I wouldn’t call it a “mid-life crisis.” That would paint a rather cynical picture of my health. I wouldn’t call it a “quarter-life crisis,” either, as that would be terribly optimistic. Perhaps the best term is “third-life crisis.” Whichever you call it, one year ago today, everything changed. I shrugged off the last of my twenties and stepped anxiously into my thirties. I reflected on the past year’s meager achievements. Rather than finding solace in a year well spent, panic seized me. For days the question, “What have you done with your life?” whispered in every breeze.
I could have indulged unsavory habits, but I resisted. Instead, I pulled up my sleeves and got motivated. I didn’t turn 30; 30 turned me. Here are the 15 ways I completely kicked 30 in the ass.
1. I Lost Weight
One of the biggest changes in my life was actually a great loss: forty pounds. Starting in late spring, a couple of factors culminated in a decision to improve my general health: I was learning more about processed food, I was grilling, and we discovered our health insurance reimburses gym memberships. Regular exercise and better eating habits were to crux of my success. I realized that the only thing standing in the way of being a healthy weight was my laziness. At 30, I decided I wasn’t going to take it anymore.
2. I Ran
My relationship with running is complicated. My father was a decorated runner, and he passed this tradition on to us by saying, “You’re going to run Cross Country.” I ran throughout high school, but the sport didn’t stick with me after that. Since turning 30, I’m happy to announce that we’re getting back together! The purchase of a new iPhone 5s this year has opened up a new world of motion-tracked, GPS-enabled running apps, including Nike+ Running. The app really shines when you get out and run, but it understands treadmills, too. This is perfect for me because I’m allergic to frostbite.
3. I Brushed
I’ve always loathed the dentist. I hated it so much that my parents allowed me to discontinue regular checkups when I turned 18. Dr. Winters never gave up hope, however. I remember finding a pitiful appointment reminder card that would normally have read “We haven’t seen you in 5 months!” but “months” had been struck through and “years” jotted above it. It would be another five years before I’d return.
At 30, I risked facing a worse adversary: gum disease. They explained that if I didn’t take measures to fight back now, I’d probably have gum disease the rest of my life. It made more economic sense to buy an electric toothbrush, Reach flosser, and plenty of mouthwash instead. Three months later, I placed my money where my mouth is. My gum numbers had all decreased to within acceptable levels. I lived to chew another day. “Now,” said my dentist, “have we ever talked about your wisdom teeth?”
4. I Ate
If you want to never eat processed foods again, visit Eat This, Not That. The articles can be a little overblown, but there are some very compelling statistics about so-called “food.” The first tip I got was to read the ingredient label. If you run across chemical names you’ve never heard of, maybe skip that product. Another tip: products label “organic” must follow rules set by the USDA, but labels like “all-natural” and “healthy” are simply marketing. Holli and I gradually made changes to the way we shop and eat because it made sense to us, and I think those improvements played a big role in my weight loss. However, that doesn’t mean 30 is the beginning of a lifelong candy and soda abstinence. I still believe “everything in moderation.” I haven’t had my last Mountain Dew, not by a long shot.
5. I Grilled
30 didn’t introduce me to grilling, but it did introduce me to successful grilling. Prior to last summer, our grill was charcoal. I had all sorts of issues due to inexperience: coals would go cold, food would under-cook, and windy days required entire menu changes. Last year we sold that grill and bought a propane one. The difference has been a complete 98 Degrees (like the band — that is to say, awesome).
I made burgers and hot dogs. I made chicken breasts, with sauce and without. I made ribs, each time better than the previous. We regularly grilled pizza, and the dish became a staple of our gatherings. We had entire limbs of my family tree over for food, and it was fantastic, and not a single person suffered food poisoning. That I know of.
6. I Cooked
In South Dakota, you can’t grill year round. Yet, I wanted to continue providing a meal or two each week. I quickly took to the crockpot. This thing is awesome. You throw (literally, if you want) a heap of ingredients in, twist a dial, and ignore it. This must be the laziest way to cook meals, but I think it’s perfect.
I discovered that Pinterest, Food Network, Yummly, and Evernote Food offer hundreds of crockpot recipes to play with, so I’m never left wanting for options. If you’re interested, you can follow my boards on Pinterest: To Make, Have Made, To Make With Crockpot, Have Made With Crockpot, Sides to Make, To Grill, To Make For Myself. Pinterest really is a great way to browse and collect meal ideas, and I blend in perfectly with the other 30-year-old women on there.
