What Every Woman Should Have by Age 31

Janelle Harris

30 rocks
My birthday is nipping at my heels like a rabid wolverine, so pardon the philosophical self-reflection. I remember partying it up at 21 and 18 and even 16, and I still do. But now that I’m fully immersed in grown up-ness, it seems a certain amount of deep, spooky thinking is required.

On May 21, I will officially be around for 31 years. (Cough, cough. Jeez, I almost choked saying all those numbers together.) Thirty-one. Dayum! I could’ve sworn I just graduated from college. I sure am paying back enough in student loans to make me feel like a fresh-faced co-ed. But I digress.

Unless the Almighty Power who showers surprises on poor little blogger/writer/entrepreneurs turns some amazing tricks within the next two weeks, I’ll be turning 31 unmarried with one child. I’m the goal-setter, go-getter type, so I have an accomplishment schedule. But this is one I just can’t check off the list. 

Depending on what you’re talking about, 31 really isn’t that big of a number. Thirty-one dollars isn’t an exorbitant amount of money (although it means somethin’ to me). Thirty-one people in a room wouldn’t furrow the fire marshal’s brow, and unless they’re waiting for the bathroom or their first meal after a hunger strike, a 31-minute wait wouldn’t put too much of a hurtin’ on anyone.

But 31 years? Now that’s a whole other story. Thirty-one years of marriage, a 31-year jail bid, 31 years in one home — that’s a long time any way you slice it. And a 31st birthday? Good skooga mooga. That’s alotta candles on one lil’ ol’ cake.

Honestly, I would swear I’m still 24, 25 at the absolute most. I look young, I feel young, I can still climb trees and bust cartwheels and smoke a sucka in a 100-yard dash like I did back when I was in a training bra and off-brand sneakers. So I’m not in the least bit worried about the vanity aspect of it. My mom is gorgeous and my grandmother was fabulous up until the day she went on to glory.

My struggle is defining what it means to be 31. Should I have a car that’s paid for? A financial planner, a sizzlin’ 401(k) and some other vested accounts? Couldn’t I at least have a house with a little yard to fuss over and a mortgage to stress about? But above all else, shouldn’t I have found that fairy-taled Man of My Dreams by now and be living happily in holy matrimony with two or three more little bright-eyed Janelle-ettes scampering underfoot? 
My hang-up about turning 31 is a fear — in fact, my biggest fear, trumping even frogs and cicadas — that I’m not where I’m supposed to be,” that I squandered my youthful 20s in two long-term relationships that were initially promising but never delivered on the promise, that the older I get, the harder it’ll be to realize my dream of a hubby and more kids, that even though I have about 20 major things I want to achieve in my lifetime, I’ll never get an opportunity to say ‘I do’ as something that I did.

I don’t want to be married just for the sake of sliding a ring on some dude’s finger and jumping the broom with a Kool-Aid grin slathered across my face and a beautiful gown wrapped around my body. I want to be deep, deep in love while I’m doing it.

And so I wait. Maybe another 31 years. And that’s the scary part.

Every birthday, I sit down with a huge sheet of white poster board and write out my goals for that year. But this is the one goal I can’t make a deadline for. It’s out of my hands.

The bottom line is them eggs ain’t gonna fertilize themselves. And my boyfriend, as much as I love him and as good of a guy that he may be, can turn 89 and decide that he wants to up and procreate a few more times. I don’t have that luxury. So while I’m not rushing him to the altar, I certainly don’t intend to sit around and let the ticking of my biological clock lull me to sleep at night, either.

Thirty-one means that I should have my ish together and to be quite honest, I’m still trying to figure out if I do. Still, I’m constantly renewing my determination to go on ahead and let 31 rock — even if I don’t have a rock on my finger.

Am I a complete head case or do you have a life timeline, too? What did you expect to have accomplished by this period in your life?

Image via moonlightbulb/Flickr

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