Survival List On How to Turn Thirty and Not Give (too much of) a F*ck
I’m turning thirty in December. Being one of the last of my peers born in ‘87, I’ve had some time throughout the year to watch each of them go through the panic and self-questioning which seems to come with officially leaving our twenties.
I’ve felt this unease lurking beneath the surface since I turned twenty-five, when I realized I was technically a quarter of a century old, reaching its peak on my 29th birthday (my final year of freedom! supposedly..)
It’s the kind of fear that wakes me up with a start in the mornings, feeling like I’ve somehow dreamt myself into someone else’s body and that makes me want to change my entire wardrobe, though I’m not sure what to…(ok, maybe it’s a little less dramatic than that but..)
Just something not girly, and not twenty-something-think-I’ll-get-respect-by-dressing-sexy BUT makes me feel like a woman. Yeah, something that makes me look serious BUT doesn’t make me lose my sense of humour, I think.
Eventually I opt for jeans and a t-shirt: my ‘inconspicuous’ outfit, chosen to make me blend into the world so that I can get around unnoticed while internally going through an identity crisis. I feel like someone has told me that from one day to the next I have to stop acting like a child and switch to behaving like an ‘adult’ but HOW!? (I can totally see where Peter Pan was coming from now)
On other days, I think ‘fuck this’ and throw on the most sparkly outfit I have, happily bopping down the street and feeling the rebelliousness of my twenties still beating inside me.
I think the idea of ‘blending’ into the background is what I’m resisting when it comes to turning thirty. I’m a bit nonconformist and I admit that others may not be feeling so existentially tormented by this transition but there seems to be a societal undertone of expectation that one should start settling and giving up on any ‘unrealistic’, unfulfilled dreams when you hit the thirty milestone. And I think a lot of us feel uneasy about this.
The settling looks something like: having a long-term relationship (with one partner), making future plans to have a family, having a firm footing on some sort of career ladder and a mortgage (or at least renting your own place alone or with a partner and not with a multitude of room mates called Bob!…(Disclaimer: I’ve never actually lived with anyone named Bob, though I wouldn’t object to it)
If you aren’t able to tick the box in one of these areas I think it can make you feel uneasy and question whether or not you’re ‘successful’. As a millennial some of these objectives have become increasingly difficult to achieve, what with everything moving so fast, there being more choice than ever and less financial support to do it all.
But I wonder if there’s a reason we’re encouraged to think so much about our status in each of these areas at this particular time. If we’re still acting like twenty-year-olds, allowed to explore and experiment and change our identities from one day to the next, we might be a little bit unpredictable. We might even have our eyes wide open.
But while I feel a sense of loss (of my youth or something like that) I also feel excited because I know that especially as a woman there’s a lot of freedom and respect given to you when you reach the age of thirty.
Though I don’t have the relationship, the mortgage, the stable career, or any plans to have a family (oh boy, I’m really not meeting the criteria!) I feel a deep kind of settling at my core. It’s not the settling which is about ticking any societal boxes but something that feels like maturity. I think it comes from the resilience I’ve developed over the last ten years and the faith I’ve gained that I can overcome pretty much whatever life has to throw at me.
Since turning eighteen I experienced my biggest heartbreak losing my father to suicide, I moved country with my family, I got a degree which I cried most of my way through (I’m a bit of a drama queen you might note), I moved in with someone who I then married (at that much-too-ripe age of twenty-three), I got divorced (obviously), joined a band for five years which was like a family, I left the band, wrote and recorded my first ever solo EP, moved country again after 9 years of living in the same place (alone this time) and I’ve developed strong friendships that have kept me going throughout everything.
My point being that there’s a timing by which we think we’re meant to have achieved certain things, which not all of us are necessarily prone to do and that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re failing at life.
It’s my experiences more than anything that make me feel like I’m approaching some level of comfort in my own skin and knowing within myself, which I’m looking forward to fully embracing with this turn of age and which I don’t believe materialism is capable of giving me.
That said, I also don’t believe in completely rejecting the opportunity that this slight pressure brings to think about whether I want to make certain choices about the lifestyle presented above, how and to what extent. I think it’s a wonderful time to be thoughtful about the next few years ahead but approaching it with a sense of excitement as opposed to letting any fear of looking like the odd one out dictate my moves.
I like the idea that you can still hold onto your dreams whilst thinking responsibly about how you’re going to pay the bills etc, even if it involves adapting them a little bit. We don’t all have to choose to live the insecure life of artists (I just can’t help it) but I think there’s something cool about being a doctor who also plays in a band or a musician who manages to raise their kid while on tour. They’re ways in which I would consider one has managed to live the ‘big life’, perhaps because they thought it possible.
I’ve used this milestone to make a few ‘responsible’ choices this year. One of the main ones being to learn how to drive so that I can travel around Canada by next year and take my music on tour.
Having seen most of my friends who’ve turned thirty breathe a sigh of relief and say ‘that wasn’t so bad’, I trust that I’m actually going to get through this one okay (who’d of known!?)
During the best moments, it feels like I’m piloting a plane which doesn’t yet have a landing spot but I trust that I’m going to get there (just maybe at a different speed to other people and I’m okay with that). I just wanna enjoy a bit of the free-fall for now.
Also, I’ve come up with a little ‘survival’ list for myself to navigate these last few months of unease until December strikes, which I’ll share here:
1) Make a list: cos that’s what adults do, right!? And then if you’re feeling uncertain about what you’ve achieved by this age you can just resort back to said list and be like see, I’ve made a list!!
2) Combat isolation: on a level, talk to everyone in your age-group about your apprehensions about turning thirty because they’ll reinforce the fact that you’re not alone and that they’re feeling the same way too.
3) Reality check: talk to people ten years + older than you because they’ll laugh at the fact that you’re worried about turning thirty and remind you that you’re still young (apparently they never went through that phase or it was so uneventful that they’ve forgotten all about it)
4) Incubate: DON’T read any articles about what you should have achieved by the age of thirty and why you should be doing certain things in your twenties to become a successful thirty-year-old, or about thriving twenty-year-old start-up owners (mostly because it will make you feel bad, we weren’t born in the ‘start-up’ era, you can’t change the past and you have to consider the agendas/aims of people writing those articles)
5) Ruminate: be thoughtful and make some choices cos it will empower you. DO at least think about your relation to some of the ‘serious’ topics of marriage, family, career and living situation. If you decide to reject any of the conventions at least you’ve done so purposefully (and can own that), instead of doing so in a knee-jerk reaction (which you might regret never having given thought to later)
6) Hallucinate: imagine talking to yourself in your forties and the things you would want your thirty year old self to know about what they might regret doing/not doing in the next ten years.
7) Ok, enough of the ‘ates’…BREATHE (because that’s what they tell you to do in any anxiety-inducing situation..)
8) Well, maybe one more ‘ate’… Rejuvenate: remember that you’re as young as you feel and just because you’re making big responsible choices now doesn’t mean life ain’t gonna be fun no more. Some of these choices can be seen as part of the next big adventure.
9) Affirm: look back over the last ten years and think about all that you’ve been through and the positive things you’ve achieved in all areas of your life. List them if you want and be proud of them (even you have to do so in secret).