Thirty years ago today, my father likely woke up around this time, and headed off to work at the family business. Leaving his very pregnant, but not-yet-due wife behind, I always assumed he thought it would be just another day, maybe with a nice meal at the end. Instead, he has always told me: “It was the hardest day I ever worked.”
You see, the day my dad turned thirty, was the day I was born.
Now, after years of shared birthdays, squeezing in celebrations all over the globe, compromising to each other’s tastes and wishes, we’re a weirdly equal-ish age; today, he turns sixty, and I thirty. He has known me for half of his life; I am the age when we first met.
As thirty approached, in the years creeping up to it, I’ve felt some anxiety about today. What have I accomplished? Where am I? Was my career, my education, my personal life good enough to live up to the legacy of my father’s? Many times, the thoughts sent me into a panic; so much to do before I turn the age my father was when I came into his life.
But then I realized that it is perfectly wonderful how much the first day of my 30th year will differ from his. I have no pregnant wife, or doting spouse, even. I live in a big city, but was born to him in a small one. He owned a home then; I rent an apartment a fraction of its size. I will go to work in just a few minutes in a hospital – my first birthday shift ever – he has set foot in one perhaps less than ten times in his life. The day I was born, there were no blogs, no computers, even, but now, here I write. He probably listened to the radio on his drive to work; I’ll sing to music digitally streaming into my headphones, while pedaling on my bike.
And this morning, as I sit at my kitchen counter, in a vintage stool I had reupholstered in a dirty shop on the Bowery, looking at the fading flowers from a birthday celebration I threw for myself last weekend, listening to the Manhattan birds wake up and sing me their hello, thirty doesn’t scare me. It excites me.
Today is a new chance to learn, to live, to grow, to care. The next twelve hours will likely bring me challenges and frustration, but at their end, new stories will be birthed, new thoughts thunk. Time with friends wait afterwards, and then more friends, and then a weekend of celebrating with my dad. Hopefully, today won’t be the hardest day I’ve ever worked, but that’s the beauty and mystery of the bedside: you never know.
Florence Nightingale didn’t become a nurse until her early thirties. She spent her twenties secretly studying the profession, tripping on social etiquette and hiding her love from her parents. This makes me feel especially lucky; the day I told my dad, as a naive 21-year-old, that I planned to switch from an English major to a Nursing major, he told me to go for it, and has unquestioningly supported me since.
So Flo, watch out. I’m thirty now, here I come.