There are several milestones in a person’s life—your first steps, that first kiss, high school graduation—often lauded by others and remembered by nostalgic photography. This month, I get to celebrate a point that usually comes with a load of emotions, the highest of which is anxiety. Yup, you guessed it; I’m turning 30 on the fourteenth.
When I think about that number, my mind immediately goes to Jenna Rink hitting herself into delusion in the closet while chanting, “thirty, flirty and thriving.” (I blame my two older sisters for having “13 Going on 30” on repeat). Because her goals for 30 don’t exactly match mine, I’ve explored other things from my childhood that are turning 30 this year. What I found is that 1987—though I knew it to be so—was one amazing year. Our country saw President Reagan demand for walls to be torn down, we heard Michael Jackson tell us how bad he was and everyone watched the other MJ drain a record 58-points in one game against the Nets. Meanwhile, gas prices were under 90 cents and the stock market crashed, yet we Louisianans managed to get through hurricane season unscathed. The only natural disaster for my family was the arrival of yours truly, Joshua Wayne Howard.
Though turning 30 can be an overwhelming and depressing thought, for me, it feels right. I’ve been able to do several amazing things over the past few years for two reasons: I have internally always felt like a papaw (you can ask teachers, friends and family), and I’ve chosen to live every year to the fullest. On this basis, I’ll take you on a journey of a few milestone birthdays leading up to the big 3-0.
Preface: My birthday is annually threatened and/or marred by hurricanes, tropical storms and LSU football.
18: Like many of us, I’ll never forget 2005 thanks to a storm called Katrina. It’s also the year I started LSU, only for school to be interrupted after one week. Following the storm’s aftermath, I returned to the university as a kid who graduated high school with 13 other kids to a campus of 30,000. It was a bit scary, but moreso, it was exciting to literally not know everyone.
A month later, I joined the men’s basketball team as one of its managers. Anyone remember that majestic Final Four run? (We must get back there! C’mon Coach Wade). It’s one I’ll never forget, and it definitely raised the bar for every subsequent college experience.
22: Taylor Swift was on to something when she wrote an entire song about this age. Months prior to my birthday, I had life-altering surgery, became a youth pastor and began my final semester in college. That following February, a friend of mine and I jumped in the car to Miami to be in the city when the Saints would go on to win the Super Bowl. We made pit stops at Disney and ran into Lil’ Wayne. I also began my first full-time job at an advertising agency, with opportunities to work with both national and local clients.
25: I was a skeptic of the quarter-life crisis until it happened to me. From my self-diagnosis, I prescribed a dose of kicking life into overdrive. I became an uncle, finally learned how to ride a bike, started my first company 2BRokeGuys, went to Vegas for a week with a friend where we spent less than $300 for everything outside of travel and I experienced New Year’s Eve in New York by myself. Additionally, I bought my first brand new car, won a dance competition on my first cruise and began crossfit. The final journey included a trip dubbed the “National Treasure Tour.” Without much planning, three of us flew to Philly, spent one night in Maryland, drove up to Delaware for a music festival (thank you Outkast for that experience), slept in a Ford Focus, stopped in Boston and drove all the way up to New Haven for a wedding. After that trip, I knew I was cured and exhausted for the next 5 years.
While I recognize some of this appears as a huge bragfest; I surely don’t mean it to be so. There have been a fair amount of setbacks, disappointments and heartbreaks. I lost my grandfather—one of the people I find myself becoming more like each day—when I was in elementary school. Thankfully, because of his work in the community, I not only get to hear about him through my family and his colleagues, I get to read about his impact in books and studies. In one year, friends ghosted on me, and I dealt with a major, public shift with 2BRokeGuys. And, in atypical Southern fashion, I’m still single at 30. While I’m patiently secure in my status, the social stigma can be quite bothersome (we can talk more about this subject another time).
Still, I fully acknowledge the privileges I’ve had growing up, and am extremely grateful to my parents and to the Big Man for each one. There’s no way I’d even be alive—both figuratively and literally—without them.
On this milestone, I find myself at peace concerning the joys and sorrows of the first 30 years, and completely comfortable in all that I am for the next. I’m grateful for the single digits, still confused about the teens, and thoroughly loved my 20s. So, you see 30, you truly don’t scare me. In fact, I’ve been waiting for you. I know we’re meant to be. Happy Birthday and cheers to you!