Turning 30. What’s the big deal?

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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.


Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.


  1. Laura

    May 3, 2010 at 5:17 am

    I freaked out when I was turning 30 for exactly those reasons you gave Karel but even though I am married nw with two children, I have realised that living according to what other people expect is a recipe for disaster. You could make your own rules sweetie. In a recent O Magazine they profiled several married people living as they choose. One couple actually lives apart from each other and they are very happy. It works for them. Who says you can’t be married with kids and cook at 2 am? Or be sometimish? Trust me, most of us are, all the time…lol. Thing is, people need to love the journey they are on now and stop living in some imagined future. That is a waste of time. So if you are single and childless now, revel in it, enjoy life and stop to smell the roses along the way.

  2. njones

    May 3, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I’m still struggling with this myself. I’m 30 and married but I’ll be celebrating my 2nd anniversary soon and of course everyone wants to know when the children are coming… sigh… I ordinarily put pressure on myself but I’m trying to take this one in stride :)

  3. Kayode

    May 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I actually felt a lot like the first friend you mentioned. I wanted to at the very least be paying a mortgage by 30 (in a few months), with or without a family.

    I don’t find myself depressed by not having achieved those goals because for some reason, stuff like this bothers me less and less as I get older. I’m beginning to realise that I’m going to get it done. Getting it done by 30 would have been great, but the bottom line is I’ll accomplish my goals. And I feel good about that.

  4. Quilin Achat


    May 3, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I think what is funny about our generation is that when we were kids we thought 30 was ooooold. It was almost like turning 50! I mean, most of our parents were married either in their late teens, early twenties.
    Turning 30 used to feel more like a noose tightening around the neck, but now, with soooo many options; going back to school, travelling, work, car yadda yadda ya, it’s like who has time to worry about turning 30? Plus, the men aren’t the least concerned or rushed, so why should WE be?

    Happy Early Birthday chica!

  5. karel

    May 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

    @ Laura. I hear every word, and plan to stick to just that. You can make your own rules :d

    @Natalia. Somehow society finds a way to pressure you regardless of age or lifestage. Like Laura says, make your own rules and set up things in your own timing. Looking forward to your online baby growing up 😀

    @Kayode. Yeah, sometimes it’s just to pace yourself.

    @Qui Yeah boy. 30 used to sound old long ago. Now it’s like that ain’t old. Lol. And that has nothing to do with me turning 30. Lol

  6. Macafouchette

    May 4, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Well they say “to each (her) own” and I definitely think that applies when it comes to milestone birthdays. If birthdays aren’t a big deal to you in general and you don’t demarcate your life according to external standards, then having a 30th birthday – or 50th or 21st for that matter – won’t be a big deal for you.

    I, for one, *love* birthdays. I love parties and I allow my diva tendencies to let loose on birthdays. For my 30th, I turned the trials I was going through in life on their heels by having a birthMONTH instead of just a day. It was full of parties, concerts, arts, family and friends and I often made it know that I was going to the big 3-0. Maybe it was escapism from the daunting trials in life and love. Either way I enjoyed every minute of it.

    I think 30 is harder for me cuz of the little things. Now my demographic bracket on some forms change. I no longer feel I can attend a “20something” event. Or when I tell my age to a teenager they give me that funny “Oh” response. Whatever, haters! The hardest part of being 30 is the mental image I have in my head of the graph that charts the exponential increase in rate of Downs Syndrome for childbirth after the age of 35. Being 30 going on 31 makes me feel like I am caught in the rapids towards that drop off point.

    I do like that I am comfortable not complying with what I should be and now just seeking to be what I want. I hope that life still brings love and laughter but marriage is no longer a requirement.

  7. Chennette

    May 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I liked being 30. It was a nice round pretty looking number. And it meant that people no longer were taken aback by the fact that I was in my 20s but purporting to advise them. I am beyond that age now (just a little) but I stopped counting.

    There are things that I thought I would have or be by the time I was 30…and perhaps family was most of of that. But those were ideas I had in my teens when I was going by these ideas/expectations of decades. By the time I hit my 20s and real life (with debts and responsibilities) I stopped thinking of the age. And the truth is, even if I’d thought I’d have the family by now, I certainly never expected I’d be at the point in my career where I was by age 30…I by no means am advocating that career must come before family, just that one dream happened before the other. So I take the good and wait for the rest of it, which will come in time.

    What I hate is when people assume you are anti-family or something because you’re not there yet by a certain age.

  8. lesemu

    May 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    This article puts me in good spirit as the months count down to my 30th. I haven’t given it much thought until I noticed my hairline has started receding, but that in no way shape or form (all pun intended) makes me feel old; instead I feel a sense of maturity that can only come with age. I’ve spent the last 3yrs being more an adult that I ever could have been taking the traditional route… something I can credit to an eagerness to explore new things and places.

    I think our generation is encouraged and allowed to create our own happy ‘home’… whether that means pursuing whatever non-traditional careers or path that brings us the most fulfillment – A word that doesn’t also associate with being married with kids and the government 8-4.

    So let’s embrace the 30s, it should only get better for here.

    Nice article Karel!!

  9. Nicole

    May 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    It is what it is! Some expected to be married, some expected NEVER to be married. Life doesn’t always turn out just the way you envisioned it at 18.

    I think if you start to get spooked by the number and expectations, you start to try to fit into “someone’s” mold. How can we ever find happiness trying to live someone else’s dream?

    Just discovered your magazine, and LOVING it. :-)

  10. karel

    May 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Hey Nicole. Glad you love it 😀

  11. gilline

    May 8, 2010 at 9:24 am

    IDEALS ARE GOOD….ideals are necessary to attain, ideals are inspirational; but when the ideals don’t match the actuality…the reality…. well you just have to make “lemonade”!The expectations of education, career, marriage and family do not necessarily follow a linear time line; society’s time line. Even in the bible Sarah was a woman pass her prime before she finally coceived. So what is the lesson … everything in God’s time.
    In the mean time, my thirties have just begun. I am wiser and wealthier than in my twenties, gainfully employed with an income to save and use to do all the things i could not do before. i hav my own key for my own rental, i’m only missing my own ride. Iam not as spontaneious and wasteful… i have made plans for my
    rainy day.
    so for now i’m livin’ my life unlimited bound by the grace of the Almighty.

  12. Tami

    May 14, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I couldnt have summed it up any better. Thanks! I been trying to tell my friends that 30 is the new 20!

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