Christa Allen Is (Finally) Going on 30

Since 13 Going on 30 graced silver screens in 2004, one phrase has been inextricably linked with 30th birthdays: “Thirty, flirty, and thriving!” Now, Christa Allen, who portrayed the teenage version of Jennifer Garner's Jenna Rink, in the iconic rom-com is turning 30 this November. In this essay, Allen reflects on hitting the age that has defined her career for nearly two decades. This is part of 30 on 30, our ongoing series exploring what it's like to turn 30 at this pivotal moment in history.

Who knew that three little words and the role of Jenna Rink would shape my life as a child and follow me a lifetime — or, at least, my soon-to-be 30 years. 

I received my first paycheck at the age of eight. At 11, I shot my first feature film, but it was playing 13-year-old Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30 that played such a dominant role in my actual life. I could have never predicted how she would come to follow me forever.

Because of that role, I have such a personal connection with anyone who was touched by the film. I feel invisibly bound to people turning 13, 30, and everyone in between. They reach out to me by the hundreds, sharing joy or trepidation at reaching these milestones. I have become a mirror of sorts, reflecting back to them the intense feelings they have about reaching these ages.

But I feel conflicted.

As a society, we are so trained to assign meaning to numbers: the ones in our bank statements, on our social media accounts, the years we’ve been alive. We assign meaning to these things in a way that, in my opinion, can be very damaging and is often heartbreaking.

The numbers of my age are meaningless to me because time isn’t real. Time is a construct. Time is circular. As I approach 30, I have a better understanding of some things, specifically how the world works, how I fit into it, and how I try not to attach too much meaning to the way others see me, but rather how I see myself. I can master simple things, like throwing together a fun outfit without too much effort or drawing on eyeliner in a way I find aesthetically pleasing.

However, I can also negotiate a business deal and make I'm properly compensated for my worth. Throughout my life so far, I have also built a deeper understanding of how minds and hearts work, and I am closer to mastering my own emotions every day. If anyone is wondering, stoicism and pantheism are my preferred lenses through to view the world. All of these things are settling nicely into place as I round out my third decade of life, and yes, I know, I have so much more growth to do.

The numbers of my age are meaningless to me because time isn’t real. Time is a construct. Time is circular.

Now, more than ever, I see the importance of childlike wonder and protecting the child within all of us. I know the importance of play. I recall my 7-year-old mind and how sure she was of what she liked to do with her time. She liked to play pretend. She liked to write, produce, star in, and invite her family to little skits in the living room. She didn’t give a second thought to the criticisms of others or fear abject failure or rejection by society. In that way, I believe children are profoundly wise. A part of me is trying harder than ever to rediscover those magical senses of wonder, play, and freedom — to get back to the child before the child was stamped out by society’s rules.

The world is so eager to define us by age, and I know that another person’s attempt to define me or put me in a box based on my age or any other number associated with me is a reflection of them, not of me. But what is age but energy? I like to think of my energy as ageless.  

So I’d like to edit that line that rocket-launched my career to say: My name is Christa Allen, and I’m thriving.

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