Fangirl Thursdays have always been a place for me to get personal. These posts have been a safe space for me and—hopefully—for all of you to talk about the experiences, the media, and even the life events that have made us who we are. So I can’t think of any better place to address the fact that tomorrow is my 30th birthday, and before I embrace my thirty, flirty, and thriving new decade, I needed to say goodbye to the one I’m leaving behind.
The best way for me to express myself has always been through letters, so it’s time for me to write a little something to the woman I was 10 years ago—on the brink of turning 20 with no idea where this crazy, exciting, and fulfilling decade was going to lead.
There’s so much I want to tell you about the next 10 years of your life—the places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet, the TV shows you’ll watch, the writing you’ll do…But I’ll start with the most important thing:
They make new Star Wars movies. Good ones. The ones you cried over when you were 12 because you thought they’d never make them. You get to see what happens to Han, Leia, and Luke—and you get to meet some really amazing new characters, too.
Right now, you can’t imagine those movies ever getting made. You might not even be sure you care anymore if they do get made. (Stop fighting it: You totally care. You care A LOT.) But it happens. And that’s the best way I can sum up your 20s: There’s so much good stuff coming your way that you can’t even imagine right now.
I know the thought of life turning out differently than you imagined terrifies you. You have a plan for your life—married by 24, kids by 27, journalism job somewhere close to home. Well, I want to be the first one to tell you that none of that happens—and that when you’re facing the dawn of your 30s, you wouldn’t want to fix those broken plans even if you had the chance to go back and do it all again. You’re about to make some big choices, little girl, and they’re going to be the right ones. You’re going to feel unsure and afraid that you’re throwing your plans out the window, but here’s one of the most important things you’ll learn in the coming decade: Your instincts are always right. That little voice inside of you telling you not to take that job, telling you to get out of that relationship, telling you to trust that Craigslist ad for a job opening…That voice doesn’t care about your five-year plan. It cares about what’s going to make you happy, healthy, safe, and successful. Listen to it.
I’m so excited for you. You have no idea what’s coming your way. You have no idea that later this year someone is going to put a red pen in your hand for the first time, and you’re going to leave those old journalism dreams—the ones that never felt quite right (like a gorgeous pair of shoes that you can’t make fit your feet)—behind for new career goals. You have no idea that one red pen and one night editing in the newspaper office is going to put you on a path that leads to piles of books with your name on them—a dream you thought you had to leave behind in high school—and a team of editors who say they feel lucky you’re their boss. You don’t even know what an editorial director does right now, but in 10 years, you won’t be able to imagine yourself doing anything else.
The same thing happens at the dance studio. I know you think you love teaching now, but you have no idea how good it’s going to get. You have no idea how much kids who haven’t even started dancing yet are going to change your life. You have no idea how much pride your heart is capable of holding, but you’ll find out in late nights and early mornings at exhausting competitions, when you hear your dancers shout your name from the stage as they clutch their trophies with beaming smiles. You know what it’s like to be on both sides of that moment, and you’ll never believe it now, but you’ll decide it feels even better watching from the wings. And in another twist, you end up teaching the class you always swore was off-limits for you, and you’ll never want to stop doing it. I know the idea of teaching the preschoolers terrifies you now, but those baby ballerinas and tiny tappers are going to become one of the biggest and best parts of your life.
Right now, on the eve of turning 20, you think you know what the best moments of the coming decade are going to be—and I bet you’d be horrified to know those moments don’t come to pass in the next 10 years. But you discover that the best moments are actually the ones that you could never have predicted. Running your first meeting, hugging your tap soloist after a successful competition, frolicking around the Magic Kingdom at 2 a.m., getting on a plane for the first time in 20 years, drinking wine on a rooftop in Chicago, spending your 25th birthday behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, hearing your favorite actress tell you she loves your writing—these are moments you didn’t plan for, but life doesn’t have to go according to plan to be great. And on the eve of turning 30, I feel confident in telling you that you have a pretty great life.
So many cool things are going to happen to you in the next 10 years. You’re going to get an annual pass to Disney World—and stay at the Contemporary (every year!). You’re going to go to comic cons in different cities and fall in love with so many amazing fictional characters. You’re going to create a LiveJournal account and embrace your inner nerdy girl again—fan fiction writing and all—and it’s going to lead you to some of the greatest friends you could ever dream of having. They’re going to go with you on amazing adventures and look out over big cities next to you and hold your hand when you cry at your first Broadway musical. They’re going to sleep on your couch and hug you in airports, and eat so many waffles with you. They’re going to encourage you as you start your own website to write about books, movies, and TV shows—and you’re going to end up sharing so much more about yourself than you could ever imagine sharing right now.
Friendship is going to be such a big part of this decade for you. Whether it’s on midnight train rides or road trips, in a shared office or the back room at the library, or over a cup of coffee or a piece of cheesecake, your girls are going to become the soulmates you keep trying to find in a man. You might think that because you’re facing 30 without a husband that you’re “alone,” but I want you to know that this is the least alone you’ve ever felt in your life.
