Today happens to be my 29th birthday, and it’s made me even more reflective than usual. Thirty is coming! The last year of my twenties! And 30 has always always felt like A Big Milestone — maybe it means magically becoming more mature overnight, or more self-assured, or putting away the youth of my twenties behind.
Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all.
But even so, I think most people start feeling a certain way as they say goodbye to one decade and hello to a new one. Sometimes I’m amazed by what I’ve done in my twenties: six days into turning 20 years old, I left Los Angeles to study abroad in Athens. I didn’t know a word of Greek (I confused ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to a very nice Greek couple when we blew out our fuse on night one of our student apartment), and I’d never traveled out of the country. I had a Greek cell phone in the pre-smartphone days. I look back at those times with a smile – I’ve done so much since then!
Now, with 30 on the horizon, I find myself thinking more and more about my writing career. Like many, I’ve had the dream about getting published before I turn 30, like somehow life just ends at 30 and your dreams become irrelevant. Even if I somehow landed an agent tomorrow (impossible, since I’m not querying yet), and landed a publishing deal within a month (hahaha), I STILL wouldn’t be published until after I’m 30.
When I look back at who I was in my early and even mid-twenties, I honestly don’t think she was ready to go after the dreams I have now. I didn’t even *understand* my dreams — I knew next to nothing about the publishing industry itself, I was hardly reading, and I’d barely touched a writer craft book. I wasn’t someone who started writing at the tender age of five; I was ‘late’ in comparison to many writers and started in my early twenties. I thought that because I went to a fancy college for film studies, it automatically meant I was a good writer and storyteller. Oh, you!
As much as I would have loved to have been published sooner in my life, that girl wasn’t ready for it yet. My twenties may have had some very high highs (graduation! a career in games! writing! marrying my best friend!), but I also faced heartbreak, and loss, and rejection, and I hadn’t come to terms with my anxiety and the bad sides of my perfectionism (something I ended up tackling in earnest in my late twenties, and boy did it improve my life across the board). What I’ve learned about writing, I learned largely through craft books, reading more, blog posts from professionals, and frankly through good ol’ trial and error. My critiques could fill a book of their own, and early twenties Valerie didn’t really know how to handle this.
Now, with my 29th year ahead of me, I’m more eager than ever to go after my goals, big and small. There’s so much more I want to learn, so many more books and blogs and panels and talks and whatever else I can get my hands on to keep improving my craft. I can’t wait to see where my current story goes, and how my other story ideas progress. And while the road to querying will be littered with rejections (another thing I was NOT mentally ready for in my mid-twenties), I’m prepared for it now, and prepared to learn.
So yes, I’m 29, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest when it comes to pursuing my dreams. I’m running my race at my own pace, and while I applaud anyone tackling their goals, whatever they may be, I implore you to remember we’re not racing against each other, or against some mythical time bomb at age 30. Or 40, or 50, and on and on.
Keep running, keep learning. I quote the brilliant Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows, Ninth House):
“I didn’t publish my first book until I was 37, so if anybody out there is reading this and thinking your chance has passed, there’s no expiration date on your talent.” (Quote from a Locus Mag interview)
Hello, 29, I can’t wait to see what we do this year. ❤