There’s something kind of relaxing about being boring, which I am. It’s a conclusion I’ve come to over the past few weeks and after spending way too much time on dating apps. The rote separation of potential hopefuls from a digital sea of fish is a kind of mirror. You start realizing that other people may really, really love to travel and pet wild animals more than you. And it isn’t that you don’t like to travel, but you would never say your enjoyment of seeing other places is an integral part of your being. At least I wouldn’t.
I’m also turning thirty-four next week. Birthdays are another mirror that seems as unbreakable as they are pointless. Thirty-four, however, feels different. I’ve always wanted to be thirty-four. In my twenties, I thought that by the official start of my mid-thirties I would have my life figured out. I would have become a successful professional. I hoped that meant a professional writer, but if it didn’t by thirty-four I would have struggled with the possibility of giving up that dream, weighed the pros and cons, then settled into my newly discovered non-writing life. I would never get a Pulitzer, but I might go on vacations every year or so that I’d only discuss briefly and only with people I know in real life.
Thirty-four seemed like a place where partnership would lose its immature reign as the be-all-in-all of existence. I moved to five cities in less than ten years in my twenties and each time I ended relationships I knew couldn’t survive the distance. It was difficult, but I knew it would be less of a challenge that trying to end them over Skype. This wasn’t chivalry; it was practicality. If anything, I left those girlfriends for the sake of my goals. Sure, I thought that breaking their hearts early and in person would be more honorable. But I also thought I was saving myself time, quickly-sent and poorly-worded emails, and digital dances of “...but what if we tried....”
It wasn’t until I was thirty and I made that fifth move when someone broke my heart. That was after I spent my thirtieth birthday subletting a friend’s apartment in Alphabet City while I temped and earn (barely) enough money to stay in New York. They were an Australian in the US on a limited visa and they’d gone back to Oz once it ran out. It wasn’t the first time I’d considered quitting writing, but it was the strongest consideration. Before when friends were settling down, buying houses, and having kids while I was eating lentils and rice every night, I thought how much easier life would be if I quit. But that was the end of the thought. At thirty, I actually began planning: move across the globe to a country I’d never been to, take up an administrative or teaching job in Sydney, and marry her so that we could be together no matter which country she chose to reside in.
Of course as fate is want to do for exes, our break up was the start of a string of good fortune for her. She ended up coming back to the States after winning the visa lottery. Winning the visa lottery feels like winning Powerball and if you don’t think so, ask anyone who isn’t American. Over night, you go from fantasizing about the American Dream to getting a call from the American government inviting you to live it. When she came back, she decided she’d rather start her life like any good American: as independent as possible.
That painful start to my thirties energized my resolve to write again. After all, nothing focuses the brain like a lack of options. I could be alone, miserable, and not do the thing I loved more than most other people, or I could recommit myself to, really, the one thing I had at the time. This commitment coincided with some of that hard work paying off in definitive ways. I started a year-long fellowship at the Public Theater and later got my first TV job on Law & Order: SVU. Since then, all I’ve been is a writer. And when I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough, I try to think about what the twenty-three-year-old who blindly moved from California to Chicago would say about the past four years.
Through that kid’s eyes, I worked very hard to be boring. A decade of crashing on couches, moves to cold, compassionless cities hoping to “break in” or just be in, heartbreaks - given and taken. That’s the most surprising aspect to entering mid-thirties; being boring is the best. I don’t want to go to a club on any night of the week and I’m fine with that. I would always pick a small dinner with friends or hike with my dog over waking up in random towns with strangers. The concept of paying to go to a music festival for the experience of standing around and drinking overpriced beer seems like a kind of punishment.
Boring is thirty-four’s greatest reward. I haven’t achieved everything I wanted to by this point. Eventually, I hope someone might want to be boring with me. But if I keep being swiped to the left, I’ll keep enjoying mundanity.