I turned thirty years old on July 1st and I had the best of intentions to do one of those ’30 things I’ve learned at 30′ style posts, but honestly, the inspiration just never struck…
I think that has something to do with the pressures of turning thirty in general. The idea that we are suddenly granted with a back catalogue of wisdom just because we reach a certain milestone on the calendar of life. Truth be told, I did have a few meltdowns in the few months leading up to turning thirty. They seemed to come out of nowhere and leave me filled with existential dread. I’d be watching TV and then suddenly I’d feel this wave of anxiety wash over me and I’d zone out thinking about all the things I had wanted to do by twenty five, let alone THIRTY…
Had I travelled enough? Backpacked alone? Lived in a new country? Mastered a Sunday roast? It was ridiculous. My mind was working over drive just because of all these societal expectations that have been set out for us before we even get a chance to figure out who we are and what makes us truly make us happy. Similar to how I experience anxiety – the build up to something is always the most treacherous part. Should I be married by now? Do I need to be thinking about having kids? What if we never find the right house? What if I never learn to drive because I can’t get a grip on my anxiety?
If I had to really breakdown and analyse how I feel as a thirty year old woman then I would say that I’m finally learning to sweat the small stuff less. I finally feel stronger and calmer than I ever have before – I care less about quantity and more about quality. I value my friends and family more than ever. I feel thankful for my body despite our difficult journey together. I feel fearful and hopeful as though they are part of the same weird cocktail I’ve been drinking. I feel as though I’m focusing on the weeks rather than the months or the years. I feel proud of the thirty years of life I’ve collected and safe in the knowledge that none of it has to mean anything profound.
If the last few years of my twenties have served up any sage advice then it’s probably that we really don’t have control over anything (even the things we kid ourselves into thinking we have control over). Ultimately, there’s only so much we can do to steer the course of where we end up at 30 and 40 and 50…
I think it’s easy to wrap all these big expectations up in numbers when really none of it means anything. As a person with a womb, sure, I have the old biological clock working against me, but is that to say that if I don’t have kids then I won’t be motherly and nurturing in other ways? If I never learn to drive, will the world cease to exist? There is purpose and belonging outside of the moulds we tend to get poured into from the moment we are born. There is happiness to be found in following your own path and not getting bogged down in a social media feed of other peoples dreams and highlights.
At thirty, I feel as though I have more respect for myself than ever before. I say no more when it counts, and I try to push myself when it matters most. I feel excited for the future (and sometimes daunted by the few days that lie ahead). I hope that if you’re reading this and feel you’re turning a certain age and hoped you’d feel differently in some type of way that you can just take a moment to be gentle with yourself. Age is just a number.
Film taken on a Contax T2, portra 400 film
Location: West End Muse, Edinburgh (kindly hosted by Sand And Stone Escapes)
As a soon-to-be 30 year old (also a fellow non-driver!), this post resonated with me so much. Society places a lot of emphasis on 30 as being this big milestone, and I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of focusing too much on things that I “should have” accomplished by now. (Should I be further along in my career? Should I own a house? Should I be married, or at least in a serious relationship?) It’s a good reminder to be kinder to ourselves and to celebrate the things that we have achieved instead of getting hung up on arbitrary societal milestones.