I’ve read some really eloquent and self-assured blogs recently about the acceptance, nay, JOY that comes with being thirty plus. There’s a general theme around reaching a level of accomplishment, growing into one’s skin, and setting realistic and achievable goals for the next ten years.
Well, my twenties are well and truly set adrift on memory bliss. My name’s Sam, I’m 32, and I fucking hate it. I wish I was in the happy camp, greeting each birthday with enthusiasm and a friendly hug, but I seem to be turning more and more hostile.
To be fair, parts of my twenties were pretty balls too. But, within that formative decade, I met my husband, got spliced, had a killer honeymoon to Australia, and knocked out our first baby. I was pretty fat for a while, pretty thin for a while, a bit wealthy, a bit poor. It was changeable, but I had something special sat atop my youthful shoulder: anticipation. Now, I sort of feel done. I’ve had all of my babies. I have no hope of getting on the property ladder. I’m doing ok at my job, but there are a million people snapping at my heels and leapfrogging me onto their own lily pads of success.
Everything is still possible in my thirties, it just feels like I have to work that much harder to reach it. I’ve managed to sculpt my figure into something vaguely athletic, but Christ it takes dedication and close up, my skin is bloody awful. I can’t do my favourite smoky eye look anymore because my eyelids are disappearing like a landslip. My jawline is limp and those grey hairs are attacking my fringe with gusto. My elbows and knees are always dry and my stomach resembles crepe paper, I pity the fool who has to see me in my underwear. Oh wait, he’s in his thirties too, that’s a lucky save.
Your thirties marks the time when you really need to get your shit together. There are two words that summarise the seismic shift from exploration to stability: “settling down”. Rightly or wrongly, wider society receives you better, respects you more, if you’ve made an attempt to join with another, lobster style, and procreate. Casual dating suddenly has a bit of a deadline. Quitting your job to go travelling for a year is deemed irresponsible and selfish. Stray from the expected plod-plod path, and you’re labelled a free spirit, a wild one that can’t be tamed – written off as a deviant.
Thirties folk seem, to me, to have uprevved their quality of life and preparations for the future. They make investments and have proper pension funds that they understand. They have cavity wall insulation and have done at least one doer-upper. They spend their weekends re-landscaping the garden or checking the OFSTED history of potential primary schools, and frequenting trendy art / food / music festivals. They make stock for the freezer from various meat carcasses and they go on long bike rides in padded bib shorts. They have an extension or a loft conversion. They’re earthy, confident, gratified. They belong.
What could change my frankly dismal outlook? This is a controversial statement, but money. Money would change things. I want my own house. I want to wander around the appliance section of John Lewis and buy a KitchenAid. I want two cars, or at least one really nice car with parking sensors and inbuilt SatNav. I want to go on holiday every summer and not have to skip three years on the bounce because we just don’t have the money in savings to cover it.
I know how trivial this sounds, how superficial. Of course, I have more treasures than many and I’m bloody lucky with my lot. I have a roof over my head, a full belly, and cuddles on tap from at least one of my brood. And yet…the measurable, monetary-based gains are the things I see when I cast my eye around my friendship group: the crops of self-reward, harvested from seeds sown in the preceding decade. How did I miss the memo, what did I do wrong?
-SJW September 2016
This post was first published on Meet Other Mums on 11th September 2016. You can view that version here. It was also published over at The Huffington Post on 29th September 2016. You can view that version here.