Important birthdays

I have friends who are approaching their 30th birthdays, and they are somewhat understandably a little apprehensive. 30 is a big number, and it’s a new decade. But to my mind, the more important time is the year after you turn 36. I started thinking about this when a Chick-fil-A owner told me that she’s 36 and doing what she wants to be doing for the rest of her life, right after I found out that Lin-Manuel Miranda was 36 when Hamilton made it big.

Add that to my frederick-law-olmsted-1895most recent discovery: Frederick Law Olmsted was 36 when his plan for Central Park was accepted.

I haven’t seen a lot of Central Park (I always end up in NYC when the weather is mediocre at best), but he also designed the grounds at the Biltmore estate in North Carolina which I visited a few years ago. It’s marvelous – and most of the plan involved re-foresting thousands of acres. When you visit now you would never imagine that the estate was built on a denuded landscape; it feels like the forest has been there forever.

You can read more about Olmsted in this First Things article. The end is mildly devastating.


Maybe it’s just your late 30s: Dante was 37 when he was exiled from Florence. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was 38 when he burst onto the European intellectual scene. TS Eliot was 39 when he converted. Anyway, don’t fear turning 30. Just look forward to whatever happens when you’re 36.


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