30: An Arrival Home

30: An Arrival Home

A personal essay from The Sensualist founder, Arielle, on the lessons of aging and how she's learned to see it as a beautiful gift rather than a burden.

By: Arielle Aquino

All through my 20s, my friends peered around the corner at every birthday, edging closer to 30 with trepidation. Their fear leaked out onto me and I found myself in some low moments obsessing over photos of myself from my early 20s. It is a cliche to say that the world only loves young, supple women, and I don’t like to repeat cliches. But suddenly I started to become aware of agism that slipped into casual comments around me, and I noticed that I wasn’t the youngest girl at the party anymore. Huh.

My 21st Birthday

I was aging, and I’d been taught to be afraid of that, but as I inched closer to the dreaded 30, I realized that I became less and less concerned with that as each day passed. And then on August 11, I woke up to 30 and the feeling that spread throughout me was not fear, but joy and excitement. Fuck yes - I made it. And also, I am beautiful. I finally knew that. It was a simple realization that came instantly that morning and in that moment, everything made sense.

At 30, I do not care as much as I did at 25 about having ripped abs and perfect hair. In fact, as a poignant and divine message, over the last few years my hair has started prematurely thinning and falling out. It’s been devastating and painful, but as I’ve hit 30, I have become more and more accepting of that which is.

All of my life I put myself through strict diets, straightening and bleaching my unruly brown hair, and never going out without a manicure. Chalk it up to COVID and turning 30, and suddenly I don’t give a shit anymore. I love food: food is sensuality to me and I love the art of fine dining and food made with soul; I will never deny myself that again. I love how my feet look bare, with no polish. I love how wild my hair becomes when I let it.

I will always look back on my 20s with fondness. There was a beautiful innocence in those times that both rewarded and broke my heart. There was curiosity and exploration, of which I am only diving even deeper into as I age. My 20s were full of mistakes and growth and long periods of stagnation.

Me at 21

I often say that turning 30 was the best thing that ever happened to me. 29 was a difficult year of loss, questioning everything about who I was and floating a bit, wondering what was next. I was feeling a little stuck and afraid, when suddenly at 30, I stepped into this whole other world. I arrived deeply into myself and was reminded of who I am. I saw it with fresh eyes.

Oh yeah, this is me. I am deeply feminine, messy, silly at times, playful and incredibly wise. I am beautiful, despite struggling with that throughout my 20s. This body has seen me through many lifetimes in just 30 years. It has served me well and kept me safe and I've treated it badly my whole life; criticizing and restricting and trying to force it into a specific shape, color and size. Now I look at it with gratitude and compassion.

At 30, I finally understand what it means to feel more comfortable in your skin than ever before. I am starting to recognize the ease and acceptance that other women emanate. As I look at older women, I am struck by a presence that seems to fill the entire room. A woman who is firmly rooted in who she is stops you dead in your tracks. A woman who accepts and loves herself as she is is unmistakable. A woman who welcomes her desires and speaks them with grace makes you obey.

I remember in my research for The Sensualist, I found that most sexual wellness brands catered to a woman in her early 20s. I found it hilarious and also kind of sad. There seems to be this belief that a woman’s sex drive is highest when she’s 18 and freshly legal. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I’ve become insatiably curious, open and excited about sex as I’ve aged; and the women I speak to in their 40s, 50s, 60s, even 80s agree that it only grows and changes as one ages.

At 30 I have realized just how much the world needs more women who are unafraid to age and excited to lean more into their womanly power. This strength of spirit emerges the longer you spend in your skin; soon you realize there’s no other option. Either become a victim or embrace what is; I choose to embrace it with two wide, open arms.

The way we change the world is by embracing the beautiful aging process, and sharing our gifts that continue to be refined over the years. We change the world by showing younger women how incredible it is to grow older, and that each year brings more and more lessons, challenges, gifts and wisdom.

Everything you’ve heard about life getting better as you age, is true. It is our duty to continue spreading that message. The age of the empowered woman is here. This I am sure of.