Every year on my birthday eve, I do a ‘last day of being [insert age here]’ post. These are essentially a rounding up of all the things I did or learnt in the year just gone.
Quite honestly, most aren’t even glanced at again after the first couple of days of going live, 26, 27, 28, who cares, but, The last day of being 29, breaks all the rules.
This post (not this post, but The last day of being 29 post…), since its creation, is week-on-week my most read blog post. Every single week. Without fail.
There’s obviously just something about turning thirty that drives people to thinking that they’ve not made the most of life, that they’re doing it ‘wrong’ and panic that others seem to have it all worked out. So they hit the net to find advice, to find reassurance that they’ll be OK, that it won’t be the end of them (even though deep, deep down they know it won’t be).
I speak from experience here and it was exactly those thoughts, fears and worries that got me seriously blue, like how you may be feeling now, if you’re coming to that time in your life and to this post for answers.
I remember writing that post and the very real fear I had of what it meant to be leaving my twenties. The reality of ageing and of my own mortality, of never feeling ‘young’ again, of never being seen as ‘young’ again, of being expected to be an adult, to know what life is about, what my purpose is and where my future is headed. Had I really made the most of my younger years? Could I have another go? I’ll do it better this time!
As children, we age rapidly and change a lot in a few short years. But adults have already grown into their faces with changes happening subtly over the years, a few more grey hairs here, an extra wrinkle there, but who notices? Anyone older than five to a five year old, is old, and to them they’ve always been old and will always be old. We hadn’t been alive long enough to notice anyone but fellow children grow older. But by the time the big 3-0 hits, we’ve been around for a while and started to see the ageing process happening around us. Heck, happening to us!
Take the stars of the TV series, Friends, for example, it feels like only yesterday that the world was caught up in the ‘will they, won’t they’ saga of Ross and Rachel. The gang were all in their twenties when the series first aired and, as I say, it feels like hardly any time has passed, yet in reality, today, Courtney Cox, Matt Le Blanc and the rest of the cast are all in their fifties (excl. Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry who are both currently 49). When did that happen? They were so young and hot, how can they have turned so old so quickly? Old people on TV have always been old, they’ve been old for years, like Bruce Forsyth, he was ancient forever!
But that’s only perspective. I never saw Brucie when he was a young rising star so I didn’t see him grow old, he just always was old to me. But to someone who did grow up with a young Bruce on their screen, would no doubt feel the same as I do about the cast of Friends. That it happened over night.
And the realisation that if it has happened to them, then it can and will happen to us, takes hold. The epiphany moment that we only get one shot at life crashes in, making us ask ourselves whether or not we’ve lived and are living the life we want to? Have we made the right choices? Some might want to desperately hit the ‘redo’ button and start over again but we know we can’t.
The panic sets in, we see the years rolling away from us, slipping between our fingers, we’re already thirty, the last ten years of our twenties zoomed by which means the next ten will go even faster and we’ll be forty before we know it, then we’ll be fifty, sixty, seventy, our lives are practically over already and we’re not ready for that, we’re not ready for it to be over.
I tried to savour those last few days, hours and minutes of my twenties in a futile attempt to stop the clock, pretending it wasn’t happening, as though if I appreciated being in my twenties so much more I wouldn’t have to turn thirty at all. I could stay young forever.
And in those moments I felt that if I didn’t do everything I wanted to do right then before I was thirty, I wouldn’t ever get the chance; old people don’t do stuff, they’re too old.
I piled the pressure on with lists of things that I had to do before my thirtieth birthday, unrealistic lists. I wanted to go in a plane on holiday somewhere (FYI, my husband does not fly anywhere), I wanted to eat at one of the top fifty world’s best restaurants, I wanted to get over my fear of driving and so much more that I couldn’t really do in so short a time, 1st January 2017 to 5th March 2017.
I got a few things ticked off like, learn how to make the best espresso martini and do a self portrait, but the big things – really – I knew they wouldn’t get done. It was as though I’d put them in just so I could say to myself ‘see, I knew you were boring, living a boring life, you boring person with no bottle to do the things you want to do.” Which is exactly what I did say to myself on the day of my thirtieth birthday. Happy Birthday to me, eh? I wouldn’t speak that way to my worst enemy, yet it’s OK to speak that way to myself?
A birthday, is a birthday, is a birthday, is a birthday. They’re all the same, it’s just the sentiment that changes. I remember turning eleven and thinking that that sounded so old, but I still felt in a rush to get to my thirteenth birthday when I would start to feel and be seen as an adult. My thirteenth birthday came and every birthday after that I waited for the day when I’d feel like an adult, I was now seen as one, but I didn’t feel like one.
And then I turned thirty, and suddenly I didn’t feel old enough to be turning thirty. Thirty year olds are proper adults, and though I may not have not looked it on the outside, inside I still felt sixteen, but that was nearly half my life ago! Where did that half of my life go? What had I done with it? I was running out of life.
This year I turned thirty one, and the traumatic feelings of the previous year were nowhere to be seen.
In the aftermath of turning thirty, I was soon able to let go of the worries and fears as I realised I was still alive, nothing had changed, my life hadn’t come to an abrupt end as my clock ticked over into a new decade, and I was able to get on with my life again.
Since then I have been on a plane with some friends to Austria, had countless afternoon teas, been on a Christmas cruise, been on a Greek cruise, watched several theatre plays, been in an isolation tank, bought one or two pieces of clothing that I absolutely adore, been shat on by a bird, learnt and performed a dance in public, read a fair few books, changed my hair, got a dog (not as easy as its sounds), been to the Isle of Wight, the Lake District, Seer Green, and a few times to London chasing a cat, drinking at the Escapologist bar and going to court, I’ve given blood, spent the day at the races, and ridden a horse for the first time in my life; and so much more that I haven’t even mentioned. None of which was planned, especially not the bird shitting on me, but it’s all stuff that has happened since turning thirty that I didn’t know I was ever going to do. But do you know what? When I think about my life, I feel boring, I feel like I never do anything exciting, but just writing that list has shown me that I do do a lot of incredible things fairly regularly.
So to those who are ‘freaked out’ about turning thirty, I say, you are not alone. You are not alone in your thoughts and worries, but know that it is not the end, you are not running out of time, nothing is going to change when it turns to midnight and your next birth year begins, and you will laugh again, soon! You will do more amazing things with your life and they will happen in the most unexpected of ways. So sit back, relax and go make yourself the best espresso martini ever.
Oh, and Happy Birthday.
Until next time. x