Why This Birthday Has Me Freaking Out

I love birthdays. I’ve always loved them. I was one of those kids who loved bringing birthday treats to school. As an adult, I don’t mind when my birthday falls during the week, because I can celebrate on my birthday, and again over the weekend. In fact, I pretty much get to celebrate the entire month of my birthday because of all the free birthday coupons I get from places like Starbucks, Noodles & Co, Baskin Robbins, and virtually every other birthday mailing list there is.

But last year the birthday thing started to get a little weird. I was turning 30 and had grand hopes of going with my closest friends to Napa for a wine country trip. However, my plans were foiled when pretty much all the friends I was hoping could come with me were all pregnant at the same time. As much as I was happy for them, I was pretty bummed that we were getting to a point where babies and pregnancies are starting to become more important than our own adult birthdays. And then there’s that whole biological clock thing, which I just wasn’t ready to address.

So what did I do instead? I hopped on a plane with my boyfriend and headed to Ireland, strategically planning our flight so I officially turned 30 over the Atlantic. Getting older doesn’t count if you’re not on land, right?

A really terrible photo of me with my complimentary birthday prosecco courtesy of Aer Lingus

So now here we are a year later, and I’m about to turn 31. I don’t feel 31. I still feel too young to have friends who have not one, but several kids. Or to have friends who own houses in the suburbs and spend their weekends doing landscaping and home repairs. I want those things, but in my head I still have all the time in the world.

However, it finally hit me the other day that maybe I don’t have all the time in the world.

Living my life focused on my Life’s List in a lot of ways has made me believe you can accomplish anything if you try hard enough. It doesn’t matter if you’re too slow, too old, have asthma, are inexperienced, or are scared to do it. I’ve been able to use my Life’s List as inspiration to do all sorts of things I didn’t think I could do, and it started to make me feel invincible.

But it turns out, I’m not.

I’ll skip over some of the obvious things you physically can’t do once you hit a certain age, and instead share the one thing that really was the big blow to me this week.

One of the things I have always wanted to do, when the time is right, is to live abroad for a year. Ideally, in Ireland, but I have a whole list of countries I’d want to spend a year in at some point.

Of course, the responsible girl in me doesn’t just want to quit everything here and go overseas without a plan. I want to know I’ll be there legally for the duration of the time, and maybe even have some sort of income while I’m there. So for years I’ve been looking into programs for working abroad. Unfortunately, many of them don’t have options in my choice countries, or if they do, they only hire people with European Union passports. “No Americans Allowed.”

However, I recently found a really great organization called BUNAC that offers work and volunteer abroad programs in all my favorite places. I was pumped, and I signed up for their brochure.

That’s when the bomb dropped.

So, even the Republic of Ireland considers 31 as “too old” for some things.

While I know this program wasn’t my last and only option to someday make my dream come true, it was a huge blow to me. It was the first time I saw, in writing, that I am officially prohibited from something because I am too old for it, And it’s only going to happen more as I get older. I can feel as young as I want in my head and in my heart, but when it comes down to it, there are some cases where that birthdate on your passport is the only thing that matters.

I think right now I am at a point where I am trying to reconcile the two ends of spectrum. On one side, I believe “age is just a number” and I have all the time in the world.  On the other side, I need to remember that we’re all human, life is short, and you can’t wait around forever for things to work out. Sometimes there truly is a window of opportunity and you can’t let it shut before you’re ready.

I’d like to think that I will keep going about my life, finding ways to overcome these little roadblocks in the way of what I want to accomplish.

But what about you? What have done despite being too old/too young/too big/too small? Have you done something even after you thought your window was gone? I’d love to hear it.