Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2009, at 11:00 AM
When I graduated from college, I followed the usual path of those with respectable but pointless humanities degrees: I became a low-paid summer intern. After that I tried to avoid real employment for the next two years, and it worked for the most part. But as I reached my mid-twenties I began to worry that if I ever wanted anything resembling a career-and I had decided at some point that I did-I would have to give in and become part of the nine-to-five tribe. The next three years were far from any corporate or workaholic hell. My job, reading and editing esoteric science articles, was engaging enough. I felt On Track.
So I decided to quit. Graduate school in journalism followed. I was happy to change career paths. That is, until this summer, with my newly minted degree in hand, I found myself poised to (deep breath) join the ranks of being an intern again. It wasn't completely unexpected. I knew both the economy and my industry were tanking. But I think it would feel a little less demoralizing if some of my fellow interns weren't just applying for their first credit card.
Now, I’m less than a year away from 30, and a 29-year-old intern raises a few eyebrows. I'm not in similar company. I've quit trying to fend off the inevitable surprise of my age by dropping hints with cultural references to the original Beverly Hills, 90210 or the '80s classic computer game Oregon Trail because I found myself turning into the lady who doth protest too much.
If I were five years younger, I might feel triumphant. Or, at the very least, normal. 29 is more like arrested development. So as an almost-thirty intern with scant job prospects on the horizon, I've decided that perhaps it's finally time to set goals on paper. Or the Internet. What follows is a count-up to the next decade, in which I aspire to shed my adolescent tendencies and come to terms with some of the designations of my age, even if a few of them might seem a bit late."
At 30: Get health insurance. Dear Obama and Congress: Please, please, please patch something together within the next eight months so I can have someone diagnose that occasional, but growing more frequent, pulsing in my right elbow joint, and because I think I may have four cavities.
At 31: Wean myself off my family cell phone plan, because it seems like the adult thing to do.
At 32: There's always that one year where it feels like everyone you know is getting married. Needless to say, the thought of a marathon wedding year is anxiety-inducing. I've somehow avoided it thus far, and I hope this won't be the year either.
At 33: I'm still amazed when people I know own an entire furniture collection plucked right from page 25 of the Pottery Barn catalog. I may not want page 25 or Pottery Barn, but it would certainly be nice to afford it.
At 34: Decide on children. Thirty-five is my artificial mental expiration date for having children. If I do want kids, I hope I'll have planned accordingly.
At 35: I'm not sure at what age it becomes utterly inappropriate to shop at Forever 21, but I'm resolved to put an end to my penchant for affordable but disposable clothes.
At 36: My career conversion calculator tells me that this might be a reasonable age not to be working for someone younger than me.
At 37: Be living in a fabulous metropolitan city without the need for roommates to supplement my rent.
At 38: Hire someone. I'm not the type of person who gets drunk from power, but I'd like to know how it feels to have the fate of others in my hand. Just once.
At 39: Pay off my student loans without any intimations of regret or bitterness. (The latter might be correlated to how well years 30 through 38 go.)
At 40: There's more to life than career and money. I'm going to make this an exceptionally aspirational year and wish for no gray hairs. Let's face it, aging and vanity are synonymous.