In a matter of weeks, I’m turning 30. It’s not a big deal, so why am I so anxious about it? Why do I wake up in a cold sweat suddenly dissatisfied with my accomplishments in life? It’s because it’s considered a milestone birthday and my life now, isn’t where I thought it would be at 20. And a niggling voice in my head keeps saying that, in some way, this equates to failure. Failure because I’m only getting started in a career that I thought I’d be more established in by now. Failure because I don’t live in my own place. And failure because the world is out there and I don’t feel I’ve seen a fraction of it.
These are just voices that, in the scheme of things, mean nothing; anxieties that shouldn’t be thought of again. Because I know I’m far from a failure.
That I don’t have the above ticked off yet doesn’t matter but I imagine, most of us suddenly feel inadequate in this way, in some form, when the big 3-0 looms (or any ‘big’ Birthday) and the grey-haired emojis start appearing at the end of text messages. We start questioning our choices; stacking them up against other people’s perfectly curated Instagram feeds and wondering why we haven’t ticked X off the list. (Well, some of us. To those who feel none of this, I deeply envy you).
The pressure to hashtag LiveOurBestLives in society today is partially to blame; there’s ridiculous pressure put on everyone to attain perfection – so totally unattainable – to have #LifeGoals, the expectation to do everything NOW. But what if you’re a late bloomer? What if you want to suddenly change tactics? Where is the hashtag for that?
The root of my anxieties – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – lies in much of the above; the fact that I want my life to have happened already. Instead of living in the here and now, I’m wishing that the #Moments we long for will have been and gone (this scares me far more than turning 30). I’m working to push past this but I don’t have ‘life lessons’ to share with you because I feel like my life is only starting; it’s been a mad scramble to get a job, have actual money to live and just make sure my body cooperates with me and that’s before I start to think about the real goals I want to (try) to chase.
But I do have some thoughts, some passed down to me by people far wiser than I am at this moment, that I’ll be remembering as The Birthday approaches.
Read on and celebrate milestones with friends and wine and remember, age means f**k all in the grand scheme of things:
Those ‘Things You NEED To Have Accomplished by 30’ Lists belong in Hell
I get sent 20 of these things a week. They are complete BS as we all know already, but their very presence on the web fills me with rage. And they always start with the sentence: “You’re not young and free forever.” Yes, THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. How many of us have actually got up close and personal – at 21 -with Japanese snow monkeys who come to bathe in the hot springs of Japan’s Jigokudani Yaen-Koen in Nagano? Damn these lists to hell and don’t click them; they fuel inadequacy (and their recommendations aren’t even good).
Getting a partner, married and then a house don’t in any way have to be priorities
Even though these aren’t my priorities, I’ve been told by some well-intended family members that they should be. That “soon it’ll be my turn” and then won’t “life be great?” This is a very Irish attitude to life and one I hate. But I’ve been in tears often wondering if I’ve failed at life because they aren’t mine. Sure, some still want all these things first. And I’d like one or two of them someday. But not now. I keep post-its around with things to lift my mood and my favourite is: “screw everyone else’s opinion of you.”And when anyone inquires as to “when it’ll be your turn next,” think of the post-it. No one else’s priorities matter.
Most of us suddenly feel inadequate when the big 3-0 looms, and the grey-haired emojis start appearing at the end of text messages
Don’t waste your youth worrying about getting older
Said by my mother and one that I repeat to myself many times a day. We will all get older, and a life spent worrying about this inevitability is a life wasted.
Anyone that keeps telling you it’s time to start ‘settling down’ needs to get out of your life
My 26-year-old friend informed others he’d be going travelling at Christmas for a couple of years. I woo-hooed in appreciation but was told someone else actually said: “But… shouldn’t you be thinking of settling down now?” He’s twenty-six. Anyone that says similar to you, run FAR away and don’t look back.
Life will happen
No matter what, life will happen. Nothing will stay the same. Things will change. We’ll get older, cry a little, laugh a lot, start over. We’ll go on, whether we’re 30, 40 or 50 or over. And life will continue no matter how much you worry about a milestone birthday.