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Turning 30 

How Joe Millionaire has helped me through one of life's milestones.

That Evan Marriott would one day become the subject of a highly successful reality-based TV show is an example of how weird life can be.

I find myself taking stock of life as the big 3-0 approaches, looking back as I look forward to life as a "real" adult. Thirty is the last of the milestones of one's youth. The beginning of the ending starts at 16 with the ability to drive. It ends with 30 and your inability to date anyone under 21 and still feel good about yourself.

When you enter your third decade, you realize that 30 isn't old; in fact, 40 and 50 aren't that old. You recall your mom's admonishment that it's not how old you are, it's being "young at heart" that matters. Although I have to admit that I still believe when you're 80 you're old, old, old.

There is so much about adult life that no one tells you about as a kid. When you're in your early 20s, you feel that your whole life is ahead of you and you can do anything, be anything, if you set your mind to it. That's why 20-year-olds make such great soldiers. They think they will live forever. How could a wayward bullet possibly hit them?

If Marriott had become Joe Millionaire when I was 20, I would have thought that there was a chance I could follow in his footsteps. Now, not only do I not think that is all that possible, I'm not sure I would want to be a Joe Millionaire, especially if it meant lying to a group of women on national television.

Marriott's success in his late 20s does bode well in one way — it proves that with enough luck and pluck you can become successful. At 17 or 20, you're taught that if you do well and make great grades, you can make someone of yourself and contribute to society in a meaningful way. At 30, you know that grades aren't as important as a strong sense of self, luck and determination. Or as the saying goes, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

At 30, you look ahead and you know how this story is going to end. There is no escaping that you'll die one day, and you have a limited amount of time before it all ends. You had better make the best of it and settle some personal issues right now. You realize that you're stuck at your present height and if anything, you'll probably shrink before someone chisels "RIP" on your headstone.

Words like "redemption" and "closure" have true meaning to you at 30. Enough has happened in your life that you have regrets. You understand that most of life resides in the wide band of gray that separates the black-and-white issues of right and wrong.

One of the blessings of 30 is, if you're lucky, you have settled down enough to know who you are and what you want to do with your life. Of course, instead of worrying about getting a date, at 30 you worry about why everyone else your age is already married and has a kid on the way.

While you begin to appreciate the advice your parents gave you, some things just don't make any sense anymore. When you were 16 they told you not to worry about what other people think. When you're 30, you realize you had better take into consideration what others think if you don't want to become very isolated and alone.

It's the little things that make you happy at 30. The taste of pizza, or being able to listen to NPR over the Internet at your leisure, are what make life worth living — not starring in a reality-based TV show.

So good luck Mr. Marriott. I'll think of you while I eat my pizza and daydream about growing a few inches taller. What? It could happen. I'm only 29. S



Shelton Bumgarner is a writer in Chatham.
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