Thirty Year Itch
Seriously! That's how it happens. There you are, drinking until 2 a.m. every night, shopping for cool shoes on the Internet, and wondering when your professional skateboarding career might take off when it suddenly dawns on you: you're fucking 30 years old and you're not getting any younger. Time to freak out, dude! Time to change.
And time to start questioning – everything.
Now, maybe that's not how it goes for people who stayed back home, finished college at 22, got married, had babies, and bought a house in the ’burbs (yeah, I see y'all on Facebook), but that's certainly what happens when you come of age in San Francisco, "the city where twenty-somethings go to retire," where nobody works, and where you can drink in parks every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon for years before wondering if it's normal.
But that's just the thing. It's not normal! It's fun, but it's not normal at all. Being 30-something in San Francisco means a lot – and it does come with tons of perks – but what it doesn't mean is that you always feel ... adjusted.
Still. I love it here and I have no desire to leave. But I have had to change, or at least I’ve been trying. The thing is, unless you're rich it's nearly impossible to live like "a real adult" in this town. You can't have a big yard, you can't buy a house, and the bars still call your name as loudly as ever. You don't want to leave the city, but you gotta do something. But what? And how?
Well, to use a catchphrase from the twilight of hip-hop’s Golden Age (when I was still young):
This is how we do it.
Now let’s flip the track and bring the old-school back. Oh!
One thing that’s true about getting old is that your body starts breaking down – just a little at first, but you can feel it – and suddenly it requires maintenance. That means you can't eat pizza every night and drink 20 beers like normal. You can't, that is, unless you adjust your artsy persona to include a heavy dose of athleticism.
Forget everything you ever thought about runners and gym rats. Those folks might look corny in their hot-pink Nikes and spandex short-shorts, but they all eat like pigs and most can drink your flabby art-school ass under the table. Trust me. Since I turned 29, I went from occasionally running a few miles a week to straight-up Prefontaine status (one full marathon and three halves so far) and I can drink way more now than when I was "young." I'm also outdoors more, insanely energetic, and yes, still skinny as shit!
Of course, exercising isn't easy. You gotta get up early and you gotta train – a lot. My advice is to do Bay to Breakers before your 30th birthday. There’s beer, the participants are all freaks, and you can do the walk-run thing without looking like a wuss. After that, just start hitting the streets every morning. The cool thing about running in San Francisco is that you're always five minutes from a park.
When you’re first entering your 30s you’re going to want to hide it. It just feels weird, especially if you’re constantly surrounded by younger folks. Say you're having a beer with your work buddy at your tenth (sort-of-paid) internship and the subject of moving home comes up and you say, “Yeah, I just went to my high-school reunion and those fools were all divorced and miserable with six kids."
Brrrrrrk. Pump the brakes, man. The kid you're talking to is only 23 and you just outed yourself. You are old, you are "the other,” and now the dude's gonna tell all your coworkers and they're gonna ostracize the shit outta you.
But you know what? Fuck those guys! Young people are cool and all, but what do they know about ALF, or Atari, or mixtapes? What do they know about the Fat Boys, He-Man, Hypercolor, and The Goonies? Sheee-it, I know all about that! And you know what, I wouldn’t trade any of it for a childhood filled with sexts, Facebook, and World of Warcraft. No way.
Dude, I’m in my thirties, should I really be...
Living without health insurance or savings?
Going to school (again)?
Living with roommates?
Riding a skateboard?
Reading Thrasher magazine?
Putting up a wilderness-themed mural in my bedroom?
The answer is who cares. Because you are (I am)! And it's okay. That's because...
Seriously! If you do the exercise thing you can milk the fountain of youth for at least another decade. Maybe that’s why this city seems so young. I mean, there's a ton of people drinking in the park every day and it stands to reason many of them are also over 30. And the people at your favorite dive bar, well, lots of them are older too. That's why we all moved here – to not grow up. And it works!
In fact, almost all my friends are over 30 these days. What’s cool is that you’d never guess it. Tattoos, fashion, burritos, beer, block parties, traveling, making stuff, and partying – that’s what they’re all about. And I don’t see any of them giving it up anytime soon. They might mellow down a bit to handle business, but San Francisco is unique because, even when you start getting old, there’s never a need to stop being who you are.
The Mission was great when you were 25, but all those parties and all the coked-out dive bars that keep you dancing to R. Kelly songs until sunrise lose their luster eventually. And really, you can't do that shit forever. You might still want to. But the thought of getting fired for excessive hangover call-ins this late in the game is horrifying – totally cool when you're young, but a definite sign of failure at 30. Sometimes a change of environment can help ease the transition. But where to move? The East Bay? There’s more space out there, true, but it's not San Francisco. Noe Valley? God no! I finally settled on the Western Addition. People still go out here, but they’re older and, I’m guessing, less likely to overdo it.
Of course, changing neighborhoods doesn’t guarantee you’ll mellow out. I'm writing this from my new chill spot, Mojo Bicycle Café, at noon on a Saturday and I'm already two beers deep. The family sitting next to me is too. Apparently being 30-something in San Francisco does not mean staying sober. Which is fine by me. Getting old is scary. Beer helps.
Your peeps back in small-town PA might not freak out over DIY classes or re-worked vintage apparel, but 30-somethings in San Francisco do. They love that stuff! And if writing about cheap burritos or art is your thing, well, you can do that too. Skateboarding, yoga, street food – it might all sound like college stuff to folks in the ’burbs, but it's fair game here.
That's because 30-somethings in San Francisco have their own definition of adulthood and it does not include settling. It means hustling harder to make shit happen on your own terms.
Living in your 30s in San Francisco is awesome because there’s tons of fun shit to do and nobody bats an eye when you do it. It's true that age comes with a certain degree of worry, self-reflection, and change, but if you choose to stay here past 29, you're in for an amazing time. I wouldn't trade my day-drinking sessions, block parties, or dive bars for a comfy house, a fancy car, or even lots of money if it meant I had to move away from the town I love, where 30-somethings remain to stay inspired.
So forget all your worries and stop being embarrassed about your age. Being 30-something in San Francisco means you're gonna stay fit, happy, and sharp way longer than you thought. Maybe you have to wait tables to make rent, and maybe you need to adjust some habits, but at least you're still here. And for that, you rule.