No matter how I try to dress it up. 30 is happening. Two weeks today is my thirtieth birthday. Or in my dodgy estuary English accent, firty. Turning 33 will be a linguistic nightmare.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what this birthday means to me, if it means anything at all. It’s drilled in to us that turning 30 is a big deal. It’s a big birthday. But why? What will I be on the 10th July that I wasn’t on the 9th?
Is it because we’re programmed to think that 30 is the age at which one is properly an adult? That we’re supposed to have our shit together by 30? House in the suburbs, married, kids and a golden retriever?
Times change. Most of my friends don’t have children. In fact, looking at my closest circle, none of them have children. Those in relationships are in no hurry to get married. Choosing instead to enjoy hard-earned money on holidays and experiences. Singletons in no rush to settle down. I fell feet first in to my career but even if I hadn’t, I’m still young enough to start afresh and find something.
As for me. I don’t have children. I’m in no rush to have any, if any at all. I was asked recently by a woman at work, in a room full tired, stressed looking parents, what my secret was to looking young. Not having children, I joyfully chirped back. That and glycolic acid.
JP and I have been together just over 6 years now. We only lived together for the first-time last year when we purchased our flat. We clearly like to take our time with these things.
I don’t feel any pressure to do any of these things. Thankful to come from a family and be part of an extended family who put no pressure on us. No asking “when are you giving us a grandchild?” or other such questions that should never be asked.
I’m approaching 30 with my shit together. On paper at least
So why is 30 still such a big age? Why do I still feel like it’s supposed to be a turning point? Am I to wake up on my birthday and find I’m suddenly an adult? I doubt it, I’m going to be waking up at the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, where I can continue to live a Peter Pan existence.
What the thought of turning 30 has done for me though is that it’s made me question everything. The status quo and that’s never a bad thing.
I am deeply unhappy living in Aberdeen. What was supposed to be me living here for the 4 years it took me to gain my degree, turned in to me dropping out of Uni and now approaching 10 years here. I’ve put up with this without question for so long but now? Nah. Life’s too short to put up with this. So we’re working out where to go, what to do, when to make the move. I’ve always wanted to dye my hair some ludicrously unnatural colour, like pink. So guess what? A week after my birthday I’m starting the process to lighten my hair and will hopefully get my wish by the end of the year. Whilst fortunate that it pays well, I don’t enjoy my job. And my current questioning of the status quo has raised the question of am I happy to stick with my job? Is money everything? No. And no, but it helps. So I’m starting to think about dropping to part time, to give me the time to do something I enjoy. I’m a great believer that everyone has a marathon and a novel in them. I’ve done the marathon, so…? Questioning the status quo is always a good thing, but sometimes it takes something like a ‘milestone’ birthday to bring it about. So I will thank 30 for giving me the kick up the bum to get myself in to gear.
But 30 no longer feels like a milestone birthday in terms of achievements.
From speaking with friends and extensive research (ok, ok, I used google once), I’ve come to the conclusion that turning 30 is now more likely to be a time when people question the existential as opposed to the physical. What is my purpose as opposed to when will I pop a kid out. Questioning the norm. Termed the midilife crisis. Although if my arthritis and health continues to go on the way it is, it could well be a mid-life crisis.
Questioning who I am and the world around me is something that has been happening since I first got sick 2 years ago. My tolerance for bullshit, already incredibly low, became even lower. I suddenly didn’t have the time or the energy to listen to or engage with petty people and what they had to say. Living in Aberdeen I’m surrounded by the oil and gas industry, and am guilty of being part of it myself. Oil and gas has given a lot of people (perhaps not deservingly so) an awful lot of money. I work in an office of people who love nothing more than to show off with, especially with their cars. In work, in agony, close to tears, I shouldn’t have to listen to imbeciles whinging, close to a nervous breakdown, distraught about how a seagull pooped on their freshly cleaned car. Like seriously, get a fucking grip and stop being so pathetic. Some people have actual real problems. It doesn’t make me angry, in spite of how it reads, it just baffles me how people get so wound up about something that doesn’t even deserve a second of thought. Whereas before I perhaps would have listened, hmmed in all the right places and made appropriate facial expressions, now I just mutter something like ‘not good’ before proudly remarking that I’ve never washed my car because it’ll rain soon enough and that’ll wash it away. This is something that I’ll be taking in to my 30s with me. My zero tolerance for bullshit.
