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At 20, At 30: A Poem

Updated on November 1, 2011
The poet at 30
The poet at 30

At 20, At 30 is a poem about aging. It is written line by line, alternating between the experience of something at age 20 and how that has changed upon reaching age 30. And it ends with a look towards the future beyond age 30.

So much happens in the decade that spans twenty and thirty years of age. There is so much change and growth and development during this time. It truly is the transition between who you were as a child and who you are going to be as an adult, and it’s a transition that I think is worth recognizing and celebrating. I celebrate it here with poetry and I celebrate it every day with life itself.

Although so much does happen in this crucial decade, the end results can be simply seen and simply explained. Where once you were scared and unsure, you now have more confidence. And although life doesn’t suddenly get perfect or easy as you get older, it certainly becomes something that you can better understand as you live more years in your own skin and learn to know yourself better there. Trading off line for line in this poem, juxtaposing the two ages, is designed to show that simple change that you can see when you look back and yet can’t see as you’re going through it.

That’s what this poem is about. It’s about how much changes in ten years in the internal landscape of the adult that you are becoming if you let yourself grow and don’t hold on to what you thought you were going to be when you were just getting to know who you were.

At 20, At 30

At 20 I wore an armor of anger

At 30 I open my flesh to allow fresh wants and wounds to form

At 20 I eschewed school for freedom

At 30 I believe that freedom only works within the constraint of routines

At 20 I spent all day getting to know myself

At 30 I hear the beating of my own heart and can recognize the backs of my own hands

At 20 I knew so little

At 30 I know that I know so little

At 20 I hang on to promiscuity with a grip loosened only by an intense need for solitude

At 30 I believe monogamous sex and a sense of self can co-exist

At 20 I was sure I was sick

And crazy

And exceptional

At 30 I usually understand just how normal my bouts of insanity are

At 20 I punished others for what I did not know how to give to myself

At 30 I recognize when I am punishing others and I step back and give myself what I need

At 20 I read what I was supposed to read despite doing nothing else that I was “supposed” to be doing

At 30 I read for pleasure and information and desire and do a little bit more of what I’m supposed to do

At 20, I was afraid of 30

At 30, I look forward to what 40 will bring


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  • profile image

    LYS 6 years ago

    not big on poetry generally because I am a Philistine in a lot of respects but I was hopping some hubs and have been pleasantly surprised...what about 30 40 next? Thankyou and voted up!

  • PiaC profile image

    PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

    This is gorgeous! It reflects the way we live at different phases of our lives so accurately and eloquently!

  • cjcarter profile image

    cjcarter 6 years ago

    Great poem! Voted up :)