I am under no illusions that life is different for other people. The shapes of our lives come in many forms and it would be callous of me to believe others have had the same fortunes and joys as myself. Therefore, it is trite that I preface this post by saying this is a purely subjective experience. In reading it, I hope that there is some relatable content. It is the job of the author either to entertain or induce reflection. I am going to attempt both.
A lot of people in my life have either hurdled the milestone of 30 or are about to. This is usually said with a flat-lipped expression of disgust. A very big part of the human condition is that we age. Hell, one day some of you may even die. I confess to enjoying the resplendent inevitability of this. That life is sexually transmitted and terminal gives one a sense of purpose. At least turning 30 has taught me this.
My twenties were an odd decade. They were spent in the kind of aimless miasma one would be prone to if you had no direction but still believed you were going to live forever. There were the stresses of wanting to be something I was not and the belief that life would somehow end once I turned thirty. There was this pervasive idea that the best would be behind me and that my inability to find a path in life would end it.
Yeah, being twenty was stressful.
It is hardly a new sentiment to say that it’s damaging to measure your life against the milestones of others. Where some of my peers start the day with sweet words to their wives and kids, I drink tea on the veranda making eye contact with my landlord’s shitting dog. Turning 30 has allowed me to appreciate that. Not in the sense that those who have gone on to live the suburban life are wrong and that I am somehow more enlightened. No. Not that at all. The temptation for those in my position (unmarried and without children) is to sneer at those with the picket fences. We comfort our own inadequacies at not ticking conventional boxes by considering ourselves “above all that”. Suddenly happily married couples are the enemy. They hit their thirties having lived the dream. You on the other hand are still living with two others in a flat commune in the middle of town fighting over who ate the good cheese. I think there is a fair amount of psychological mirroring which happens in these instances. We believe that our friends who, and I can’t believe this cliché is about to be repeated, “have it all” by thirty look down on us. Our immune response is to patronize them. They are somehow the enemy because you are still wrestling with your own inadequacy. Sitting down during wine-soaked dinners with your friends and talking about marriage being an outdated institution or that having children is primitive only makes your bitterness louder. As a twenty-year-old I no doubt shared in such discussions heartily. As a thirty-year-old with close friends who live nothing like me, it is the most wonderful thing to see.
I have just come to realize that you need to accept the only thing you should be focusing on is you. Are you happy? Are you fulfilled? The two need not be inclusive. It is wrong to believe that people who subscribe to an old-fashioned template of living are beneath you. There is no such thing as an intellectual elite. There is only you and your choices on how to live.
Thirty has taught me that. It has taught me there is no life out there for me other than the one I want to live. This does not mean success is guaranteed, it only means the pursuit of success becomes fulfilling. It also means that failure evaporates. Though I may not become an internationally recognized author who lives on a massive farm, the failures I now have are just lessons. Nothing more.
Therein lies the rub. Thirty is a wonderful age. You have both the benefit of youth with the candy-coated sprinkles of experience. I was put in a wonderful position when I turned thirty to reboot the life of my twenties. I was not flushing the experiences of the past down some existential drain, just taking them in a completely different direction. Turning thirty allows you to carry the past without it weighing anything.
And that was the biggest lesson on turning thirty. It is so commonplace for people to be defined by their hurt. I am not sure where the problem starts. Is society that far down the point of no return that damaged, depressed people are the new normal? I don’t think so. I honestly see enough happiness in day to day life to think we are given too much room for self-absorption. We are taught to hurt. We are not taught to heal. My social media feeds are full of memes by peers regarding their depressive states. I wonder why? These are well educated, well fed people. They have convinced themselves that the monstrosities of life are irreversible. Do I want to live believing I am in control? No! Do I live believing I can control how I react? Of course I can. I was lucky enough in my life to realize that being damaged is a decision. Not in a coy, just be happy, kind of way. To be damaged is a decision not to take steps to heal. My own branding has shown me this. The tumult of my twenties has opened doors of understanding which I am so grateful for. Turning thirty has given me levity. I have enough of a past to embrace a future. It is an age where I understand that I am what I am and that is okay.