Tomorrow I turn 34.
It is not an age of importance. It's not impressive or fun or sad or meaningful in any way, really, other than I had a great year and I hope I have another great year.
I found my first grey hair the other day, and I've noticed that while I don't have many wrinkles on my face, lines mark my neck and my chest. I spent hundreds of hours of riding horses in the 105 degree Sacramento summer, with a baseball cap that covered my eyes, but left me with freckles on my shoulders and a neck I might one day feel bad about.
I believe that your 30s is the decade when you realize: not everyone is going to make it. Not all dreams come true, not all marriages are happy, not all challenges are conquered.
My friend Suzanne and I were talking about show business and she used a metaphor that I cannot get out of my head:
Show business is a door. People all over the world work to get to Los Angeles, pursuing their dreams, and when they get here, they find a door. They can't see what's on the other side, but they're pretty sure they have an idea.
Some people, they just...open the door and walk through. It is so simple and easy. "Just open the door!" they shrug. "Just walk through!"
Other people will spend the rest of their lives outside this doorway trying to understand how it works, the paradise on the other side looming. They think they hear champagne glasses clinking, and the smug laughter of successful people. For some their anger and frustration will deepen, honing itself into incandescence, and others will drown in their own apathy.
What I like about this metaphor is that it's both vague and specific - just like show business. No one has the same show business experience, and yet we all know all the stories.
You decide what the door is.
However you think those people slide through that door tells you about you: What is it you think you lack? Access? Mediocrity? Nepotism? Talent? Perseverance? Wisdom?
What I'm saying is, your 30s is when people get left outside the door. Good people. Talented people. Angry people. Stupid people. Smart people. Alcoholic people. Lovely people. Short people.
I'm also saying: what's wrong with pivoting? You wanted to open one door -- what's wrong with opening a different door? What's wrong with walking away all together?
I'm turning 34 tomorrow and I hope I've walked through the door, and I hope that what I see is what's been here the whole time: more locked rooms.
"...I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."
I have been writing this quotation in notebooks and journals since I was 17 which, incidentally, is the age I think I am in my head -- riding horses and skinny dipping in the American River, listening to the Beatles and biting my nails.
Why this quotation, and not something else from Rilke? Because I think this isn't really advice. This isn't, "Here is the best thing to do." It isn't "Here's how you get through the door." It isn't advice, it's just a truth: most answers are coping mechanisms for questions that make us uncomfortable.
I turn 34 tomorrow and I don't want answers. I want more questions. I don't want faith. I want doubt. I don't want comfort, I want hope.
And a really good moisturizer.