This week I turned 30.
For any woman, this tends to be a big milestone.
As a woman living in Hollywood, surrounded by other women who are young, and beautiful, and young, and YOUNG, it can feel like an even bigger deal.
As an actor, I’m forced compete with young twenty-somethings for roles like “sexy roommate” or “hot friend.” The young twenty-something inevitably shows up wearing what appears to be a few rubber bands strung together while I’m in a dress that hides my soon-to-be thirty-something thighs.
I’m sorry, what? Oh, no I haven’t thought at all about how turning thirty affects me.
To be honest, I have spent a lot of the time leading up to my birthday pretending I was okay. Pretending I was above all the cliche worry of moving into a new decade. But as the day crept closer, I started to feel a squeeze of panic in the back of my chest. As a distraction, I threw myself into planning my party.
I had thought a lot about how to celebrate the big 3-0 and it occurred to me that what I really wanted was to be home, celebrating in the Midwest. So, I decided to bring the Midwest to me with a “Midwest Style” birthday party.
To make it really authentic, my parents flew in with twenty-six pounds of deer sausage and five pounds of lefse.
The morning of the party my dad grilled up the meat, my mom made five of my favorite hotdishes and my best-friend Noah made meat cigars.
It was a big hit.
My LA friends were impressed with the “organic” deer meet and the “grass fed” beef and I floated around in a dirty martini and tater-tot hotdish dreamland.
So when my boyfriend, Jason, started ushering everyone into the living room I was confused. This was not part of the plan. We were supposed to eat our weight in deer sticks and fall bloated into bed.
Jason sat me on the couch, turned on the TV, and two of my very close friends appeared across the screen. I immediately downed my martini and looked around for tissue.
As they screamed “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” into the camera white letters flickered across the screen and straight into my heart.
“Jessica, you’ve often talked about missing a place that feels like home. But home isn’t a place. It’s the people who love you. On your 30th birthday a few of those people wanted to remind you that home is already with you wherever you go.”
Oh no. I had not planned to cry on my birthday but I figured it’s my party and I’ll…well, you know. My eyes burned as I watched friends from childhood, friends from LA, family back home, and roommates from college wish me a happy birthday.
I was stunned.
I thought about the secret panic I had felt, the worry about competing with rubber band-dressed women, and the emotion of leaving behind a decade that has been exhausting but also pretty great. As I sat watching the video, I really thought about whether or not I was terrified to turn thirty. And the answer was so obvious.
Not at all.
If turning thirty means I have spent that time fostering these friendships, finding these people, and shaping my life into what it looks like now, then 30 is nothing but a gift.
Sure my twenties were exciting and adventurous and life changing but they were also incredibly exhausting. And I’m ready. I’m so ready for the next decade.
As the last images faded from the screen I took a big bite of hotdish and smiled.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.