So I turned 30 in January, and you’d think, listening to the people around me, that I already have one foot in the grave.
Some of the worry seemed pretty understandable. Both of my parents wailed about ‘How can you already be 30?’ but I can imagine having a child hit three decades is something of a shock to the system. It’s my friends and extended family who caused me the most distress.
‘That’s it, it’s all downhill from here’ they kept telling me. ‘All the fun’s over, you’re an actual adult now.’
Seriously? 30 years old and I’m over the hill? Oh God.
I hadn’t really thought about it in the months leading up to my birthday. In all honesty, I was looking forward to the opportunity to have a joint birthday party with my friends who were also turning 30 that month, and drinking as much ale as I possibly could. (Turns out I can drink quite a lot of ale). I didn’t think I’d magically change like Cinderella once I hit the big 3-0. I mean, how does that work? Once the clock strikes midnight, do I transform from a woman with stupid hair who stays up too late playing video games to one who wears sensible shoes and has a ‘real’ job?
Nah, I thought. That’s not for me. So following my birthday, I continued having stupid hair and making questionable life choices (these are arguably the same thing).
I wonder whether we see turning 30 as such a down point in our lives because we’re expected to shove ourselves into smaller and smaller definitions of the term ‘successful adult’.
I thought that I’d ignored all that rubbish, until I bought myself a skirt on eBay and tried it on once it arrived in the post. Looking at myself in the mirror, I wondered, ‘Am I too old to be wearing a skirt this short?’
At the same time, I was wondering what I was doing in my ‘career’. Careening around, taking mad jobs off the internet for not an awful lot of pay may suit me personally, but what about pensions? Retirement? Shouldn’t I take a regular job in an office, where I know I’ll get a solid pay cheque at the end of the month?
Luckily, I caught myself before I did anything ridiculous, like buying a pair of Hush Puppies or swapping my beloved gaming laptop for a slow cooker.
The problem, I’ve decided, is what society expects of us. Sure, we’re stretching our childhoods out longer and longer, with more of us living at home for longer out of necessity, and nostalgia being a booming industry. However, 30 seems to be the age where we’re expected to knuckle down and get on with being an adult.
If you’ve not hit a lot of ‘expected’ milestones by 30, like getting married or having kids, you’re seen to be behind everybody else. I don’t want kids, I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to afford a house and I think of marriage of being ‘nice to do, one day, maybe, when I have money’ (so never). Even though more and more couples are choosing cohabitate rather than marry, and around 55% of cohabiting couples are childfree, I’m still seen as an outlier, or worse, someone who needs to play catch up.
I wonder whether we see turning 30 as such a down point in our lives because we’re expected to shove ourselves into smaller and smaller definitions of the term ‘successful adult’. It’s like trying to pour the Atlantic Ocean into your garden pond; it’s only going to make a mess and confuse the hell out of everyone.
Instead, I’m pretty much going to carry on as I was. I’ll wear that bloody skirt, and I’ll carry on taking the jobs I enjoy, even if it means I’ll never be able to afford to shop in Cath Kidston. I was happy when I was 29 and I’m happy now I’m 30. Don’t get me wrong though, with age does come some wisdom. The wisdom, for example, not to drink every pint offered to you at your birthday party, and spend the next day in a hung-over haze at your sister in law’s house.
Live and learn, I suppose.
Siobhan Harper is a freelance writer living in Birmingham UK. She strongly believes in figuring things out as you go along, but only because she's pathalogically disorganised. You can follow her adventures in writing at http://wingingitsiobhanharper.blogspot.co.uk/, or her thoughts on early mornings and dogs on Twitter at @Beatrix_Plotter.