7. I Drank Tea
Because the mall is close and boasts a respectable food court, the Security Labs employees often have lunch there on Fridays. This past year, a new place opened in the mall called Teavana, a loose leaf tea and tea accessory store. On my first visit, I sampled a fruity little number called “Dragonfruit Devotion.” The elixir was heavenly, and I immediately bought two ounces to enjoy at home. 30 definitely became my year of tea. It has become a staple of weekend afternoon writing stints. I have tins in the office and at home. I’m literally drinking some now like some sort of London constable or whatever. I’m out of control.
8. I Drank Coffee
My coffee used to be as white as my beat-boxing skills. Then I turned 30 and went on a health food kick, and mysterious, sugary creamer with an infinite shelf life seemed much less appealing. Almost without realizing it, I acclimated to black coffee. What option did I have? I couldn’t quit coffee altogether; it had become my most comforting morning habit. Before I knew it, my sunrise sips were as black as night, and I was fine with it. A side effect of this change: I now know what coffee tastes like.
9. I Wore Clothes
Another repercussion of my weight loss was the sudden need for a fashion update. I’ve eternally hated clothes shopping, but hardly any of my clothes fit. Feeling more confident in my body, I was more willing to dress it up. Who better to help me than mah wife, Holli. It took a couple of shopping trips — and a large box sent to Goodwill — but I can now boast a new wardrobe. We bought new sweaters, new pants, and new shoes. She talked me into corduroys. I learned about “layering.” I’ve gotten to the point where no one who met me before 30 will recognize me. Time for a crime spree?
10. I Attended a Cooking Class
Coincidentally, after I’d started doing all this cooking, I came across an online course that focused on cooking for children and childhood nutrition. “I have children,” I thought, “and I need to cook for them!” The course was offered by Stanford (maybe you’ve heard of it!) through Coursera (maybe you’ve heard of it?), a digital learning platform that I was looking forward to using. I learned a lot through the class, including how (not) to stir fry, and it helped reinforce all that independent research I’d already done. Does being 30 make me a non-trad?
11. I Attended a Google Analytics Class
Another online course I took was for work. The class was offered by Google (maybe you’ve heard of it!), and it really broadened my understanding of the Google Analytics product that they offer. I did very well on the final test. There’s nothing funny or insightful I can add here; it’s just a thing that happened when I was 30.
12. I Contributed to Open Source
One of the fabulous things about being a developer these day is the open source movement. Websites like Github make it very easy to share source code with others and to allow them to make updates. What usually prevents me from helping projects I use isn’t apathy but lack of opportunity. A lot of them have generally held up under my usage. This year, I was – uh, fortunate? – enough to push some small bug fixes to a bug tracking system we use. According to Github, the year I turned 30 I made over 130 contributions to open source projects. Ladies…
13. I Read
I love Goodreads, the social network for readers. Every year, they offer the Reading Challenge. You set the number of books you challenge yourself to read in the coming year. You track your progress and mark books as “completed” when you’ve finished. In 2012, I tried to read six books. I read exactly one. Undeterred, and feeling the pressure of 30, I doubled it for 2013. This was an insane goal, but I finished the year with sixteen books. This success encouraged me to double my challenge again to 24 books. To no one’s surprise, I am currently behind schedule.
14. I Wrote a Novel
After turning 30, I restarted to write. It began in April, when a power failure led me into the pages of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I absorbed his advice and, after months and months, I completed the first draft of a story called “The Gray Button.” The story had been a good warm-up, but I was aching for something more challenging.
Enter National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is that you can write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I’ve attempted this several times, and this year I was finally successful! “The Celebration Center,” now waiting for editing, became the longest work of fiction I’d ever written. Someday, you will read it, nod knowingly, and remark, “Yes, this really does feel like it was written in a month. But good for him, anyways.”
15. I Won a Writing Contest
I’ve written about this before, but it also has a place here. “Nearly Nine” is a short story I wrote for a contest on MashStories.com. I was fortunate enough to get short listed, and I was even more fortunate to win! This is a minor indication that I’m not a terrible writer, even with all my lost years. This success hasn’t changed any of my writing expectations. I will lose, be rejected, be ignored, and worse. I’m 30 and might have a long trip ahead of me. That’s okay; I have something to read.
I don’t expect 2014 to surpass 2013. I’ve accomplished a lot in 30, and I’m not opposed to quieting down. I’ll continue to lose weight. I’ll continue to cook, read, and write. I’ll keep you updated if life seems entertaining enough. Nothing too crazy. I’m 31, and I’m getting too old for this stuff.