenties don't concern you as much anymore.  Maybe for you it happens at 29, or maybe not till 32, but around this time something does seem to change for most people. And I do think that it does have to do with a deepened acceptance of yourself.

It is a big landmark and it feels important to celebrate it and to ask others to celebrate it with me. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna take a step out of my comfort zone and away from my insecurities and start planning.

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman