Turning 30 is a milestone in one's life, the age when you supposedly go from being an irresponsible twenty-something, when life is all about having fun, to becoming a sober and responsible human being, ready to settle down or already settled into a more permanent position in life. For many, though, it is a time of fear and anxiety, of looking back over the last 30 years and wondering what you have accomplished.
British singer-songwriter Lily Allen wrote a song called ‘22’ about a woman turning 30 and lyrics have never spoken to me more. The lyrics read, ‘It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over, There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say, ‘Til the man of her dreams comes along, Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder…”
Although the song is over ten years old, the notion of a woman’s life being over by 30 if she doesn’t have a partner is wildly out of date but still prevalent in today's society. I grew up in a Christian family and still attend church and there is something in church culture (not in the teachings) about being 30 and single that views you as some kind of failure. The jokes, the comments, and the well-meaning phrases – ‘All in God’s time’, ‘The right one is out there for you’, ‘Maybe you’re just too picky’ or my favourite one, ‘When I was your age I was …’ - can sting when you hear them over and over again. As Lily Allen’s lyrics suggest, society says, “Your life is already over”.
In general, we are fairly hard on ourselves. This can be a good thing as it means we hold ourselves to a pretty high standard. A lot of these standards, though, are dictated by what we think we should be doing at a certain point in our lives. At every milestone birthday, it’s common to have a mini-identity crisis. As I contemplated what 30 meant for me, I looked back on the things I’d learnt. The media would have you believe that you need to have accomplished certain things and while some friends of mine have certainly done so, this doesn’t mean that everyone should be on the same page. There is no “perfect picture” for what any age looks like. There is a scene in the movie “Suddenly 30” when the main character, Jenna, a young woman sick of being a teenager, makes a wish to become “thirty, flirty and thriving”. To her surprise, she wakes up the next morning as her 30-year-old self and learns that life can be challenging at any age.
In my experience, there are dual expectations around arriving at the big 3 0. In one scenario you have life all figured out, know where you’re going with your career, are married, with your own home, and maybe expecting or have a child already - everything society expects of you at that age. In the other scenario, you have just hit multiple expiration dates.
Fear about their future is on the rise among millenials. One in six will experience anxiety over the landmark event as the pressure of ‘where they think they should be” starts to kick in.
At first, when I hit 30, I was full of angst but once you contemplate what you have accomplished and what you are in life you realise that hitting your third decade is pretty awesome.
What I released is that like the Aaliyah song says, age ain’t nothing but a number. On my thirtieth birthday, I woke up just the same as every other day. I felt the same, the only difference was my mum calling to sing “Happy Birthday” off-key from Australia.
Sure, I notice a few more creases around my eyes and I’ve stocked up on serums and hydrating oils but other than that I look the same as I did when I was 29. But I don’t feel any older or any more grown up. It could be the skateboard I got that I have now ridden all over the house because it’s cold outside.
But while I’ve been anxious and stressed about the landmark event all year, as I religiously slap that anti-wrinkle night cream on, one thing I’ve been slow to realise until now is that my life has got a lot better and I’ve had opportunities that many people haven’t. Many look at me and think, “Wow! You’re so lucky, I wish I had that opportunity.”
While I may not be married or own my home, may be broke living in London, far away from my family, it’s important to remember that “I live in London!,” a dream destination for many. I’m spoiled for things to do and going to the theatre after work is no longer a big event needing planning months in advance.
At 30, you discover that you are more confident and more comfortable being alone with yourself. In your twenties, you want to be surrounded by friends, want to be liked, and you worry about what others think of you. At 30, you know who you are and are comfortable with it. Moving from Australia to London alone meant I had no friends and had to really get to know myself. This meant that I did things alone, whether it was going to a musical or going on weekend trips to other countries. I had never done that kind of thing before.
You realise what is important to you and spend your time and energy on things that really mean something to you. That doesn’t mean I’m selfish. If I know a friend needs help, I will be there for them. It just means that I prioritise, a 'good, better, and best" use of time.
The best thing about turning 30 so far is learning to stop caring what others think of me. I remember being 20 and going dancing with friends and trying to imitate them and make sure my moves weren’t too outlandish - I’m not the best dancer and I know it. Last year, I stopped caring - I’m still not the best dancer but my strange dance moves are fine by me!
I am happy in my skin, I don’t dress based on what fashion dictates, I wear what I find comfortable and this may include the childish beanie with the double pompom ears.
An important aspect of turning 30 is having good friends. I have a lot of friends and have always made friends easily though I’ve never had close friends. Turning 30, I no longer need to go out and have a good time, get home in the early hours and go to work a few hours later. My body can’t handle that anymore, sleep is too important now. I’m happy to watch an episode of “The Good Place” with friends or have dinner and sit around talking. That kind of evening is much better for you and makes you happier than chasing that big night.
Quite possibly the best thing about being 30 is that I’ve come to love myself. I love my completely Australian, self-deprecating, sarcastic sense of humour. I love my nose, which I hated so much during my teens and twenties that I refused to allow a side-on photo of my face. I love my fashion sense, which goes from comfort-loving to trendy and everything in between, depending on my mood. By loving myself more, it allows me to allow others to love me and for me to love them the way they are.
So while we 30-year-olds may grapple with the fear of getting older, of having a landmark birthday, of not being able to tick off many landmark moments, at the same time we know that it’s ok and that we have learnt and accomplished so much already.