Everybody experiences 30 differently; this is a somewhat reductive entry (it was even longer before the edit!) about my experience of turning 30 as a single, childless, female failure. If your circumstances are different then no doubt you will experience different thoughts and emotions about this number.
I’m currently lying in bed (because: Laziness), in a hotel room no more than 30 minutes from where I live (because: Avoiding people), listening to rowdy 20-something’s in the next room singing along loudly and badly to songs I know nothing about. I am straining my eyes and fingers to type this on my phone (because: laptop malfunction) at nearly midnight on the eve of my 31st birthday (because I procrastinate too much and writing this blog entry was one of my “before 31” goals, not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things but it’s nice to achieve goals).
In some ways my 30th year has felt like a funeral: Reliving old memories, saying goodbye to the past and things left unachieved, crying (a lot!) – I think I went through all the 7 stages of grief this year! I had to accept that a certain time in my life (my 20-somethings) is now over, the care-free days of my youth are gone (although they weren’t actually all that carefree, they were in fact years filled with acne, anxiety, confusion and loneliness, but you’ll notice as you get older it becomes easier to gloss over the past and think it was the best time in your life). Everything is changing now: old, familiar paths are closing up and new, unfamiliar ones are forming. My friendship circle is changing with old friends dropping by the wayside and new ones slowly coming into my life. I almost feel like a snake shedding my old skin to reveal a shiny new one (if only humans could do that!). But it is kind of a painful process. I don’t like to admit I cried nearly every day for the first half of 2016 but indeed I did. Not all the tears were necessarily sad but let’s just say I never understood how memories could be bittersweet until this year.
It’s been a very strange year… I didn’t really feel the horror of turning 30 until I was halfway through it then as suddenly as a car crash I realised I’d procrastinated my entire 20s away and I could never go back! Even if I built a robot version of me aged 20 or I invented some dreamlike technology in which I could re-live a virtual reality version of my 20s, it just wouldn’t be the same because I’m not the same person I was when I was 20. But this is good in some ways because I’ve grown, I’ve become wiser, calmer, more confident, more mature – heck even more fun! – and overall a better person than the confused kid I was 10-ish years ago. I’m still not quite mentally where I want or need to be but I’m more there than I was at 20 and I couldn’t have got to this place any sooner no matter how much I wish that were true. It seems the price of youth is a lack of wisdom and the price of wisdom is a lack of youth. It sucks but that’s just the way it is!
I don’t really remember what happened in my 20s, it’s surprisingly blurry… I spent my 20th birthday riding rollercoasters (with some old guy (long story!) who nearly had a heart attack), my 21st in NYC (alone, as I frequently am). At 23 I graduated from university but then at 24 I entered a deep depression that I’m only now starting to gradually come out of so that pretty much screwed up the rest of my 20s. I guess I had goals… to join a rock band! To marry a rock star! To be a scientist! To travel the world! Yo travel to Mars! To be 21 forever! To build a robot version of me that would be 21 forever, go to Mars and be perfect in every way that I wasn’t. But after age 23 I pretty much did nothing except procrastinate, cry and work random, short-term, part-time, minimum-wage jobs which got me nowhere but down.
I had noooo friends in my 20s, in terms of real-world, non-digital friends who you can count on and cry on their shoulder when you need to. I still don’t have such friends and I still haven’t achieved my goals buuuut I am finally working on both of those things and heading in the right direction with a much clearer idea of what the right direction is. And that’s something that’s come with age and maturity and I’ll admit it’s a change that’s pretty much taken place just within the last month of my 30th year and I dont really know if everything’s going to work out and I am still scared and uncertain but I know I have to try because this is my life and my future and I want it to count for something, even if it just counts for something to me and no-one else. I’ve promised myself no more crying and dwelling on the past as of tomorrow (we’ll see if that works out!) because it’s not going to change anything (except probably give me more wrinkles). I can’t kick and scream my way back to being a 20-something so I may as well embrace this time and make the most of it.
Here’s some crappy free advice for my fellow 30-ers:
You are still young and you should enjoy it because you wont get this time again and from what I’ve heard, time speeds up as you get older so the the time between 30-40 is gonna feel faster than from 20-30, so have fun! And don’t stress, it gives you wrinkles.
Don’t be bitter about your past or jealous of other peoples futures (such thoughts will also give you wrinkles). Other peoples futures are not your concern and your past is dead to you, stop dragging that dead horse around and focus on having an enjoyable present and future (which is possible if you work at it).
F what other people think. If there’s one thing I really wish I’d known at 20 it’s that most bullies are insecure, jealous little f’ers who want you to be as miserable and messed up as they are so they feel better about their unhappy existence. Don’t let people like that destroy the magic within you because people like that don’t deserve to win.
As long as you’re alive you are not to old to have My Little Pony bedsheets, own a teddy bear, have a zebra onesie, or engage in any other silly youthfulness. Acting your age is boring and anyone who disagrees is boring (I’m not saying they’re bad people, just boring).
