I turn 30 next Saturday (feel free to DM me for my address so that you can send me cards/jewellery/hard cash) and, inevitably, I’ve spent a good amount of the last six months wondering why I have failed to achieve EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE WORLD before reaching this allegedly significant age.
I understand this is normal. Friends in the same position have said the same thing. Turning 30 seems to have a strange effect on us. We all seem to feel that by this time we should know exactly what we’re doing with our lives, that we should be excellent at doing it, and that now we should be free to sit back and chew on one of the vine ripened tomatoes we’ve casually grown in our back gardens whilst simultaneously nailing our careers, marriages and extensive voluntary work.
But I’m just not sure that’s true.
First of all, we need to give ourselves a break. We’re so quick to focus on what we haven’t done that we don’t acknowledge what we have. And in 30 years that will be a lot of things. All the lessons we’ve learnt, the friends we’ve made, the relationships we’ve had, the jobs we’ve done, the haircuts we’ve been through before realising that actually, yes, that forehead is best kept behind a fringe… So many things. So before we write the last three decades off, we’d do well to remember that they most definitely haven’t been wasted. I’ve watched Mrs Doubtfire 25 times, I’m currently on my seventh viewing of the full Cold Feet box set, and I’ve spent a good week of the last 30 years eating cheese puffs – so don’t try and tell me I haven’t used my time wisely.
Secondly, where did we get this idea that this was some kind of deadline? Alright, maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your life, but that’s OK – working that out is, in itself, progress. And you’ve (all being well) got loads of time to ask yourself the right questions so that you can figure it out. People love talking to you about that sh*t because most are in the same position. Or if you’re one of those rare beasts that does know what you want to do but you’re just not there yet then WELL DONE, DO YOU KNOW HOW RIDICULOUSLY RARE IT IS TO EVEN KNOW THAT, and how marvellously exciting that you can now get on with doing it. Treat 30 like a wonderful new beginning, the decade in which you will get that job / write that book / FINALLY finish painting the bathroom. Carpe diem, hakuna matata and YOLO, dear friend. It’s all to play for.
Thirdly, it’s important to remember that success is subjective. I find it so interesting speaking to people I consider to be absurdly successful and sorted who think quite the opposite about themselves. Your idea of a day spent failing at everything might be another person’s idea of a really successful one because you had the balls to TRY whilst they were too afraid to even give their goals a go. We are all our own harshest judges which is why it helps to have a few chums nearby to remind us that we’re much better at life than we realise. And to occasionally just tell us to stop being a baby and GET ON WITH IT. That can be quite useful too.
And lastly, 30 is a good age. (I know I haven’t technically hit it yet but I imagine that the way you feel at 29 years and 359 days old is pretty similar). You know so much about yourself, what you like, what you don’t like, where you stand on important issues like whether cheese should go on top of the beans on a jacket potato or beneath (on top, obviously). You know what your values are, what kind of wife/husband/friend/sister/brother/shopping companion you want to be, and just how short your temper is when somebody pushes in front of you in a queue. This is all extremely useful information. And with it you can enter a new decade filled with good friendships, nice times and orderly queues, without ever being disappointed that all the cheese on your jacket potato has disappeared into a sea of beans.
Having thought it through, I think that turning 30 is going to be just fine. A time for new beginnings, bold choices and confidence in our selection of hairstyles. And who knows, maybe I will invest in that tomato plant after all.