“Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You are deciding your life right now.”
– Megan Jay
“Tired. Depressed. Unemployed. Single. Nearly 30,” read the first line of my journal entry of three years ago. I was 27 and already fretting about the big 3-0. It’s interesting that even though turning 30 was three years away, the fear of that age had already formed part of the miserable state I was in.
Turning 30 is one of the big milestones of our lives. By 30, convention has it that we are supposed to have achieved many things, mainly concentrated on the three Ps: prosperity, property and partner. If we haven’t done so (or are not well on our way to doing so) then we are made to feel bad about ourselves.
I am 30 years old. I rent a small one-bedroom flat. I have only started to save. I do not have a permanent job. I am single. I have never been more satisfied with my life as I am today.
I was delighted to say goodbye to my twenties. When I look back at them, I can recall many happy memories of travel, achievements and of time spent with loved ones. But they were always weighed down by a heavy heart: a love lost; suppressed passions; feelings of inadequacy.
Since turning 30, I have gained in confidence (and in grey hairs). I notice that I can exercise more authority as I have some experience and wisdom behind me. I am much more comfortable in my skin and much more open to change. I also value my time more: I don’t waste it on people or things that make me unhappy. Since I do view 30 as a milestone, it instils this sense of urgency that if there are changes I want to make in my life, I better start today. I believe that the choices I make today as a 30 year old have a larger ripple effect than compared to the choices I made at 20 or 25.
In her Ted Talk, Megan Jay drums it into the heads of twenty-somethings that their twenties are their defining decade, that they should not leave decisions concerning careers or love until their thirties. Those that tend to leave it till their thirties end up being under immense pressure to achieve in a shorter period of time, settling as a result, loaded with regret. She advises twenty-somethings to start taking steps towards the life they envisage now.
I understand the talk’s message but I felt ashamed that I only began making my changes at 29, not 20, possibly having wasted many years. But then again, why should we be constrained by age? We are entitled to go at our own pace and sometimes, it takes a long time to feel unstuck and change direction, or to feel like we are on the right track. When the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse how long it took to become real, he replied, “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
Hitting the big 3-0 can cause regret, anxiety or relief. But if things haven’t worked out as planned or hoped by the time you are 30, it’s not the end of the world and you can always start making changes today.
And look on the bright side, turning 30 means that we’ve seen through yet another year on this awesome planet of ours.