T H I R T Y.
’til I am thirty.
Let’s talk about turning thirty.
Last year, on my twenty ninth birthday, my two best friends came on a work trip to Manchester with me, and shortly after we arrived, there was a knock on my hotel door; my amazing mum, standing there with a balloon and cake in hand – a sight that reduced me to happy tears immediately.
She told me that she simply could not miss my twenty-ninth birthday, because for her, twenty nine was the year that made her. She said that twenty nine was the year that everything finally clicked into place for her, and she just had a wonderful feeling that this would be the same for me.
The next morning at breakfast, me and my mum co-wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve by thirty:
- Be in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in.
- Buy a flat in Glasgow to rent out.
- Pass driving test.
I didn’t achieve any of those things and while I would typically beat myself up over this, (I am a Virgo after all and being hard on ourselves is what we do) as I approach my thirtieth birthday, I actually don’t care that I didn’t achiever them, and this in itself may be my greatest achievement so far.
It’s not that I do not care that I haven’t achieved these things, because of course they all remain goals which I want to achieve – it’s just that, I have given up stressing about completing them in this before-my-thirtieth time frame, because I know they will inevitably happen, and each in their own time.
So what that I am thirty and don’t own a flat? That’s because I spent money on things like a helicopter tour over Rio, or a holiday to the Philippines – things that I am almost certain some of my friends will never get the opportunity to do. Something I am lucky for, because I have lots of friends who have high mortgage bills, or car bills and babies that need paid for. I am not in the best physical shape of my life? That’s because I have a demanding job where I eat at ridiculous hours and also partly because I have a soft spot for cute cafes which have an abundance of cake – which I sample worldwide. As for the driving lessons, I wanted to sit my test in the UK, but that’s pretty difficult too, since I’ve not had more than five days off in a row, or any holidays for 11 months… which makes things a little challenging since I need seven days in a row at least to complete it.
These are an awful lot of excuses undoubtedly, and with a little tweak here and there, I could save that money for a flat and I could lose some kilos, but over time, I know that I will. And I could do the driving test in Dubai, but the question is why did approaching thirty make me feel obligated to achieve all of these things? Is it because the majority of all my friends at home are married/engaged/coupled up and buying houses? Some are even having babies now. My instagram and face book feed features a constant stream of birth, engagement and wedding announcements. Is it because of that? Is it peer pressure?
We are putting far too much pressure on ourselves. Our parents may have all achieved these things long before they even approached turning thirty, but that is a bygone era, where jobs and promotions were easier to come by, and the housing market was still booming. You cannot compare yourself to them. There was no such thing as smart phones let alone apps like tinder and Instagram contributing to FOMO and complicating relationships. People travelled, but a lot less than they do so now, too and when you lump all these factors together, people were a lot more content in general as well as financially secure.
It’s high time we all stopped beating ourselves up and comparing ourselves to every Tom, Dick and Harry that we encounter on the internet, especially the ones who look like they ‘have it all’. No-one, not even Beyonce or Drake or that travel blogger you’re obsessing over, has it all. My friends don’t care whether or not I own a flat because it has no impact on them whatsoever. They are not judgemental, (far from it) and they are too busy stressing about their own stuff to be concerned with my lack of mortgage.
As I reflect over the last year of my twenties, and twenty nine in particular, while I did not learn to drive, I feel like I have learned a lot of other invaluable things and maybe these no-go driving lessons were surpassed by the amount of life lessons I had instead.
I have learned to be more independent and to be fine with spending time alone – my solo trip Greece was a huge thing for me, and something that I enjoyed far more than I imagined I would. I didn’t once sit alone in my apartment over thinking, as I feared I would, because there was an entire city on the other side of the door that was waiting to be explored!
On that same trip, I also received some tragic news, which taught me that life is very fragile and contrary to popular belief, we are not actually invincible, and when I say I learned that, I really learned that. It was then that I also accepted that fear really is just a feeling – a stupid feeling that can be overcome. So, I subsequently resolved to do things that scared me and and vowed to be braver – particularly to say the things that I wanted to say before it’s too late.
I learned that people can appear happy on the outside, but be absolutely miserable on the inside unknowingly to us, but their sadness is an inside job that no-one else fix, and so, I have learned to be kinder to myself (and others), I really listen when people talk. I learned that even when we are sad and not so loveable, the people who really love us, do not love us any less just because we are sad, and without us, their world would be a darker place. I resolved to talk less – especially at work, and to listen better.
I tried to be a kinder person too, and this year, I bought multiple coffees and teas for homeless people; donated clothes, sheets, towels etc to people who really needed them more than I did; I walked dogs for hours on end in the unyielding hot desert; I gave my kittens away because they deserved to be in a loving home with people who are permanently around to give them attention and cuddles; I donated food to the food banks for the Dubai labour camp workers; I donated money to just giving pages for medical bills etc etc and generally just tried to be kinder to others.
I tried to educate myself better, and open my mind to other ways of thinking. I read lots of books including bestseller, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” (which by the way, I strongly recommend) and these collectively helped me become more selfish. I began my Yes Woman project after watching multiple motivational videos online, helping me step out of my comfort zone and dragging myself out of a depressive episode.
And after all of this, when I look back at my list, I don’t feel in any way shape or form a failure. I may not have shrunk myself to be the size eight toned goddess I envisioned, but my size ten (okay – sometimes twelve), twenty nine year old self has grown to be a better person on the inside, and while I still have a lot of things to work on, like my patience and personal time keeping to name a couple, it’s essential we realise that none of us are perfect. I genuinely feel like a better person than I was this time last year, and surely that’s a way better accomplishment. I made new friends when I wasn’t outright looking for it, met someone (and it’s still early days) when I stopped searching for it, and had lots on unexpected adventures that I wasn’t anticipating. So, if all of these amazing things can materialise in the course of a year, while I’m not actively looking, then everything else can (and will) too. We just need to stressing out about them and pressurising them into ridiculous time frames. We need to give less f*cks.
Everyone says that your twenties are your selfish years and the best time of your life, and while I can’t say that I’d wish to be back in my early twenties, those years were imperative in making me who I am. If I had moved to Dubai before twenty five, it’d have been shambolic; carnage – I was too reckless, but if someone had told me aged twenty, that by twenty-five, I’d be living in the UAE, I’d have never believed them either, and yet that move has been paramount to the making of me.
So for all those people who are anxious about turning thirty, feeling shit about not having a house, husband, baby, driving license, supermodel body, ultimate dream job… I want to remind you that these things will happen eventually, when the time is right.
And while it might seem that everyone else is overtaking us and achieving all of these milestones, circumstances can change over night, and we never really know what is right around the corner.
I am looking forward to my thirties – THAT is going to be my decade, and I just know it.