Yesterday I turned an age that felt more damning than the ones that came before. I turned 29; almost 3 decades on earth and 30 times around the sun. To mark the occasion I booked an AirBnB with my boyfriend in the middle of nowhere, accessible only by boat and with no access to Instagram or Real Life. It’s not all that unlike Miranda’s honeymoon in Sex & The City, except that I actually want to be here.
According to somewhat dubious sources (women’s magazines), turning 29 is an age typically reserved for taking stock of one’s twenties and looking, through a slightly concerned lens, at what might lie ahead.
I have read articles before in women’s magazines by writers who are 29. They write about the things they want to do or the things they could still ‘tick off’ before hitting a new decade. Now that I am 29, these kinds of articles make me feel like I should feel on a strict deadline to Achieve Things.
Why do we do this to ourselves?!
I promise to stop referencing women’s magazines after this, but I also once read that 30 is the cut off age to have your Signature Scent sorted. To all the over thirties in the room, please enlighten me on this one, because I can’t even commit to finishing the song I’m listening let alone commit to smelling the same for the rest of my life.
I also haven’t committed to many of the other, more tangible things that have come to define the success of a person’s first decade out of adolescence. For starters, I don’t own a house. I also don’t have a husband, a baby or a car. Hell, I still can’t even drive one.
Thirty has simply become the point we’ve come to use to measure success, with ‘Most Successful 30 under 30’ lists serving as a pretty good way tool to compare our life against and dissect our own shortcomings.
But on a more comforting note, another school of thought exists and it’s the one I like better. This is the one that defines our twenties as the decade it’s okay to not have It All figured out. For those with me in this school, our twenties are the years we’ve spent experimenting, dabbling. Putting a finger into many pies to see which one tastes best.
Like many of my peers, I have put my finger into many pies. I have experimented with everything there is: jobs, friends, fashion, music, living-scenarios, cigarettes, boys, neck-ties and yes even perfume. I have had my heart broken and also felt free and alive. I have lied and been shitty to people and sometimes I have buckled on my commitments. I have taken risks and failed, but also I’ve succeeded (by my own definition). I have partied enough for a few lifetimes and made dear friends who have come and gone and sometimes even come back again. I’ve cared and not cared and then cared deeply.
And so, as I edge perilously close to 30, by no account can I claim to have my shit sorted. But I like to think about it like this: what I lack in tangible-signs-of-a-person-with-their-life-together, I make up for with things that are infinitely more important to me. For one: I am a hell of a lot closer to knowing what’s important to me, how I want to live my life and the people I want to be around. I have more clarity on the type of work I want to be doing, which is something I’ve been confused about for most of my twenties. This, I can say with complete conviction, I have figured out by trying the things I’ve been curious about. Inserting myself into different situations to see which feels best. I’ve taken demotions, moved sideways into new industries and even re-enrolled in university to study a topic completely different to my career. And because of this I am less confused about how to create meaning in my life and the real things that bring me joy.
So here I am, in a cabin in the woods with no internet or phone connection to distract me, thinking about some things I want to achieve before I’m 30, just like every other 29 year old has done since the beginning of time. But then I realise that life doesn’t end at 30 – so let’s stop treating it like a deadline. I want to treat it like a new beginning – a clean slate. A blank canvas to a new decade that, if what everyone around me says is true (including Penny!), is an infinitely better decade than the last one.
And so in the spirit of Not-Defining-30-As-A-Deadline, here is a list not of ‘tangible goals’ but some values or maybe even these are things to just keep in mind this year and thereafter too.
- Don’t worry about the quality of the work. Just get it done and let it out into the world
- Grow the things outside your job that you love (as well as the things inside of it)
- Always be curious, hungry, learning
- Create buffers from work to be generous to friends and family. Reply to people’s text messages! (If I am your friend or family member you will know I am the worst. I am sorry.)
- Learn a new language
- Walk places
- Say no more
- Celebrate the little victories
- Follow your gut
- Question everything – disagree with things. Rules are shitty and I really believe it.