Togetherness and Continuing to Find Yourself In Your Thirties

One of my favorite new HBO shows, Togetherness, just got cancelled a few weeks ago. It’s a darn tragedy, because the show was brilliant and touching and all about the thirties.

Togetherness features four thirty-somethings all in unique places in their romantic and career lives. Two of them are a married couple with a house and kids. The other two are single, with one’s career (as an actor) taking off and the other’s (as the bringer of blow up castles to parties (really) ) stalling.

Throughout the two season series, the marriage of the main couple shows some slow-building cracks and begins to fall apart. The husband quits his job as a sound designer for movies and starts driving an Uber. The wife adds a volunteer job of starting a charter school to her stay-at-home-mom life and finds some happiness and power in doing that. Hook ups happen, cheating happens, drugs happen,  moments of intense clarity happen, kick the can in the park happens, characters grow into new jobs, characters find new parts of themselves, characters find new friends, characters fight, characters crash on couches, characters crash cars. Basically, a lot of the tumult and highs and lows and crazy and silly of the twenties happens here… in a more…grown up way? It’s hard to explain it except that I recognize it, and it’s amazing how this show has managed to capture it. Characters have already grown into themselves, but they’re growing into themselves again and again and again in their thirties.

What this show captures is what Jane and I have been trying to figure out here on this blog, but haven’t ever completely been able to pin down: that feeling of starting to know who you are and then using that knowledge to go with the new version of yourself that’s already begun to develop and will develop differently again and again. There’s a fluidity to a thirty-something that grows out of a solid foundation already built earlier. Meaning: you’ve already found a lot of yourself during or right before your thirties, but that self changes and grows and shifts and then is found over and over again. The thirties are about recognizing, from the self that you’ve already found, the changes that are happening to you. A thriving thirties decade is also about being able to communicate those changes with both yourself and with others. Also it’s about recognizing that you can’t compare your life with the lives of your friends and relatives- some people will have their careers laid out, some people will be switching around. Some people will have kids, some will stay single, some will get divorced. Your road is your own.

What makes the characters in Togetherness amazing is their ability to communicate with each other (eventually) throughout the series. Sometimes it takes a complete breakdown in communication, but the ‘togetherness’ of Togetherness stems from each fiercely independent character equally fiercely wanting to reach out to one another. The early marriage breakdown in the show stemmed from very slow communication breakdowns- nothing huge or obvious, just slow cracks. The show begins with shedding light on the cracks, which have to be revealed in order to be repaired. I feel like a lot of finding yourself in your thirties is about shedding light on slow cracks that have built up, tending to them, and rebuilding again and again.

Hopefully, there will be other shows this good at capturing the thirties decade. Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen Togetherness, what are you waiting for? Go watch it and enjoy!

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New Feature: Portrait of a Thirtysomething

We’re thrilled to announce that today we’re launching a new weekly interview series: Portrait of a Thirtysomething. We will ask our invited guest (who will be in her/his 30s, obviously!) questions about their life and what the decade means to them.

Our first interview is Eljon Wardally, an incredible playwright/screenwriter, who is good friends with both Laura and I. We all met at youth theater company, Downtown Art, while we were in high school. Over the years, we’ve all collaborated on projects together. Eljon’s got one of the sunniest and brightest outlooks of life of anyone I know, is an incredible artistic talent and an amazing friend to boot.

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Photo courtesy of Champion Eye Media

 

Name/Age/Location:
Eljon Wardally/on the cusp of 34/New York

Occupation:
Playwright/Screenwriter

What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of in your 30s so far?
I’m most proud of my MFA in Playwriting from Fordham University/Primary Stages! Not only did I go back to school after being out for 10 years, I am part of the Inaugural Playwriting class for this type of MFA. You only get to make that kind of history once!

What do you NOT miss about your 20s?
I don’t miss the people I left behind in that decade.

Looking back, what shouldn’t you haven’t been afraid of in your 20s?
I shouldn’t have been so concerned about where I was going to end up. I think that being in my 30s has grounded me in a big way. I’ve learned to just be kinder to myself. I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason. Stress only gives us wrinkles. Don’t be afraid, be still and listen. I promise, it will work out.

Any surprises about what your 30s are like?
I have to say that there are no surprises. Is that bad? Everything just feels more comfortable. My skin feels more lived in and I feel like I know myself better.

What do you find most challenging about this decade?
When you’re in your 30s, people expect you to be married with kids or with one on the way. It’s challenging to feel like you have to justify why you may not be at this stage of your life in your 30s. In a way, this generation is at a crossroads. Things are changing and what was conventional isn’t anymore. More people are focused on their careers and other aspects of their lives and getting married later and having children later. There’s nothing wrong with this but it’s hard to constantly hear about grandkids from the elders!

What are you most looking forward to? Be it tonight, next month or ten years from now!
Tonight I’m looking forward to curling up with my dog and a cup of tea.
Next month I’m looking forward to having a new draft of a play I’m working on.
Ten years from now I’m looking forward to being happy and healthy.

Thanks so much, Eljon! Here’s a link to Eljon’s award-winning web series Docket.  And here’s her personal website, say hi!

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