Thirty Again? No, Thanks!
by Liz Flaherty
When I stepped into the front foyer of the church Sunday, some parishioners were talking about being 30 again. “Wouldn’t you like to?” one of them asked, looking at me. “Or wouldn’t you like to at least feel like you did then?”
I said no immediately, laughing at the very idea of it, so naturally I’ve thought of little else in the days since then. Would I want to be 30 again?
Well, lessee. When I was 30, my children were seven, nine, and eleven. The boys played baseball and my daughter twirled a baton. Their dad worked nights and I worked fulltime, too, and we lived in the country, where we had to drive everywhere and carpool was what happened if you had a radiator leak. Everything broke, stopped running, or came due at the same time, and we lived in a constant state of having almost enough money to get through the week. Oh, except for the weeks when we didn’t have nearly enough to get through. Most of us needed for our days to have at least 35 hours in them, just in case we wanted to catch a nap now and then, but it never worked out that way. PMS was a way of life and you just kept on going because stopping wasn’t an alternative.
However, when I was 30, I wore a size nine comfortably, colored my hair more because I wanted to be blonde than because I was covering gray renegades, and had possibly never heard the word “cholesterol.” The boyfriend, the one I married at 20, and I would meet each other’s eyes over the children’s heads and smile. We’d link fingers and stroke our hands through the soft hair of the little ones between us and know beyond all doubt that life really was perfect.
When I got up in the morning at 30, nothing hurt. If I had a little “hitch in my getalong,” I laughed and hauled myself up straight, knowing it wouldn’t be there the next day. If I remembered to take vitamins and extra calcium, it was because someone on TV said I should and I found them on sale somewhere. Exercise wasn’t a conscious decision, unless chasing children counted. Nor were meals oriented toward good health, since most of them contained fish sticks, hot dogs, or some other nutritional nightmare.
So. What would I do differently if I were 30 again?
I’d try to find a way to save more toward retirement, although since we’d still have college expenses, health insurance premiums, and gasoline coming out of the family budget, I’m not sure that would be feasible. I’d be more environment-conscious. I would be kinder. I would give more. I wouldn’t smoke. I would laugh more. I would watch more high school sports and less television. I would dance more. I would always wear moisturizer.
I will retire in a few years. If I had more money, I would still retire in a few years.
I have, within the limits of my own intelligence and finances, done what I could. I’ve been careful of the world around me, I hope I’ve been kind, I hope I’ve been generous. I’ve always laughed a lot. I wish I’d never smoked, but the truth is that I did and I enjoyed it, but I’m glad I don’t anymore.
The boyfriend and I danced at my nephew’s wedding just a few weeks ago. It was him and me and Eric Clapton and it felt every bit as good as it did when we were 30.
Last night, I sat at our high school football field and watched two teams of young people play for the love of the game. It was as enthralling now as it was 20 years ago. I came home, warmed up in the shower, and slathered on moisturizer.
Between working, church, and other activities, I am always complaining that I just don’t have time. Well, the truth is that I’ve never had time, nor has almost anyone I know, because we’ve been busy working and being with our families. And laughing. And dancing. It’s what we did when we were 30; it’s what we do now. If I were 30 again, I’d have to give up the last 27 years. Those times of being broke and tired and occasionally heartbroken. Of smiling into the boyfriend’s eyes and feeling the warm silk of my children’s hair. If I were 30 again, I wouldn’t know how much fun it is to be 57.