As I’ve checked things off of my list during this project, I’ve had ample time to wonder what being thirty is all about. What does it mean to me to be heading into this new decade of my life? Is it scary, exciting? Does it even have real meaning beyond the milestone status imposed upon it by romantic comedies and the greeting card industry? Are, say, 29 and 31 really any more different than 26 and 28 were? I feel like eras in one’s life are more accurately cordoned off into natural four or five year chunks: 18-22, 22-26, 27-32 etc.

This sentiment was echoed by my friend Colleen in New York (who is turning thirty next month) when said she’s actually felt like she’s been in her thirties for a while. I’ve felt the same for the last couple of years because I tend to associate my real twenties with the time period I spent in New York living in tiny apartments where I never cooked actual meals and went out to nightclubs on Monday nights. But while I’ve felt thirty-ish for a while, will I feel differently once I’m actually on the other side of that number?

By and large, my friends seem unbothered by the idea of hitting the milestone birthday. The aforementioned Colleen added that it helps that she feels like she’s finally really getting somewhere in her career and that she’s surrounded by great friends and has a great boyfriend, which help to make her feel satisfied in who she is at 30. My friend Mo just turned thirty on Saturday and she said, ‘I feel great and nothing is sagging, so it’s all good.’ My friend Kerri, who has a little more time on the clock than I, feels good about the idea as well and is happy about the way her twenties went. There are some differences now: ‘I still like day boozing,’ she said, ‘it’s just that now I like that it because I can go to bed earlier. I don’t think that’s why I liked it in my early 20s.’

In order to get some male perspective, I asked my friend Jason how he felt about turning thirty, which he did earlier this year and he was pretty stoked about it. I asked him how he thinks his thirties might be different than his twenties. ‘I’ll have more money to do rad things,’ he said. ‘Plus when you’re a 35 year old dude, you can date 21 year olds and 50 year olds.’ There is that!

It goes without saying that turning thirty is different for men than it is for women of course. Men don’t have reason to feel much anxiety about turning thirty as far as society and/or biology is concerned; there’s probably a whole other column in that.

No one I talked to had anything negative to say about turning thirty though my friend Monica did say that the milestone birthday led her to some uncomfortable revelations about her life. ‘I was excited about turning thirty because I love big birthdays but afterwards I realized that I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be in life- which motivated me to make some changes. My twenties were fantastic but I was ready to move on to a new chapter; I saw my thirties as being a chapter of maturity.’

And perhaps that’s what’s a little intimidating about thirty; we see this as the decade when bonafide adulthood sets in. Looking forward to my thirties I have this vague notion that someone is going to force me to do all of the real, grownup things like get married and buy a house and have kids whether I want to or not. I have to smack myself and remember that a) I don’t have to do these things ever if I don’t want to and b) I do not live in a rom-com and/or the 1950s.

But there will be choices to be made at some point, this way or that and my options are not necessarily more numerous as they are just very different from what they will be in ten years. My chances to do all of the non-grownup things I want to do won’t completely expire on April 5, 2012 but it will someday, and someday creeps on you faster than you ever thought it could. When I look back on my twenties, I want to feel like I rocked them and I want to feel like I rocked 29 hardest of all.

Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of goals before turning thirty. You can read more about her adventures at thirty-things.