I’ve also developed zero tolerance for fakery. Fakery of myself even. I no longer feel the need to try and be something that I’m not, both physically and personally. Sure, I’m packing more pounds of weight that I’m currently comfortable with, but I feel so much less pressure to look a certain way the older I get. I’d always read it’d happen, you know when people asked to give advice to their 18 year old self, usually it’s “you’re not as fat as you think you are” but I’ve never really related to it until now. Christ, I thought I was enormous in my teens and early twenties. I developed an unhealthy relationship with both my body and food, despite weighing less than 110lbs. Always thinking people wouldn’t like me if I was fat. I’m a good 40lbs heavier than that now but you know what? I don’t hate myself and I actually think there are people out there who like me, just the way I am (feeling like Bridget Jones with that one). Hell, I even have a man who loves me no matter what. Who would never dream of putting me down, and who supports me when I try to eat healthier and move a little more. Even if he does encourage me to have that portion of sticky toffee pudding when I probably shouldn’t. (Jack, if you do ever read this, thanks for introducing me to sticky toffee pudding. Let’s go to Marks and Spencer and get some).
In my early twenties I wore clothes because I thought it was what I was supposed to wear. My go-to outfit for a night out would literally involve me wearing nothing more than a pair of knickers and a bra. Any photographic evidence that I have of this, and believe me, there is a lot, won’t be making an appearance here. But I no longer feel the need to fit in. I’m not somebody who will ever look traditionally sexy. I am cute and I am proud. I don’t wear jeans. I don’t know how to wear denim full stop, which seems to be the staple wardrobe of so many people. If I wanna wear Disney sweatshirts and animal print dresses then I’m going to. And I do. And I don’t care. I remember years ago reading in a magazine that women over the age of about 25 (I think) shouldn’t wear glittery nail polish. And I don’t know why but that’s stayed with me all those years. I love glittery nail polish. Why should I give it up at a certain age? For the record, I haven’t and I won’t. I always have glittery nails and will until the day I do. In the 10 or so years since I read that article I am at least grateful and thankful to be part of a generation who are sticking two figures up to the old established ‘rules.’ I’ll wear what makes me happy. It won’t please everyone, but these tend to be the same people crying because there’s a seagull within 200ft of the car, so their opinion is irrelevant. Life is too short to pretend to be something that you’re not. If my Instagram feed is anything to go by, everyone I know has recently been to see either Ed Sheeran or Beyonce. In years gone by I’ve listened to Beyonce (I WAS PROBABLY DRUNK OK) but I no longer need to pretend that I fit in. I’d rather eat dirt than listen to either of them. And that’s ok.
When I google turning 30, the internet is full or articles telling people (women I assume, I’m yet to meet a man having a breakdown over turning 30 or one jittery enough to google it) what they should be doing and what they should have.
A personal fave is from the Huffington Post, ’12 Financial Goals You Should Reach by Your 30s”.
“Your 30s are meant for building wealth, not digging your way out of debt” it proclaims. Actually, my 30s are going to be about taking even more foreign holidays than I already do (although admittedly I have no personal debt) and I’m always going to prioritise holidays over saving. I’m particularly enjoying point 2, “No more student debt”. Hey Huff Post, I checked my student debt amount a week ago and I still owe Student Loans England £14,000, despite the fact I pay a lot of money each month towards clearing the balance. So guess what Huff Post? Fuck you and your stupid rules. I’m going to be entering my 60s and still have student debt and I’m not going to care at all.
I guess that I’m going to be entering my 30s content with who I am but perhaps not quite so content with my surroundings. Still got some toxic people to say goodbye to, maybe a more enjoyable and fulfilling job to find. But I’m no longer sweating the small stuff (GOD I sound exactly like my Mother).
If you’ve made it this far then I salute you, but out of curiosity, what’s the one thing you’d like to go back and tell yourself?
I’ve written before about ‘Always Wear Sunscreen’ by Mary Schmich, immortalised into a song by Baz Luhrman, and I’m going to leave you with the lyrics posted here in