By Michelle Fairweather
Something happened to me during my 29th year of life…I started to feel old. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was when I saw the increasing number of grey hairs in the rear view mirror each morning. Maybe it was when I was tagged in that photo that was clearly taken to show my ever-deepening wrinkles. It may have been that fateful Sunday when I realized it was taking me a whole weekend to function after a not so heavy Friday night. Or maybe it was when I found myself realizing that certain body parts who normally enjoyed a rather ‘north’ vantage point had started to migrate south. It could have been when I stopped going to weddings and started attending baby showers and, ever increasing in popularity, divorce parties. It might even have been when my 16-year-old godson, the godson whose nappies I remember changing, called me for relationship advice…No, stop the press, now I remember…The sinking feeling that life was well on the down slide to aging occurred when a good friend pointed out that my days of a 20-something-year-old female were numbered. I won’t lie, turning 30 was horrendous. I put on a brave face and told everyone it wasn’t that bad but really my trained counsellor self was only easing others’ fears, because deep down I was dreading it.
Why was turning 30 such a dreadful experience? It was because something, someone, somewhere was making me take stock of my 30 years and measure them against a ‘list’ of expected accomplishments. I don’t know how this list exists, it’s not written down anywhere, no one tells you, no one hands you a secret envelope that self destructs after reading, and it doesn’t arrive in the mail in disguise as a birthday card. However, let me assure you, the list is very real and it appears to be available in any language. It exists inside every 29-year-old and is screaming out at you with every dwindling 29th year sunset. It’s the list that determines how successful you are. It determines how proud you can be at your high school reunions and it gives you a method in which to measure the productivity of the past 30 years. If you score well you can kick back, relax and hold your head high whilst you blow out those 30 candles. If you score badly, well, huff those candles out before you set the place on fire with the knowledge that you’ve got your work cut out before you get to the next marker of 40.
So, what did I find when I sat down with pen and paper and the list?
Well, in regards to housing I didn’t have a picket fence, I was still house sharing. Under relationships, I noted I wasn’t married and I certainly didn’t have children. I was yet to work in my field of study and against assets, well, even if you let me count my pushbike, I was pretty much asset-less.
So, what section of this mysterious list could I check off? I’ve travelled. In actual fact, I’ve travelled a lot. I uprooted my life at 27 and have lived in three different countries. I’ve seen the gorillas in the mist in the depths of the Congolese jungle. I’ve watched the fireworks over Paris as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’ve eaten a champagne breakfast in the Masai Mara and I’ve laid in-between two sleeping tigers in a canyon in Bangkok. I’ve stood over the grave of the mighty King Henry and I’ve learnt what a joy blackcurrant and true Irish Guinness is. Last but not least I’ve clocked up enough frequent flyer points to possibly do it all again. Yet, when compared to the list I am left with one measly section marked off.
Who is it that determines what the list should include? Who states what makes a successful 30-year-old? When compared to a mother and a wife who is on maternity leave from her dream job why should I hang my head in shame and feel the need to explain that I had been out of the country for 3 years? Why did I feel the need to uproot my life again at 30 and head home to my country of origin in search of ways to mark more items off the list? Really what I should have done is asked my two 30+ housemates to help me look for the originator of the list. That way we could have sent them a lovely gift basket full of food that they may, possibly, one day, choke on.
My advice to all those 29 year olds…If the positive in your life outweighs the negative, hold your head high and scream from the rooftops that you embrace the wisdom that being 30 brings. When that doesn’t take away the dread, just remember a celebrity such as Jennifer Anniston. At 30 she was still not married, not yet divorced, was childless and had a dreadful haircut? Success is what you make of it. Ignore the list at all costs!
Born in Adelaide, South Australia to British parents, Michelle grew up with the aim to one day travel the world. When rapidly approaching 30 and after exploring the track farless trodden in places such as Africa and Asia, Michelle settled in the UK for three years. However, when the need to buy furniture and fancy cutlery became too strong, she returned to her hometown to determine if it was still home. A graduate of psychology, Michelle knows this move will not be easy but is excited about what’s ahead on the other side of 30.