I turn 30 in exactly one week. Am I freaking out about this? Yes. Do I know why? No. I know that perfectly normal reasons for freaking out would center around the fact that I’m single and I have no particular career ambitions and no real goals for my life. That all may be part of it. I know that I should want to find a guy, get married, have kids, start a family, and have that be the rest of my life. I think a part of me really does want to want that. But I’m also not sure I do. I mean, if I wanted that, wouldn’t I have done SOMETHING about it by now, before I turn 30 and my looks continue to fade? (I say “continue to fade” because I already have 8 gray hairs…I’m not joking about this as much as I once would have been.) I also am aware that my life goals of #1 dying alone and #2 finding a briefcase full of money as a retirement plan are not all that funny. Nor is my backup retirement plan – to try to make money from our plagiarized movies and end up in white-collar jail.
So, what I’m really freaking out about I think is this – I don’t have any life plan, and I’m passed the point where it is cute and youthful not to have one. Somewhere along the road (pun sort of intended, and ooh, look, I just found direction for this post), I became a firm believer in “life is a journey, not a destination.” I like going with the flow, being open to whatever may arise, seizing the little moments. But, at some point, don’t you have to have some direction? I’m not even really journeying anymore towards anything – graduating, getting a job, living in my own place. I’ve met all those life markers. My car is even paid off. I’m finally living on my own in a place I love with friends I love nearby but who I don’t have to go home with. What do I want to DO? Oh, sure, I want to do silly things like swim with sharks and travel to Dubai, but those are little adventures. What do I want to aim for as bigger pictures?
The intensity of the looming 30 increased when, as I explained to work when I requested time off, “I have to be a bridesmaid in Florida 2 weeks before turning 30.” How could anyone not pity that request? At the time, I said it jokingly because turning 30 wasn’t really bothering me. Then it came time, Miranda and I loaded up the car, and we began the 1,010 mile journey from Michigan to Florida.
That’s where this whole “life is a journey, not a destination” thing really sunk in. I have always preferred travelling by car rather than by plane. I like seeing the gradual change in topography, the change in fauna and flora. I like feeling the temperature change. I like getting out along the way and hearing people’s accents differ from place to place. It’s something akin to tasting your food while you eat it, or something. I’ve always felt cheated by plane travel because you miss all the flavor of places between takeoff and touchdown. I don’t care that it takes 10 times longer to drive than fly. I want the experience of travelling to a place; I don’t like just hopping on a plane and stepping suddenly off into a place. And I suppose that’s how I feel about life, too. I want to savor things along the way, notice every moment, see my life changing as I go. It’s been a good ride, overall. A lot of – forgive the metaphor – potholes and storms and construction, sure, but I’ve been blessed too. The journey is what holds interest for me, and that may be why I’ve never settled on a particular destination, a certain goal, an end game. I like leaving my options open for the best things that come along. Death, I guess, is all I think of as a final destination. …But what until then?
Of course, the one big life marker that I have not reached is marriage and family. Again I say, I know this is something that should matter by the time I’m 30. And having just returned from being a bridesmaid in Florida, I can safely say that I’ve contemplated this marker more seriously of late. But, as my love life has been in a coma for some time (again, a long-running joke that I know shouldn’t be funny but I also can’t force myself to take seriously), instead I chose to view my time in Florida as a detour from my journey and the ability to hitchhike in someone else’s for a while. (Let’s face it, I needed a timeout from freaking out about turning 30.) It IS great to witness when other people are reaching milestones and making life-altering decisions, and I am not that kind of bridesmaid who pouts because it isn’t happening to her. Since I hadn’t seen my dear friend Gloria in a while, it was amazing to see how happy she has become and how she’s changed into this little (5’ 2”) adoring person who is completely in love and excited about life to come. It really was a blessing, and it made me feel very warm and optimistic about life – hers, if not mine.
Here’s how it went.
