Turning those ‘turning 30’ myths on their head
I recently changed decades. I can no longer say I am “young” but I am certainly not “old” either. 30 is one of the milestone birthdays, one where a giant fuck off celebration is an absolute necessity and where a bunch of myths start to circulate about where you are in life and what you should be doing.
Here are my two cents on what being 30 is and what it is not.
What turning 30 is not
1. It is not about having it all together or being on the high-flying career track
For some reason 30 seems to be the age where our culture places unreasonable pressure on people to know what they want, to be in a successful career, to earn heaps of dough and to be well on the way up the hierarchical ladder. On this account I am certainly tracking backwards, earning less in my 30s than fresh out of uni. My career might not be particularly lucrative but I have a job that is flexible, adaptable, likeable and which avails time to travel, write, and create. This seems far more grown up and sustainable than a stressful, high-flying career that strains my health and makes relaxation or quality catch up times virtually impossible. It seems more and more 30 somethings are following suit so I hope this outdated notion is soon phased out of our collective consciousness.
2. It does not mean you are a freak if you are still unmarried, partnerless or childless
Another myth and expectation that is just so passé. Although I have a long term partner, we are not married, have no kidlets and are not planning on either anytime soon. Do we feel we are missing out? Certainly not. We have ample free time, travel often, have loads of great friends who are better conversationalists than any kids I’ve met and a clean, peaceful house full of child unfriendly items. I love weddings and I love little ones but they aren’t for everyone and if I want to be around children, I have an adorable niece and friend’s babies to cuddle, play with and then hand back when the going gets tough and wine time rolls around. It may sound selfish but I really don’t feel that 30 is some magic number whereby you must start breeding like rabbits. It can also be a thing to grow old without marriage or kids and have an enriching life that gives back to society in other ways. I may waiver on this one day but for now I am enjoying the best years of life foot loose and child free.
3. It is not about finishing all your studies by now
Learning is a lifelong pursuit. Many, like me, jump into university straight after school with not a clue in the world what to do. I finished a double degree by age 23 that I have barely used since. Why? Because I changed. I have now gone back to studies and am in my final semester of my second grad diploma doing something much more aligned with the person I am now. And, if you eschew the high-flying career you may never earn enough to have to pay off further studies anyway, so there’s an added bonus of forgoing point 1. In my view you are never too old to go back to school, so keep learning and enjoy the boundless energy of any 18 year olds in your classes.
So what is turning 30 about?
1. It is about having confidence in who you are
One of the best things about reaching this age is really starting to care less what people say or think. Certainly the ‘fucks given’ about a range of minor issues like fashion, group politics, people’s snipes or fickle views take a drastic downturn with age. This is one of the best things about growing older. You find friends who are on the same wavelength and circles may get smaller but a whole lot realer. You can go forth into new situations and environments with more certainty and assuredness and this works wonders in improving your personal, professional and emotional life.
2. It is about still partying like you used to
Age is merely a state of mind. For my 30th we went camping, woke up after 3 hours sleep, climbed a mountain and then proceeded to party all that day and the following night in the mountains. Sure, I felt a bit worse for wear come Sunday night but after a solid rest or two I was completely back to normal. I have no doubt that the post party recovery time was exactly the same at 20. Pain is a mental state and I refuse to think turning 30 somehow equates with being too old to have butt loads of fun. The most exuberant and interesting people I know I have met in my late 20’s and many of them are 30 and beyond. They are still going out regularly, learning new things, travelling to new places and meeting new people. The most boring people I know are pre 30 and talking about the ‘days when they used to get wild but can’t anymore’. Yeah sure.
3. It is about having rational view of health and wellbeing
I remember at 21 going to the gym at 6am before work, then again after work and drinking only liquids for days on end in order to be thin and (I thought) look fabulous. I would never bother with such a regime again and thankfully have a much more rational view of health and my body. At 30, things like being really thin, looking gorgeous in every photo and following weird diets (or diets full stop for that matter) seem like a rather large bother.
My motto now (and has been for a while) is find a balance, don’t bother about being perfect and embrace yourself and those around you with love and kindness. And stop worrying about your health because stress creates heaps of toxins. Further, an interesting study in the UK in 2010 in PLOS Medicine found that the influence of social relationships (or lack thereof) was an equally powerful risk factor as smoking, blood pressure, obesity and physical activity for early mortality. So this means getting together with loved ones regularly, laughing, going on adventures, minimising stress and being social and merry are key factors in a long and fruitful life.
4. It is about having some knowledge and experience about stuff
At 20 you can have all the confidence in the world but not a thing to back it up. By 30, you’ve (hopefully) travelled a lot, worked a lot in a certain industry or experienced enough to be considerably wiser. You’ve got some weight behind your opinions and have formed some views based on more than hearsay. I don’t jump to conclusions anymore or read something on social media or a random internet page and then assume it is true. I’ve learnt that every issue has many different perspectives and that environmental conditioning lends each of us to huge biases in our beliefs. I’ve learnt to keep an open mind and not assume that what I think now will always be the case. Freeing yourself of the expected way of thinking is extremely liberating.
5. It is the start of real freedom
This is the age where parents and elders in society fully accept you are no longer in any way a child. They stop telling you what they think you should be doing (although the baby and marriage comments can be hard ones to smother) because by now they have realised you are far too old to listen to what they say and actually have some views yourself worth listening to. 30 has the blissful irony of being both young enough and old enough at the same time and so in a way it’s the perfect decade. I say use this freedom wisely, show the world that the decisions you make are well thought out, purposeful and beneficial and the next ten years are sure to be grand.
Bring on the dirty thirties!