Today’s the day I turn 30. And I am a little nonchalant about the 30 years I have taken to get here. It should be an impressive milestone celebrated with the family, close friends and perhaps a life partner, but all I feel is ‘meh’. While in my teens, I’ve always thought I’d die young.You know, because I’d be living the fast and dangerous rebel’s life.
But the minute I hit 25, my perspective changed to ‘I want to live for as long as possible and to do great things in my life’. So far, I have accomplished the ‘live as long as possible’ bit, but sadly I’m still far away from the ‘do great things’ part and was getting depressed over it.
So what did I do? I Googled about ‘turning 30’. And my best friend did not let me down. In 0.43 seconds, it showed me 234,000,000 results on why turning 30 may not be that bad after all.
Julie Tilsner, who wrote about the subject in her book 29 and Counting, said:
‘Thirty is nothing to be afraid of. You’ve got a whole new decade to work with, and this time you’re prepared! You’re educated, you have years in the workplace, you finally know what your hair will and won’t do. You can still dance on tables, but you have some life experience. Turning 30 is actually a really awesome thing.’
All sounds very positive. So there’s absolutely nothing to feel gloomy or to freak out about.
30 Is Different for Everyone
When I was younger, I’d dream about being an astronaut, or a pilot (much like Tom Cruise from Top Gun. Still a brilliant film and a handsome guy, no matter what anyone says!) or Indiana Jones. Whether I become a lawyer or a doctor, I’d be cool, charismatic and carefree like the heroes I aspire to be.
Then I hit the teenage years and things started going downhill from there. I got mixed up in the wrong crowds, I played truant from school, I ran away from home, I gave up a promising sports career in the national team and I dropped out of school. All before I turned 16. In short, I got distracted from obtaining a good education that would supposedly set me on my path to greatness.
Two years later, I woke up metaphorically from my ‘going-nowhere-in-life’ slumber. I also had my first major heartbreak from a relationship I thought would last forever. I nearly killed myself because of one person, until my mum came home just in time to stop me. How silly, right? I felt stuck working in a restaurant. There is nothing with earning a decent living as a service staff, but it just didn’t feel like I was in the right job, doing the right thing I like. That got me thinking about my life, my future and myself.
I picked up the pieces, bit by bit. I changed to a permanent part-time job at a pub and I signed up for part-time classes to get the necessary certifications to get to the art school I wanted. I even went back to my former secondary school to seek help from my art teacher to improve my portfolio. That was how determined I was.
At age 20, I finally got into the art school I was aiming for. I was taking my car and motorbike licences. I had a relatively cushy part-time job. I met someone new to get over the heartbreak I had been nursing for the past two years. I was popular in school, just like in secondary school. So I was still cool, charismatic and carefree. I was delighted with life.
In the year that I was due to turn 21, I met someone who would prove to be a great love of my life. We spent all our waking hours together and we were inseparable and everyone was envious of us and what we had. There were rough moments. I had the nastiest temper and I was immature. And yet we were together for the next five years, most of which were good and we stuck together through the ups and all obstacles that objected to our relationship. We had a fiery relationship and sparks flew all the time. But it was tough to keep the spark between us alive, and ultimately, it was to burn out like a flame. I had to let go.
In my 25th year on earth, I found a job I enjoyed and something I can proudly proclaim to be relatively good at and skills that have enabled me to earn a decent living. I was a journalist. I’ve always wanted to write for a living and I did. I also met someone I thought I could fall in love with and start afresh in my love life. Well, it started afresh alright, but it wasn’t meant to last because I was still in love with the great love of my life. I couldn’t let go and it took a toll on me. I had volatile mood swings and my behaviour was dodgy. I would have dumped my sorry ass too, now that I am looking back. We spent close to a year together, but the relationship ended and gave me the second major heartbreak of my relatively young life. It took me a year to get over it and dust the debris away. One of the reasons I created this blog was to write about the pain I had inside me. I was broken for a long time, but while learning to deal with the pain, I learned many things about myself and I made some new lasting friendships that helped me through the turmoil I was in.
Soon the year I was turning 28 arrived. And I met someone whom I wanted to give my whole life to make her happy all the time. More than half of the posts published (and set as private) on this blog have been dedicated to her. I have never filled up so much virtual space about someone before. I have no idea if I would ever do (or feel) the same for anyone else again.
Now That I Am Finally 30
Now that I am turning 30, the past no longer seems like a chink on my armour. I get that I may not be as talented, as popular, as good-looking, as famous, as wealthy as other people my age, but it’s okay. I am still special in my own way; I am a little unique snowflake that will just be doing adult-like things in my own time. I may not be a best-selling author or a successful CEO yet, but I am still a success in my own way.
Should I have spent my teens studying hard and get Bs so I could have gotten into a good college? Should I have not spent all my hours on going to dance clubs and drink myself silly? On hindsight, maybe I should have. Should I have done better in art school instead of watching TV and playing Warcraft with my friends and indulging in Football Manager on most of my days? Maybe. But I didn’t, because I have not touched Warcraft or Football Manager since 2005 and I do not regret getting the most joy out of those games, even though I know I was wasting my time.
Yes, there are people who have made millions before they are 25, earn $10,000 a month by 27 or be famous and successful entrepreneurs before turning 30. Maybe I am an exception. Maybe I am on a different timeline from the rest and there is no happiness to be gained if I keep comparing myself with others. Life is not a race. Life is what you make of it and how happy and satisfied you deem yourself to be, not to spend your hours being envious of others.
Our whole idea about life before or after 30 should not be defined by the progress we are supposed to make or terms dictated by society. It doesn’t mean if we don’t realise our potential by 30, we are never going to succeed; there may be pieces of us that take years to gel and make us the successful person we will become.
According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, we should live our whole life as if we’re in our twenties. ‘It’s that keep-inching-forward mentality that will allow you to be happy with your choices.’
Yes, I admit I am a little sad at the things I have not accomplished or the stuff I thought I would have achieved by now like being an extremely successful high-flyer, having my own apartment, being with the love of my life and travelling around the world. Maybe I am too old to be an astronaut now. Maybe this is the wrong era to be Indiana Jones. Maybe there were many decisions I could have made to get to a different place from where I am now.
But, have I failed at life? I went from a school dropout to studying part-time for a business degree now (very much like Larry Crowne but without the hot lecturer. Nice movie anyway. Go watch it!). I went from a junior service staff to having a relatively okay-paying mid-level media job I enjoy. I have my health (until the results confirm otherwise) and my parents who love me more than I can ever imagine. I am much more confident now and wiser than in my 20s. I am also more than okay to spend time alone and to enjoy my own companionship. I also value myself more. I imagine life can only go up from here.
I am not sure if I will like the idea of turning 30 at all, but now that I am already here, I might as well enjoy it while it last. After all, there’s still the looming 31 to dread over.
So, I will enjoy the year ahead with as much vigour as a unique little snowflake should, because I am 30 and to hell with the rest of you, I’m gonna celebrate by pampering myself the whole of today.
Because today is my day, and no one can be Me-er than Me. 🙂
And stay tuned for the 30 life lessons I’ve learned from my 30 years.
[Image via Sommecards]