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Personal Essay | On the Eve of My 30th Birthday

By Tiffany Sedberry Reiger

I turn 30 in July. That birthday has been one that I have always feared and anticipated some great awakening of myself. As I prepare for it, I realize I have been awakening to this moment for the better part of a decade. I discovered myself in my twenties, but that discovery has been uncomfortable and has stretched me to places of darkness and pain, while also elevating me to places of utmost joy. Closing the door on my twenties is one I close with some sadness, but with great fervor—because turning 30 is beginning to feel like a bigger and better awakening than the last.

My body, my style, my being

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In my twenties, my insecurities consumed me. My skin felt like an outfit I was loaned. This surely isn’t my body. I don’t fit here. I obsessed over food and calories. I went through spells of living in the gym and spells of hardly leaving the couch. My twenties were a yo-yo of gaining and losing the same 40 pounds. No matter what jean size I was, I rarely felt beautiful in the clothes I bought on a whim because they were on sale, or from a certain store.

Now, as I approach 30, I am entering a new decade with a postpartum body that feels foreign to me. Foreign, yes, but powerful. I had my son in January and I have since lost my pregnancy weight. I’m not quite back into my pregnancy jeans and I have a pooch, reminding me daily that my son’s home was there for nine months. And that’s okay. I run. I lift weights. I am strong. I make calculated decisions about the clothes I buy. If I don’t feel amazing in it, I don’t buy it or I return it. My closet is slowly becoming a place I like going.

I refuse to spend my thirties hating this body and the skin I am in.

Relationships

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In my teens and into my early twenties, I dated a man who was completely wrong for me (and I was completely wrong for him). We even got married and divorced quickly. Each of us settled for something that inspired neither of us to be better people. We simply existed beside one another. There was no passion. No ambition. No purpose. We just were. We lived in that dying bed of unhappiness for six years before calling it quits.

In the middle of my divorce, I wasn’t looking for anyone. Then again, it seems like no one is looking when they find the perfect person. I have spent seven years of this decade with a man who is now my husband and the father of my son. He inspires me. He motivates me. I am consumed with love for this man so much sometimes I can hardly express it.

If it ever changes, I won’t be afraid to start over. I did once and reaped a much richer reward.

Confidence

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I have spent most of my twenties trying to escape the people-pleaser inside myself and keep the people-lover portion in check. I have always been easy going, but that has sometimes invited people into my life who mistake my nice nature and genuine love for people as an opportunity to take advantage of me. And I have allowed it to happen more times than I am comfortable admitting. The end result has caused me to question my worth as a friend, as a woman, as human being.

Entering my thirties, I commonly joke with my friends that my bullshit tolerance is maxed out. I love people still and genuinely believe they are good. But, I have learned to place my own interest and happiness first. I am learning to not let the actions of others influence how I see myself. I feel my best when I am kind and I surround myself with kind people. Period.

I am kind. I am worthwhile. My worth is no longer up for discussion or negotiation.

Friendships

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Through my twenties, I had lots of “friends.” We laughed and drank, took silly photos, and made some of the most fun memories of my life.  But it wasn’t enough to sustain. When the smiles faded and real life happened, some of those friends exited. Some friends wounded me more than I ever thought possible and reaffirmed that they were not friends to begin with.

Life gets too busy and hectic to spend time with people who do not value you, support you, or strengthen you. Sometimes, my schedule comes down to who was there for me when I needed them. Who came to support me and take time out of their busy schedule to be at something of mine? Those people get priority and those friendships are the ones that solidify and deepen over time.

Who I invest my love and my time in are people who invest their love and time in me.

My plans

At 20, I had the decade planned out. My plans did not include watching my dad take his last breath. My plans did not include divorce. I didn’t count on losing my best friend. However, my plans to earn my PhD panned out. My plan to become a mother exceeded all hopes I had. I never thought I would be so fortunate to have the circle of women in my life that have come to mean so much to me. My plan morphed in the last ten years to become the reality I now sit in. And it’s a beautiful place to be.

My plan for my thirties is simple: to spend the eve of my 40th birthday feeling strong, beautiful, and loved in the decade that came before it.

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Ed. Note: Tiffany not only survived her 30th birthday, she had a great time.

Tiffany Sedberry Reiger is a former teacher with a PhD who is now a SAHM to a beautiful boy and a gigantic German shepherd. Nestled in a home among the cornfields of the Midwest, she can be found enjoying craft beer, listening to vinyl, planning trips to escape the corn, and writing daily.

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