Thoughts on Being 30

Nothing magical or terrible happens when you turn 30—or, I assume, when you turn any age that happens to be a multiple of 5 or 10. But this winter, having recently entered my fourth decade, I did find myself contemplating the meaning of life, health, my career path, and other big stuff more than usual.

Chalk this reflection up to social conditioning, a lull between work projects, or coffee. No matter, below you’ll find my personal ruminations. If you’ve revolved the sun more than 30 times yourself, do share your thoughts or advice with this spring chicken in the comments below or via email.

1) I want to teach

I love working with people ages 13-21. I’m sure I’ll do it for the rest of my life. And what originally drew me to the field of education were positive experiences as a teacher: being a summer camp windsurfing instructor, outdoor science educator, and math tutor, to name just a few examples.

Now I’m involved with education full-time, yet the roles I find myself in are primarily those of administrator, facilitator, and mentor. I love this work, but it means that I’m only teaching when I lead the occasional conference workshop or a short Unschool Adventures leadership program. I’m left with the lingering desire to teach in a structured environment with clear, objective goals. Yes, perhaps even in a classroom!

A big part of my desire to teach, I think, is also the desire to work with the same cohort of young people, face to face, year after year. To watch them grow and be a part of that process. I know that most high schools don’t do a good job of this—too many students, and new teachers for each grade—but I imagine that some small private schools do this well. Summer camps do too, but only for such a brief part of the year.

2) Owning land seems smart

Last week I wrote about homes for nomads: small houses-on-wheels that can feasibly be purchased outright, with zero debt. As I look more into this movement, however, it seems that pretty much every tiny house owner has a friend’s backyard where they park themselves (and, I assume, use their wi-fi, laundry, and bathroom facilities on a regular basis). Or seemingly as often, the tiny house builder already owns a “regular” home, and the house-on-wheels is their interesting side project.

This leads me to believe that buying some land with utilities available seems smart. If this land is free from onerous zoning or community restrictions, you can plop a tiny house or trailer there, or invite your friend to park his house/trailer there and start a little community. Then you can build a “real” house that matches your needs, slowly and deliberately. Or you can start this whole process by buying some cheap foreclosure and renovating or renting the main property while working on your own project. Owning land, somehow, seems to be what allows you to do whatever you want, and not be perpetually living at someone else’s whim.

[Author’s note: Thinking about houses, land, debt, and the kind of personal freedom that comes with not owning a house, is on the top of my mind these days, and it’s where I feel the least informed. If you have guidance for me in this realm, I’d love to hear it.]

3) I should move more and sit less

In December I saw my first physical therapist, thanks to a nagging pain in my right knee.  I apparently injured it through a combination of sloped beach running and some long driving. But my main problems, according to the physical therapist, lie with my adductors, hip flexors, and running gait. The gait I immediately fixed, but the “core strength” issues seem to stem directly from the amount of sitting I do, which is a lot.

Early in my twenties, much of my work was outdoors: hiking or snowboarding or walking. In my off-time, I would slackline and play frisbee. Later in my twenties, I shifted to more writing and computer work. I am a pretty consistent runner and swimmer, but only for those 30-90 minutes that I’m actually doing the activity. Outside of that, I’m probably sitting.

I plan to become a better runner each year (it’s one of those sports where you can actually improve a lot after age 30, unlike activities like basketball or parkour), but I need to find a way to integrate more motion into my daily routines. There’s lots of ways to do that, but the most important simply seems to be reducing time in front of the computer.

4) Things are going pretty well

My last big rumination isn’t something I want to change about myself, but an appreciation. At age 30, I think I’m doing pretty well at “life.” I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m part of some great communities of friends, family, young people, and fellow educators. I have a wonderful girlfriend. Next week I’m going to begin hiking across New Zealand for six weeks with 10 teens and two good friends. Most days, I feel like I’m contributing something to the world.

All in all, things are going well, and being 30 doesn’t change that. Perhaps I should simply take a cue from the great Alfred E. Neuman and ask: “What, me worry?”

Alfred E. Neuman



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