Now, I don’t want you to think your 20s are going to be easy. There will be losses and insecurities and anxiety and tears—lots of tears. (Some things will never change.) But I think the most hopeful thing I can tell you about the decade you’re about to tackle is that when it ends, you’ll be happy. You won’t be the woman facing 30 who’s terrified of the future or regretting her past. You’ll be the woman who’s excited for what’s coming and who’s ready to celebrate the end of a great decade and the start of what can be an even greater one.
Happiness came from so many unexpected places in your 20s, and as you prepare to turn 30, that’s what has you most excited: the hope of all the unexpected sources of happiness that are going to emerge in the next 10 years.
…Well that and the fact that Star Wars: Episode IX is coming out next year.
I’m so happy to see you embracing your life, even though it wasn’t the life you counted on. I’ve learned that it’s so important to be open to the opportunities that come along, rather than hanging your hopes on things you only thought you wanted. Life has a way of giving us what we need, and we should always be open to that! I hope the next decade continues to fulfill your undreamed-of dreams!
Thank you so much, Jennifer!
“Life has a way of giving us what we need.” Truer words were never spoken!
Happiest of birthdays my friend. Watching you bravely, step into your personal power and light through a path of vulnerability grounded in love and the pursuit of joy has been such a privilege. I told you long ago your writing, this blog were a shimmer of light in a time of deep darkness. Navigating my way out and gaining you and all these wonderful women in my life has been so affirming. It’s been such a source of joy and you’ve provided such a wonderful person for my creative sensitive soul that I’m raising to look up to and see the brave beauty of being simply unapologetically yourself.
Turning 45 in January I stood in a place of joy that I chose and it was one of the most powerful moments of my life. So let this 40s decade assure your 30s that not only do we get more Star Wars your tools of your 20s will build the beauty of your world that is to come and that most importantly is of your own creative design.
Well now I’m crying. ❤
Thank you so much—not only for these kind words but for your comforting presence and advice, which helped me navigate the rough waters of my 20s by giving me someone to respect and admire. For as much as you believe this space has been a light for you, I hope you know that your warmth and your little diva's enthusiastic shimmer have also been lights for me. It's an honor to think that I can be someone she looks up to because her infectious joy has provided me with inspiration on far more than one occasion. I'm so excited for another decade of making memories with all the beautiful people NGN has brought into my life! (NGN Does Vegas 2019???)
(Yes, I’ll clean that up later.)
Turning 20 freaked me out. (I think because I didn’t realize I would get freaked out — if that makes sense. I didn’t anticipate the psychological impact of going from 19 to 20.) Thirty was soooo much easier. Plus, no one believes you when you say you’re 29, so it was a relief to get to 30. 🙂
This letter is full of Katie goodness. I love seeing you embrace who you are and the path you’re on — especially since it isn’t exactly the path you imagined. Such a great lesson for all of us. Embrace the path you’re on; look for the joy on that path and the exciting and unexpected joys. I love that your list is full of both big and little moments. Big joys and little joys. I also love that you don’t sugarcoat the tough. Life is going to be hard. Stuff happens.
I’m so glad that one of the things that happened in your 20s was this blog. It’s such fun getting to go on this journey with you — to share highs and lows. To laugh, cry, and obsess. To analyze. (To throw in random mentions of Doctoberfest mugs.) To think about how we can better. To spread joy. To celebrate the stuff we love.
Onward to 30! May it contain love, joy, happiness, Star Wars, coffee, nerdiness, laughter, friends, books, music, writing, growth, and all the good things — plus, Peggy hats (even if it’s just a mental Peggy hat).
Thank you so much, Tempest! Turning 25 was my big freakout moment, and i think it was because, like you and turning 20, I didn’t expect to be freaked out. Turning 30 is actually something I’ve been waiting for since I turned 29, so it’s been great so far. (I always rounded up anyway when people asked my age because, like you said, most people laugh when you say 29.)
I’m so excited for more of all the things you listed—especially more Peggy hats! Some day I will break down and buy one (and totally wear it all the time because I LOVE hats), and I will be so excited to share the pictures on here! 😉
Im late to the party due to some whirlwind traveling, but this was such an honest and beautiful letter. I am so glad that sometimes life doesn’t end up like we plan in the best possible way. I am grateful I was able to share the later half of your 20s with you, and I cant wait to see what is in store for you in your 30s!
Also, I love the idea here than fandom is ageless. You can love the same thing your whole life, sometimes for the same reasons and sometimes for different ones. And I love that fandom is a great bridge for forming friendships beyond our own age groups!
Thanks, Shauna! I hope you’re starting to feel settled and are enjoying your new city (even though WNY misses you already). ❤
I completely agree with your love for the agelessness of fandom. I always think about how things like Star Wars and Disney have been there for me at different points in my life for different reasons and always seem to reappear when I need them the most. And I think fandom is so good at introducing us to different kinds of people, especially people from different age groups. I love having fandom friends of all different ages because we can all share our experiences and help each other navigate the ups and downs of life much better than a group of people who are only from one generation.