Turning 30. What’s the big deal?
In three weeks I’ll turn 30, and surprisingly enough I’m neither here nor there about this ‘milestone’. Admittedly, I’ve never been one to make a huge deal about my birthday. At the same time, I realise that according to society, turning 30 signals your thrust into serious adulthood and accepting the mundane responsibilities that go along with it.
But who gives a rat’s ass about what society says? Society is the one who makes you feel, that by now, you should be married, have children, be settled, own a home, stick to an 8 to 4 (in a preferably ‘permanent’ position), and be another normal contributor to the capitalist system; and therein lies the root of the complex people often get at the thought of turning 30. That, and the idea that “OMG I’m getting old”.
A friend recently told me that the thought of turning 30 bothers her a bit because she isn’t where she thought she’d be in life right now. Life often doesn’t pan out how we envision. The goals we set are sometimes thrown a curveball or life takes us in different directions. Hell, when I was 17 I thought that I’d be married by 21, have kids by 25, and so my world would revolve on a pretty steady (and predictable) axis.
On the cusp of 30, I find myself as single as ever, with no kids running behind me, save for my clan of nieces and nephews, who I dote on continuously, and who fulfil my maternal instincts. I watch friends who are married and domesticated – and happily so – and think to myself that I couldn’t imagine such a scenario for me. To begin with, I’m a sometimish person. I like to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I operate in organised chaos, and I like it. Responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, changing of diapers, and other routine activities would thus demand an increase in self-discipline, which I’m not ready to take until I have to. I like to cook at 2 in the morning or at 10 at night. I like to wake up early one morning, then late the next. Some might say I need a scolding to wake up to reality and get with the programme. But at 29, with no real responsibilities, I have the freedom to do as I please, until I have to face the music or until someone comes along and sweeps me off my feet so much that I’m super motivated to take on house duties.
“In the face of seeing others achieve the societal ideal of being married by 30, some people develop a loser complex or a state of desperation”
Yet in the face of seeing others achieve the societal ideal of being married by 30, some people develop a loser complex or a state of desperation. I know women who shudder(ed) at the thought of turning three scores because ‘gasp’, they’re not married as yet. I remember getting heavily reprimanded by a colleague some years ago when jokingly telling her she had two more years until 30.
“Karel that isn’t funny,” she told me. “I have two more years to get married, and I don’t even have a man.”
Okay, so maybe it didn’t help that at the time I was a measly 23-year-old poking good-natured fun at her, but I’d evidently touched a nerve. But for some being 30, and not married is a huge deal. You might think at a time where women are so empowered that the thought of not being married wouldn’t bother them in the least. But that old crone called society has so managed to twist our thinking that we’ve allowed it to mess with how embracing we are of age. And don’t think it’s just the women who are bothered. Some men get caught up in it too; they’re just not as obvious as women are in stressing about it.
My view of who I am, or should be, is not measured by age. Although many of us may share the same age group, what makes life so interesting is the fact that we’re not all at the same life stage, and why should we be? The world would be pretty boring if all of us were married on the stroke of 30, and achieved the same things at the same time. Who would we have to learn from?
What I think bothers people the most about turning 30 is that reality sort of hits them full frontal. The 20’s are your training ground for adulthood, and in your 30’s you’re expected to apply these lessons and take your maturity and ideas about life to the next level. There’s no pretending you aren’t getting older, and you have to pay attention to some of the things you’d like to ignore. In some cultures and religions, there’s the belief that you are ready for leadership at age 30. We’re told that Joseph was 30 years old when he was made king and ruled over Egypt (Genesis 41:46). In further support of this idea, in some countries, 30 is the minimum age for running for political office. So it’s safe to say that when you’re 30, you’re definitely seen as a grown-up.
Turning 30 should be a cause for celebration, just as when you turn 5, 15, or 25. If we’d ignore the expectations or ideals set for us by society and instead focus on designing the life we want for ourselves, then maybe we wouldn’t be bothered so much by age. Maybe if we opened ourselves to different life scenarios and commit to being happy regardless of our situation, then we’d be a lot more embracing of growing older. Sometimes I say the teen years were the best because you could be totally carefree, but as an adult you’re able to better appreciate what life gives you, and hone your perspective.
So to all my fellow 30-year-olds, try to not let the whole idea of getting older bog you down. You mightn’t have everything you want or be exactly where you thought you’d be in life, but at least you have another excuse to party hard. As another friend said, “My 30th was just like any other birthday but I don’t really care about age… it’s how I feel inside”.
Image credit: mandyandseth.blogspot.com.