I made it to 30 this year.
That’s right, the big 3-0. Sadly, there’s no excitement or anything special that comes with this milestone birthday, thanks to COVID. The biggest change is instead of recycling the “2” on the cake, people had to shuffle through the kitchen junk drawers to find a “3” and a “0.”
Everyone asks the typical questions as well: “How was your birthday? Did you do anything exciting? How do you feel?”
The first question I understood because people want to make conversation and are genuinely curious. (It was great by the way).
The second seemed peculiar given the circumstances of 2020. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that other than I went out to eat — while physically distancing and wearing a mask when necessary, of course — and I got a Slurpee.
But the third, that one hit differently this year.
The response came swiftly: “Eh, it’s the same as any other birthday. I just woke up in a little more pain.”
While that was true, it didn’t reflect the sentiment I really felt at that moment. It felt like that part in movies when the lead character looks off into the distance, smirks and chuckles at what they’ve endured or overcome during the film.
I felt humbled. Not because I’m no longer in my 20s, but I’m finally at an age where I appreciate the fact that my parents are human.
To be clear, it’s not that I never noticed this before. But more came to light when I flipped to Chapter 30 of my life.
I’m the baby of the family and my parents had me when they were 31. I’ve always seen them as Superman and Superwoman — able to face any issue or concern for their children.
For the most part, any and every thing I’ve wanted or needed they made sure I had.
As I shift money here or there to ensure I pay myself first, save some to invest, then pay my bills, I finally comprehend the madness of having one child, let alone four children, to care for on a tight budget.
I’m fortunate to not have any major trauma that plagues me in life and I’m grateful to have remained employed throughout this pandemic.
I do have issues that linger: My dad died nearly 10 years ago and a couple other residues of life pluck on my heartstrings.
Aside from my dad’s death, though, I’m in good spirits, healthy and don’t have anything complicating my life. It’s very different from what my parents faced at 30. Not only did they have children to care for; they faced many civil and social issues.
My mother lived in Mississippi and Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s. My dad also grew up in the South and had to deal with the bigots, racists and troglodytes produced in those neighborhoods.
My mom endured the “paper bag” test to get into segregated schools, had to deal with a lousy set of parents and a multitude of other complications life dealt her before she turned 18. (For those who aren’t familiar with the “paper bag” test, a person’s skin color could be no darker than a paper bag in order to be admitted into certain schools.)
Both joined the Army shortly after stints in college and started a family soon thereafter. My parents managed to raise us and instill the right values in each of us, despite fighting demons from their respective pasts.
As for me, I have a dachshund and he’s my pride and joy, but he’s also a handful. He expects constant attention and is energetic no matter the hour. Between that and the vet bills, goodness!
None of this is to say I’ve had an easy life, but it illustrates all they tolerated and what they did to make their family happy and set up each of us for a fruitful future.
I commend my parents for what they accomplished by age 30, and my mom for what she continues to do.
Should life give me a few more decades, I hope to be the beacon for others that they were for me.