Basically, it was all extremely great and surprisingly composed of fun, likeable people. This is not, pessimistically, what M and I had anticipated. I don’t do Girl Time very well, for starters. Being a bridesmaid requires cooing and curling irons, neither of which I’m typically good at. But in I dove. Fortunately, none of the bridesmaids were girly either. And the groomsmen were not the highly conservative Southerners we had anticipated; they were actually kinda hilarious. All in all, it was a fantastic wedding party where everyone – even pessimistic yours truly – was happy and focused on making Gloria and J’s wedding as wonderful as possible.
Day 1: M and I got there Wednesday afternoon in plenty of time to relax and enjoy our awesome view of the Gulf before heading to the restaurant for G’s Bach Party. We were the first ones there, and the hostess took us up to our private balcony/porch area so we could sit at the table and wait for the others. The waiter (who in earlier days I would have scouted and who was clearly thrilled to be working a Bachelorette Party) showed us the drink menus and pointed out that the “Perfect Margarita” was the strongest drink they had. I took this as a challenge. By the time the other three girls (Becky, Mel, and Victoria) arrived, I was in a pleasant enough state to greet these strangers cheerfully. When Gloria arrived with J’s sisters (Lana and Christa), I’m pretty sure she was only half-surprised by the party. But she really seemed glad we were all there for her, and it was quite clear that she was really, really happy with J, so that was great to see. It was in all a pretty nice night, I ate a great burger along with my 4-liquor drink, and we got to know the other bridesmaids at least well enough to know we weren’t going to hate this.
Day 2: Thursday, the GPS made us late for the rehearsal. The pastor ran through the plan, and we were herded around like sheep as per the usual prepping for the ceremony. That’s when we met the other half of the party – the groomsmen. This was also when we met Julie, Gloria’s other friend from Wisconsin who was quite pregnant and therefore hadn’t been at the Bach Party. M, as it turned out, got paired up with a cool dude who was great except that he looked like Ray Romano and that was a bit distracting. My groomsman was not there, so I rehearsed with his very cool sister (Leah). She imitated her brother pretty well, I would later discover, and assured me that I’d gotten a “good-looking one” and that he would be smiling the whole time. I turned to Gloria and asked, “You paired me with a peppy person?” to which she responded without a pause, “I put you with someone who could catch you if you fell.” Not falling, as it turns out, became our biggest challenge as bridesmaids, for the walk down the aisle was entirely downhill and there was a sand-trap obstacle right when we parted from our groomsmen to walk ourselves to our positions. Even in rehearsal, a few of us had problems. But, the rehearsal all went pretty well, and since it was freezing (I think it was like 55 that night – thanks for nothing, Florida), we hurried to the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner, which was also lovely. And, to cap off the evening, M and I back in our hotel appropriately watched Bridesmaids. It had to be done.
Day 3: Friday, we got to the park at 8am (the forecast said a high of 60, but that certainly didn’t happen until AFTER the ceremony). There was the usual tizzy of girls getting ready, but we had over two hours and so things went pretty smoothly despite the fact that the main hair lady had had gallbladder surgery and had to limp around. Victoria and I were the only ones responsible for our own hair, and we creatively shared a full-length mirror. A gecko was in the room and almost crawled up Gloria’s wedding dress. It was during this time that we got a good view into the family Gloria was marrying into, cuz J’s mom was running around helpfully, stopped to coo and kiss Gloria on the forehead as she told her she looked beautiful, and the two sisters were sweet and really helpful. We took a few quick pics in the room, and then we headed down to sneak out the back to our places.
IT WAS FREEZING! We northerners had all decided we would tough it out and not wear shawls during the ceremony, but this was not a brilliant move. I made certain to check – I was not the only girl who was gooseflesh head to toe. At least we had our respective groomsmen to shield the wind, and they were decent enough to acknowledge that we had the worst of it…even though they complained about their shoes being uncomfortable. This is when I met my groomsman, Quinn, who turned out to be quite hilarious and kinda awesome. M, Angel (the Ray Romano look-alike), Quinn, and I huddled for a while and talked about how brave M and I were to live in Michigan.
