It’s 8 pm, the sky is black, and I just finished a Skype call with my family, whose laughing faces were illuminated by lazy Sunday brunch sunshine. I’m an ocean away, in the bedroom of our little apartment. Two doors away, in the living room, I hear the rustling of gift wrap. I am banned from that room for the night: Jeff is preparing a birthday surprise. Tomorrow, as previously feared, I will be 30. From the vault of my ridiculous and unfounded worries: I will wake up covered in menopause, with a sudden penchant for raisin scones and trousers that button up just at tit level. Tomorrow is the first day of a new decade, and for the first time in my life, I feel like age means something. I mean, I’m not even sure what’ll happen when the gods above see my un-finished 30 before 30 list, but now I’ve also gotta explain (to someone?) why I don’t want kids or a mortgage (…yet.)
I'm lucky that my friends are all relatively the same age, and we're all making this leap into this new decade, one by one, like popcorn kernels. Everyone else seems to be doing fine, no one woke up looking like Jann Arden, and it really is just another day. Meanwhile, in Ireland, because moving to another country wasn't enough change, I decided to round up my favourite memories from this decade, to hopefully stop my ears from ringing with the fear that I'm going to be Ye Aulde with nothing to show for it.
|Jann Arden isn't old and there is nothing wrong with her, not that there is anything wrong with being old anyway|
2006 would be the year that I turned 20. It was also the year of Taking Back Sunday's album Louder Now, a living soundtrack for my post-teen angst, and a very compelling argument for why oh my god you just don't get it, mom. Remember how cool studded belts were? That said, I'll never forget just how much we felt back then. Every heartbreak, every Saturday night, everything was for the first time and so, so loud.
At 21, I had my first party. It was at the Minto hotel in Ottawa, and I bought 10 bottles of Absolut vodka. My best friend and I both had platinum blonde hair. There was a group pillow fight. We were young and wild.
I found this picture in my Fall 2008 collection, which would mean I was 22 and in university. This kind of autumn is how I always remember my early twenties. The Postal Service on my iPod shuffle, a Tim's chai tea (2 milk, 1 sugar), my class notes, and the orange leaves brushing past the windows of the bus, on the way to campus. It was the realest romance. Well, not this picture in particular, because here I'm just trying to not cry after hurting my hands hanging off a tree branch in an effort to seem whimsical a-la Meg Ryan.
At 23, I lived and breathed Lady Gaga. Naturally, I spent a month making this halloween costume, constructing a 3D crystal formation out of cardboard and CDs cut up into tiny disco-ball squares. At the club, I was booed offstage immediately: it was a Sexiest Costume competition and the winner was a Sexy Call Centre Agent. I remember striking pose after pose amidst the booing, determined to show off my crafty ensemble regardless of the heckling. If you've ever done that, you'll know it takes an almost inhuman amount of guts. Was a banana thrown in my general direction? My memory is a bit hazy now, but never mind that - on my way out, I was stopped by a drag-queen asking to buy my costume for a show. Baby, I was born this way.
24 marked my official audacity as a full blown hipster. After a brief stint in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, I was no longer a part of the 'normal' world. I emailed The New Yorker with article pitches, wore ironic second-hand sweaters covered in black donuts, told my government job boss that a budgetary proposition was "masturbatory", read spoken word at open mic nights, attended community events dressed like a colonial woman on acid, 'composed' 'music' on my MIDI keyboard (shoutout Cubase and Fruity Loops), and landed a freelance job writing for a fashion studio. I was vegan, I was into Jodorowsky, and my most prized possession was a pair of old mens' sunglasses. No regrets - I don't think I'll ever be that cool again.
In 2011, I was 25 and had this Christmas dinner with my favourite girlfriends. It was in the first apartment I ever lived in on my own, and it remains my favourite place in the world. At night, you could see the snow falling from each of the corner windows, and it felt like you were in a snow globe. The apartment had old wooden floors and a faux fireplace with a mirror built in. That year, as a very influential and important relationship ended, I found the pieces of the new me, and this little dinner party was the first time I felt like myself again.
When I was 26, I went a month eating just raw food. I've always loved trying different lifestyles, and didn't think it would be too difficult since I had gone years being vegan. That January, I learned what it was like not having a life. I was always cold, I was always hungry, a co-worker said she didn't want to be around me since I couldn't eat anything anyway, and a dude told me I smelled too much like vegetables. I was dehydrating zucchini around the clock, and my idea of dessert was a hot shower. To this day, the thought of "agave-avocado" anything makes me shudder..
A lot happened in 2013, between photography classes and discovering our city's new gourmet street food trend, and festivals, and new friends...but one of the funniest memories is the time we went to New York, just my mom, my sister, and I. We had donuts, and window-shopped, and my mom asked the man at the Gucci store if he had change for the bus, and then fake-argued with a wax Samuel L.Jackson, and then rejected an Abercrombie & Fitch model. Sometimes, the best part of something is knowing how much it means to someone else.
One of my happiest memories in recent years is this one Sunday afternoon. There wasn't anything exciting going on, I was 28 and it was a very ordinary spring day. I had come back from a long run, exhausted, and had picked up a loaf of fresh sourdough bread from my favourite bakery, Bread & Sons. My feet were killing in that awesome way that makes you feel like it's totally fine to nosedive into a ball-pit of cheeseburgers, and I showered and changed into a big fluffy robe. The sun was shining through my bedroom windows as I made a couple of cheesy toasties and lay back on my bed watching This is 40. I think I'll remember that moment forever. It was just me, alone, and it was perfect.
And, of course, it just wouldn't be me if I didn't say that my favourite memory from my last year of my twenties was running the marathon. Up until a few years ago, thoughts of the marathon were right up there with Chris Hadfield and the planet Mercury. It just wasn't part of anything I considered doable or even real. And then, one day, I ran it. And it was incredible. That year, I also went to Ireland and umm like totally changed my life and stuff, but that's a memory I'd like to unfold in my thirties, and I'm not there yet, so for now here's a photo of me at 500 metres to the finish line!
It is now 11 pm and I will be thirty in an hour. I'm in Dublin, drinking a glass of wine I bought with the Euros I made from my new job. My blog URL now ends with .ie and I haven't heard the Canadian accent in months. In all of the silly years above, I never could've predicted this is where I'd be, and yet, here I am. It's easy to get caught up in what you haven't yet done, or what you think you're supposed to do, and as I slowly turn into Reba McEntire in this last hour of my youth, I'm certainly caught up in the stark realisation that I am an unmarried woman without child or car payments.
But this is where I am, regardless, and if the next ten years are as kaleidoscopic as the past ten have been, then I don't want anything to change. "Want to do something silly for your last hour?" Jeff asks, taking a break from what sounds like either smoking a crack pipe or blowing up balloons in the other room. "We can do knick knacks! It's when you knock on a door and run away," he explains. On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, I'll wake up tomorrow and still be me.