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« The Editor: a metamorphosis | Main | The worst possible jobs for me »

In which I happily leave my twenties behind

Well, friends, it's official—as of this past Saturday, I am no longer a twenty-something. And I have to tell you... it feels awesome.

Alison at 30Five-year-old me thought I'd be a vet at age thirty. I intended to have a whole bunch of pet cats, and—bizarrely—a pet lamb. (It's not like I grew up on a farm, so I'm not sure where this idea came from.) I wanted to be married and have children of my own. I probably assumed I'd live in the house next door to my parents in Evanston, Illinois.

Ten-year-old me thought I'd be writing and illustrating children's books at age thirty. (Strangely enough, this is the closest I ever came to correctly predicting the course of my life. Well done, fifth grade Alison. If I'd only listened to you, I could have saved myself a great deal of time and anguish.) I still wanted a husband and children.

Fifteen-year-old me thought I'd be an environmental scientist at age thirty, specializing in saving endangered species. I was also just starting to get serious about photography and wondered if I could work that into my career somehow—perhaps I'd work for National Geographic. (This was before I learned that wildlife photographers spend most of their time hiding in trees and holes for hours on end, absolutely motionless as they slowly died of heat stroke or frostbite, waiting for an animal to pass by.) I thought I'd live in California with my husband and two daughters, whom I'd already named: Lucy and Kira.

Twenty-year-old me thought I'd be a lighting designer for theater at age thirty. I had decided I'd win my first Tony by then, and my college roommate was already planning what I'd wear when I gave my acceptance speech. (She'd decided jewel tones suited me best.) I thought I might marry my boyfriend at the time, whom I'd been dating almost two years. I was getting a little iffy on the children. I planned to stay in Boston after college, then maybe move to New York when my career took off—but only if I absolutely had to. I was pretty sure it wasn't the place for me.

Twenty-five-year-old me had no idea what she wanted to be tomorrow, never mind at age thirty. My lighting design career had turned out to be one long series of annoyances and disappointments. I had recently spent a lot of time emailing established theater professionals for advice and getting back notes that said, "If there's something else you might want to do, maybe you should try that instead." I'd been living in New York for three years, but I was considering whether to leave. I had just been through a devastating break-up and wasn't sure whether I even believed in marriage anymore. I had decided I definitely didn't want kids.

And I had just started working on my first book.

And now here I am, thirty years old, writing my little heart out for my editor at Delacorte and loving every minute of it. I finally, finally have the right job. I'm living in the right place—which, as it turns out, is New York City after all. I'm immersed up to my ears in a community of wonderful, supportive writers and readers who are more than willing to talk books with me all day. I'm not married, and I'm totally fine with that. I'm positive that not having children is the right choice for me. I am—for the first time since I was a child—perfectly satisfied with my life.

This is going to be my decade, you guys. I can feel it. Get ready.

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Reader Comments (5)

I love this! Funny how life's little detours can help shape who we become. I'm so glad you're happily writing away! To 30! *clinks glass*

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess Keating

I love this post, Alison. And you look absolutely gorgeous at 30. Enjoy the decade, and take good care of that one remaining tooth!

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Hooray for thirty! What a great post.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra Duncan

happy 30th

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterroro is reading

This was a great post, Alison--and happy belated birthday! Welcome to your 30s, the decade in which you become a published novelist. =) It's definitely been my favorite decade so far...

June 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTara Dairman
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