• Wed, Mar 16 2011

Chasing Thirty: Carpe Diem. Rinse. Repeat.

Welcome to a new column, Chasing Thirty by Andrea Dunlop. Throughout she’ll share her attempts to check off the items in her pre-30 bucket list in this, her 29th year.

I broke up with a boyfriend early last fall. During the self-indulgent self-reflection that followed, I had a revelation: I was more relieved about the break-up than I was heartbroken. My new single status coupled with the fact that I had recently wrapped up a long-term freelance gig as well as the fact that I was still living with my parents after a big move back to Seattle from New York left me completely untethered; I was totally free but uncomfortably adrift. I figured I could either freak out or seize the moment. So, I made a list of thirty things I wanted to do before I turned thirty. They’re the things one can only really get away with when one is young-ish, single and not the primary caretaker of any other life forms. If I didn’t do these now, I knew I might not get another chance.
This is a sort of bucket list. Not, you know, the big bucket at the end of the line. But a smaller bucket; a champagne bucket, perhaps. It’s not that I will suddenly be too old to do any of these things when I turn thirty but I’m not someone who can function without a self-imposed deadline. And there’s no denying thirty’s milestone status, its rather dubious veneer of being the gateway into adulthood.
We’re sold a big old bill of goods about what our twenties are supposed to be like: freedom, adventure, unsuitable but memorable romances, dream-chasing. Hollywood loves a lady in her early twenties; a bright-eyed gal who moves to the Big City chasing the big job and the big romance (she’s probably hilariously clumsy too) but what happens to her after the fade-to-black? Most of my friends are in their late twenties / early thirties and facing down some big questions that just didn’t have the same urgency a mere few years ago when we were still in the strictly experimental stages of adulthood: is this the career I want forever, the city I want to put down roots in, the man I want to marry? And what about all those adventures I was supposed to be having in my twenties, the youth I was supposed to be misspending?
I don’t want to be married with children and realize I never dressed up like a drag queen or went to Argentina to learn the tango or asked the most beautiful stranger I could find on a date while I had the chance. We live in a world of infinite possibilities and it creates the illusion that the time to embrace them is also infinite; we know it’s not but it’s just too easy to let the illusion rule in the day-to-day. You know how, when you have a super busy day, you’ll go to the gym in that one hour and a half time slot that you have to do it but if you have the whole day on a Saturday, it suddenly becomes 8 o’clock and you haven’t done a damn thing? Life is like that when seen through a wide scope: tomorrow becomes next week becomes next year becomes never.

So what is on this list? For that, you’ll have to wait and see, but I will tell you that it’s a mix of a few big-ticket goals, some goofy whims and some adventures I know I’ll just never get around to if I don’t make myself. My rule for eligibility was a simple line of questioning: what have I always talked/thought about doing but haven’t? What’s keeping me from doing it? Obviously there are some real limitations here: time (about a year) and money being big ones; so that means being the first bestselling author to go on Dancing with the Stars and buying a zoo animal for my nephew are out. But if the answer to that second question is fear, good old-fashioned inertia or ‘I dunno why not’ then it is ON.

Too often we realize how fleeting life is only when faced with a tragedy: an illness or the death of a loved one, something that takes us to the ragged edge. But this list isn’t about life and death; it’s about living in the moment and going after what I want—no matter how outlandish it looks on paper.
What do you want to do while you can get away with it?

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  • Danielle

    Good luck with this endeavor. I look forward to reading about it. I’m 34 and looking back on my 20′s I did pretty much everything I wanted to do that I could never justify doing now. I don’t have any regrets or feel like I missed out on anything. I enjoyed my 20′s but once I turned 30 I was glad to leave them behind and was ready to move into real adulthood.

  • Lauren

    I am turning 30 next month and have been having the same exact thoughts. I have my own “pre-30 bucket list” that I realized I only have alittle over a month to accomplish! I am quite emotional at the thought of leaving my 20′s… and I think it is because I know I haven’t done all the things I wanted to do thus far.

    Are we going to see what is on your champagne bucket list? I’d love to see. Speaking of champagne….

    • andrea dunlop

      You’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s on the list. Suspenseful I know!

      And why not make yours a pre-31 bucket list? Deadlines are exactly as meaningful or as arbitrary as we make them.

  • Kinsley

    Andrea,
    I’m so looking forward to your column! I’m actually a 21 year old single girl and I am looking forward to your insight. I’m about to graduate college and feel like I’m already waiting for the time when I can do all the things I’ve been wanting to do. Not a great way to start my 20s. Hopefully, by reading your column I’ll get the carpe diem fever as well and get my lazy butt in gear and start living a little. I’d really enjoy hearing some of your 20-somethings stories too for a little inspiration.
    -Kins
    Ps- the suspense is killing me!!! I want to know what’s on the list!!!