What a weekend.
On Saturday I bid a fond farewell to my twenties with a jam-packed, boozy day full of food and surrounded by good friends. On Sunday morning I woke up, miraculously hangover-free, and heralded in my thirties with more food, the same bunch of pals and a bloody huge Happy Birthday balloon which had to be manoeuvred home on the windiest day of 2019 so far.
I’m not sure if I actually feel a year older but I am certainly a little wiser so I thought I’d share a few of the lessons learned over the past twelve months and the last two days.
1. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
The movies and media would have us believe that turning thirty is a terrifying ordeal, particularly for women. Wrinkles appear like trenches overnight, the unrelenting tick of our biological clocks goes up an octave and any prospect of a happy-ever-after plummets off a cliff-edge into a bottomless cavern known as middle age.
In reality, nothing that dramatic happens overnight. Middle age doesn’t actually kick in until your mid-forties, you’re statistically more likely to have a child aged 40+ than under 20, and if the recent ten-year challenge trend on social media has taught us anything, many of us actually improve with age.
Society’s image of success has altered a great deal from the traditional portrait of married with children by your mid-twenties but we’re still giving ourselves a hard time about where we should be or what we should have achieved by the time we turn thirty. We can’t allow social media, women’s consumer magazines, or worse, the male directors of Hollywood, to dictate the expectations we hold about our own lives. I didn’t expect to be out of work when I celebrated my thirtieth birthday, but leaving my job was one of the best decision I made in my twenties.
2. Give yourself a little more credit.
One of the surprising silver linings to finding yourself unemployed as your thirtieth birthday approaches, is that you have to take stock and appreciate all that you’ve achieved so far. Oddly, I feel more confident of my own professional worth now than I did on my last birthday.
In the past few weeks of tailoring CVs, crafting cover letters and pouring my professional life into application forms, I’ve had to go against my own grain and do something that does not come naturally, I’ve had to blow my own proverbial trumpet, and you know what, I’m not half bad.
I spent much of last year chasing my own tail, always rushed off my feet yet coming home from work feeling as if I’d achieved nothing but now I struggle to squeeze all I have to offer into a two-page CV. It still doesn’t feel entirely natural to shout about all the skills and experience I’ve acquired in the past fourteen years, but the practical task of ticking off every essential skill and desired experience on a job description does have a way of making you see through your own insecurities.
3. You are loved.
On darker days when anxiety gets the better of you, you might doubt it but good friends have a way of coming through for you, whether it’s a text message, a card or flying in for the weekend to make a fuss of you.
I’d been kept in the dark about what was going to happen on my birthday weekend, something which might not have bothered me a year ago, but overwhelmed by my own overactive imagination I began to worry about what my nearest and dearest had planned. I needn’t have stressed myself out.
There’s something very special about the people you love gathering together around a table to raise a glass and share the most delicious dishes – thank you Maray! At one point on Saturday night, I found myself in my favourite pub, surrounded by good pals all tucking into the Colin the Caterpillar cake which my other half had ferried over from our flat in the rain and I decided to pocket that moment for those darker days when I feel alone or out of touch.
4. Know thyself & stay true.
So much of our twenties is spent trying on different versions of ourselves, learning what suits us and what doesn’t, taking risks that may or may not pay off. We begin to shape our own personal values, to discover who and what we’re willing to spend our time and money on – it’s part of the beauty of growing up, getting to know yourself. And I’m quite proud to say that by now, I know myself pretty well. I know, for example, when to leave the party, how to navigate a hangover and who I can trust with my heart, but when it comes to my wardrobe, I still struggle.
The truth is my typical outfit is the same now as it was fifteen years ago – jeans, t-shirt, trainers. I don’t do high heels, I only buy cheap makeup and my day-to-day bag is a Kanken. As much as I loved Sex and the City, I don’t think I would have been in Carrie’s gang but actually, I’m ok with that.
I feel more comfortable in a pair of Converse than I ever would in six-inch heels, painting your nails isn’t really worth it when you’ve got a bad habit of biting them and as I learned on Saturday – my hair doesn’t really keep hold of a curly blow. It is fun to try on different styles and dress up for special occasions but I’m not going to stress myself out about it all. I will probably never achieve the perfect mascara flick on first attempt but I can accept that.
5. Listen to your fourteen-year-old self.
I’ve appreciated this sound advice many times over the past decade, most recently on Friday night when, with the prospect of a whole weekend of eating out ahead of us, we could not decide what to make for dinner on what would need to be, a quiet night in. So while DH wrapped up his working week I went to stare at the shelves in Sainsbury’s in the hope that something appetising would jump out at me. Uninspired, I honed in on a stick of garlic bread and gave up on any grand culinary ambitions.
Sometimes you just need to throw together a spaghetti bolognese, pour a glass of something and embrace the nineties by listening to hip-hop and playing Nintendo.