Birthday Blues: What Happens To Friendship After You Turn 30?

Remember when I was all, “I’m turning 30, so what?” Well, I think I jinxed myself! After writing that essay, the days until my 30th birthday continued to count down, and I started feeling some … anxiety and sadness about the whole thing. Not because I’m actually sad about bidding goodbye to my 20s — they were fun, but not that fun — but because so many of my friends have already hit the big 3-0 and I’m feeling woefully distant from them these days.Coincidentally, in the last month alone, three of the friends I have known the longest have gotten engaged. A good friend from college is getting married this month. They join the handful of other close friends I have that are already married. One of my newly engaged friends (also one of my closest pals) just announced she’s having a baby (a boy!), while my other best friend is actively trying to get pregnant herself. A third married friend told me recently that she thinks she’ll be pregnant sometime next year.

I have a few single friends, sure, and they’re awesome. But while I know life isn’t a race and I truly don’t feel like I’m competing, I feel strangely “behind” the vast majority of my friends in the personal life department. It’s not that I’m jealous or that I desperately wish I were getting married or having a baby right now — remember, I almost was married and am grateful not to be. But I also feel a little disconnected from them. I crave a core group of girlfriends that feel like family, but the ones I want that with, well, they all have their own families to build. They have couples dinners to attend, a bazillion weddings to fly to, and pre-natal vitamins to take. They’re getting winter ski houses and taking anniversary vacations.

In my adulthood, most of my friends have been good acquaintances rather than besties. I attribute this to the fact that when I was in 8th grade, my bestest bestest bestest friend since I was 5 transferred to a new school. There she made tons of new buddies, who shared her interest in dancing. A year after she started there, I was accepted. When I called to tell her the exciting news, she replied, “Ugh. Why does everyone want to come to this school all of the sudden?” She didn’t talk to me at all once I started. Since then I’ve always kept my friends at an arm’s length, not wanting to have my heart broken that way again. It’s not a conscious thing — I just went many years without getting too attached, though I’ve always had many woman in my life whom I’ve adored.

But after my breakup with my ex, I really saw how many wonderful female friends I had in my life. They truly supported me in ways I never expected. They managed to completely re-inspire my faith in female friendship and I think there are bonds with a handful of them that will last a lifetime. But during that time they have also had major changes happen in their lives — as described above — and I’ve started to feel some emotional bruising that comes with allowing yourself to, well, care about people. They’re moving on to new phases in their lives, while I’m kind of wandering. I’m happy for them, but I’m feeling a little lonely. Is this what happens in your late 20s and 30s, as your friends start to “settle down”? As friends start to create families of their own, their priorities shift — where does that leave us single ladies?

I ultimately want all of those things that my friends have — commitment and companionship and children — but truthfully, I can’t always imagine those things happening for me. Of course, at age 30 my mom was pregnant with me and about to marry my dad (yeah, I was an accident), but I’m sure when she looked ahead she didn’t see, say, a divorce or a cross-country move, two things that have occurred in her life in the last decade. Turning 30 has started to make me wonder what positive and negative events are to come. I’ve always liked being “prepared.”

When I went to Costa Rica this summer, one of the big “lessons” I brought back with me was that there’s something extremely gratifying about not looking too far ahead. The chances of envisioning what the future will actually hold are slim and life is better spent enjoying things as they happen. For the most part, I think I have applied that to my life rather well, but with 30 only, ack, a week away and everyone around me going through major life changes, I’m suddenly feeling this weird, self-imposed pressure to anticipate what’s ahead. What do I want? How am I going to get those things? Where do I want to go and how am I going to get there?

So, yes, I am turning 30 and I do feel a certain sense of SO WHAT? about the whole thing. But suddenly I’m scared and a little sad. Just not about the extra candle on my birthday cake.