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- 30 -

Megan Betz

Photo by mattjeacock/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by mattjeacock/iStock / Getty Images

I last wrote a birthday post when I was turning 27. Some things haven't changed: I'm again organizing a session for AAGs, this time on vegetal geographies & work that unpacks plant-human relations (1/2). It's the time of year when I turn to Gilmore Girls as background noise for evening work sessions. Our freezer is full of various frozen, puréed squash from our autumn CSA, and I'm continually finding new ways to cook it. 

Other things have changed immeasurably--the tone of our nation; my position in that nation as a mother, feminist, writer, and researcher; my daughter, who was only becoming an idea at the time of that last birthday post. In response, at nearly two months into my 30th year, I've noticed a particular response in myself: a shedding, purging, cutting weight. A holding tightly to the things I love, battling for them, & chopping off the unwanted. 

I'm learning to fully inhabit myself, to take up space, to embrace vulnerability in striving for new skills. But this isn't just about only holding what "sparks joy." It's holding what fuels all aspects of me. The joyous &, equally, the mending or growing; the essentially human, which is more than joy, or even happiness. It's holding the parts of my life that offer up good to others, but not those that deplete my ability to care for myself. No more free labor, unless it offers power to those with less than I, as one example (inspired by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's work in Bitch). 

I'm on fewer committees. I'm taking on fewer projects. I have fewer deadlines in my planner. I have preventative care appointments made, even though they cut into my workday. I have manuscripts ready to submit, even though my perfectionist brain tells me to rewrite several paragraphs just a few more times--or worse, that it's so overwritten that it's beyond salvaging & is now incomprehensible. I'm taking self care seriously, uncompromising on my own needs, on the vision for my life as an academic.

I'm going slowly, but progressing. I'm confident, now, in saying that one of the methods in my research has given me all it's able & it's time to move to analysis. I'm happy to be shedding academic labels & groups in favor of others that build worlds I'm more interested in.

This is the gift of 30: taking steps to abandon the infantilizing position of simply "student" rather than researcher and writer. Valuing my own expertise, and being honest about what the skills I'm happy to share are. Moving beyond the insecurities of my 20s & being thankful for the next steps in my career, as well as the new uncertainties that this decade brings.