Don’t waste time on negative people or experiences. If something bad happens, or someone is mean to you, don’t dwell on it because doing so will only hinder your wellbeing. Instead, take time to thoroughly enjoy important moments and to make positive memories. Say “yes” to things: If someone invite you out – go! You can always leave if you aren’t enjoying yourself. If you have the opportunity to spend time with family – do it! You never know how long people will be in your life or you in theirs so treasure each moment with the people you love. Don’t have a family? Well, find some cool people, make them your family! Want that piece of chocolate cake? Go for it! Happiness will keep you looking youthful much longer than celery!
Let go of idealism and know that it’s perfectly ok to not be perfect. At 30 I had to accept that I can’t change the world, I can’t help everybody, I can’t be a rock star, I can’t go to Mars, I can’t pass go or collect $200, I can’t achieve everything I want in this finite amount of time I have on Earth in this corporeal form known as a human being (being corporeal sucks!) This all sounds very depressing but accepting certain inalienable truths has helped me to get moving towards more realistic goals. Of course you should dream big, but know your boundaries and have a plan B.
Being 30 doesn’t suddenly transform you into whatever you thought being 30 would be about. I don’t suddenly own my own home, I don’t suddenly have kids, I’m not suddenly walking a fancy poodle down a swanky street in a hip neighborhood while wearing designer clothes and sunglasses (or whatever being rich is supposed to look like). I still occasionally slob around like a 20 year old (joys of being single), my hair doesn’t always get washed, my brain is still kinda 20-something. It can take a while for your brain to catch up with your physical age, and that’s ok. You don’t need to be a certain thing or act a certain way just because you’re 30. Your personal experience may differ from mine or other peoples but it’s your experience, no one else’s so do it your way and don’t worry what the crowd is doing. Ignore what other people think – people come and people go, find ones you can be yourself around. Those people do exist but you gotta hunt for them like all the best prey. And if you want something in life, you’re gonna have to work at it, it’s not just going to happen (unless you’re very lucky or rich).
“Feel the fear and do it anyway” – l dislike pseudo-inspirational quotes because they’re usually quickly forgotten and therefore of little use buuut this one I have been feeling at 30. If there’s something you want to do in life – big or small – and you keep putting it off because you’re afraid then now’s the time to feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s possible you have some barrier in the way of achieving your goals but try to find a way around it – you can try taking small steps towards your goal if you can’t take big leaps, or maybe modify your goal so it’s easier to achieve in your current situation rather than you waiting around for that “something” to happen which makes it possible (“when I’m rich”, “when the kids are older”, “when I have time”…) – making an attempt is better than not trying at all. And remember that as scary as taking that first step is, it’s far less frightening than looking back at 40, 50, 60 and seeing that your younger self totally screwed you over! Because they were so afraid of failure that they never bothered to try. Now’s the time to make sure you don’t have regrets later on.
One piece of advice I would give specifically to other childless 30 year olds is to think hard about whether kids are right for you. I desperately wanted kids for 6 months of my 30th year then was unsure for 5 months and then realised in the last month that if I had kids now I would not be able to improve my career prospects, afford to get a mortgage, or relocate at the drop of a hat. I know no-one wants to hear it but your genes are not that amazing and your kid probably won’t grow up to be a rocket scientist so get over yourself. You can always adopt or foster at some point and those kids will be no more or less f’ed up than any bio kids you would have had, they will love you no more or less and be no more or less likely to be rocket scientists. Having kids is a hard, thankless, 24-7, permanent, unquittable job so think carefully about whether that’s the right path for you. And if you do decide to have kids then make sure it’s what you want rather than what your friends want, what your mom wants, what society tells you you should want, because you can’t take those things back to the store for a refund.
Oh, and in regards to keeping up your youthful appearance… unfortunately a lot of it is down to genetics (this was my conclusion after bankrupting myself on skincare products and eating lots of salads to no effect). Also, you can’t un-age yourself and your face will continue to undergo the effects of time and gravity no matter how much Botox you pump into it. But remember that 80-year-old you will be like “Damn I looked fine at 30!” and also from what I’ve seen, stress will age you faster than any unhealthy diet so chill out, learn how to relax and find something to smile about.
- 30-er advice from a blogger who is better at giving advice than I am: http://www.shedoesthecity.com/why-no-woman-should-ever-be-scared-of-turning-30 ; http://www.shedoesthecity.com/5-things-that-happens-to-your-body-in-your-thirties
- Blogger I’m Jealous Of But Also Secretly Admire: http://specificallyeverything.net/2016/05/27/when-you-feel-guilty-for-loving-your-life/
- Lyrics to the Sunscreen Song from the 90s, because if this didn’t make sense to you in the 90s it will now, or at least it will provide you with a nostalgia trip: http://www.metrolyrics.com/everybodys-free-to-wear-sunscreen-lyrics-baz-Luhrmann.html
Well, this took so long to write on my phone that I am now a 30-something (and I feel ok about it (so far…)) but I think 31 years ago I was born around lunchtime so while I have the chance I want it on the official record that I was a 20-something this time last year and as soon as I build that robot version of me… well, it’s a nice dream!