Finally the music from Forrest Gump (seriously) started, and it was time to hang onto our groomsmen for dear life and head down[hill] the aisle. By the time I got into position (I was the second to last bridesmaid to arrive) all the other girls had clearly had their own troubles with the sand-trap and watched anxiously as I approached the threshold. It was quite reassuring when Quinn whispered, “You got this,” just as we arrived, and fortunately I made it over the sand-trap and stood at my place so I could watch Gloria come down the aisle with her dad. She nearly broke down and cried but pulled it together just as they arrived. Then the guests were seated, the pastor prayed, yada, yada, you know the drill.
After the ceremony came pictures. Again, FREEZING. But the photographer had some cute ideas, and everyone was so easy-going that it was a lot of fun. Then we loaded into cars to go to the beach for pics, and mercifully it warmed up considerably. The beach was wonderful. While Gloria and J had couple pictures taken, we left the boys holding our bouquets – mostly because we forgot – and headed down to the water to play a bit. Julie and I found multiple jellyfish, and I enjoyed flipping them over and poking them with sticks. Good times. Then we piled back in cars and headed to the reception.
Reception = maybe 50 people. As per tradition, this part started by the DJ announcing the bridesmaid/groomsmen pairs as we exited the cabin and went out to the outside tables. Now, this should not have been an interesting event. However, every other pair was introduced and walked out, Quinn and I were totally on our game and prepared, and then we heard, “And now, for the first time as husband and wife…” Gloria yelped, “No, he’s forgetting you!” The easiest way out of it was to just step back and let Gloria and J out, so we did, the crowd outside applauded, and then Gloria and J went to dance their first dance on the porch. Quinn and I, meanwhile, were lost sheep back in the cabin. As I was contemplating what to do with my newfound nonexistence, Quinn muttered, “Eh, screw it,” and pushed open the doors. We scampered out and down the stairs (as stealthily as was possible with everyone watching) and hurried over to join the other bridesmaids and groomsmen. All of them were aware we’d been forgotten and were tittering with suppressed laughter. Quinn and Angel quickly discussed what had happened, and Quinn turned to me and M and said, “I’m naming this guy MC Fail.” (So that’s going to stick as an inside joke.)
The rest of the reception was lovely and fun and slightly less cold. Finally, we did the bubbles thing as Gloria and J ran to their car, and then they were off and so were my shoes. The energy immediately died and clearly everyone just wanted to get the hell out of there, and I mentioned to M that wherever we were going for dinner had better serve alcohol. Pregnant Julie requested that we have a drink for her (which I later did). We all changed back into crap clothes, hauled out stuff to the cars, and then were free.
Day 4: On the ride home, M and I took our time, unlike the last visit to Florida when we’d driven pretty much straight back in one day. At one point, M was driving and pointed to the side of the road. “Ooh, look! A falcon!” A few seconds later, she pointed to the other side of the road, “Oh, look! A man peeing!” Such is Alabama.
Having the attention span of a squirrel, during the ride home my mind wandered back to turning 30. Even in the warm afterglow of the wedding back south, I thought forward to life back north. It occurred to me that 2011, the year of being 29, had been really one of the greatest years of my life. And I hadn’t planned any of it. Didn’t that say something? I still can’t say I have a clue what will come of life in my 30s. I don’t know what I want to come, honestly. Am I okay just taking what comes? Can I trust God enough that, whatever it is, it’ll be good, fulfilling, and exactly what I never knew I wanted? Or do I need direction and goals? Do I need some aim? Really, I have NEVER known what I want. I’ve NEVER had goals. Why should that suddenly change just because I’ve hit 30? I’m still the same person, just evolved and farther down the road from when I was little and thought I should have everything figured out by now. I dropped the severe Type A personality a long time ago, so why do I keep trying to find control if I know I’m happier without it? I like the journey, I’m along for the ride, and maybe that’s all God wants me to do – trust, and let whatever happens happen.