The 30 Year Deadline
I turned 29 exactly one month ago, which means I now have 11 months until the big deadline, that is the 30 year deadline. By the time I turn 30 society hopes I’ll be well on my way to a heterosexual, monogamous marriage, a house in the suburbs, along with two and a half children - all on top of a thriving career! Once this transition occurs I am to do my best to fit in, not be too outspoken, or too loud, or too unique, because these are things that are purely reserved for the restless youths who will surely “grow out of it.”
Do you know what, bugger that!
The older I get, the clearer it becomes that I simply cannot and will not live life the way a certain, rather dominating, section of western society wishes me to. But in spite of my rejection of the 30 year deadline, I do feel a shift in myself at the moment. As I grow in age, as I become more myself, I sense a new chapter on the horizon, and this to me is what getting older is all about.
Often I feel like my soul missed the exit when coming down to earth. Surely I should’ve been born into a different era that suited my sensibilities, in a different country (and hemisphere) that celebrated people like me, to a different society that was artistic, intellectual, forward-thinking, broad-thinking and which embraced me for who I really am, where I would have been painted by Giovanni Boldini and spent my days discussing life at a literary salon! Instead I was born in the modern age, into the suburban world of the South Island, where the next stop is Antarctica, and where antiquated conservatism still reigns supreme.
Ecstasy by Giovanni Boldini, i.e. where I belong. (Image via Flickr).
Growing up I found the city I lived in to be stifling, suffocating even, and unaligned with who I was as a child and as a teen. As soon as I was possibly able I didn’t just want to leave home, but I had to leave in order to let my soul thrive. This led me to a series of country-hopping, job-hopping and intense learning, which has now resulted in me speaking another language, freelancing as a writer and running a small, online, vintage clothing boutique. Now I am also a qualified and experienced interior designer, a worldly person who reads accredited news sources, all from my current base of the relatively open-minded city of Melbourne (though that will be changing soon… watch this space). Of course I have some regrets but when I’m grounded in my truth I feel happy with how I have spent my 20s and with where I am at now.
However in my new found maturity - and after 10 years of on/off therapy, healers, experiencing life's truths for myself, a thorough education, etc - I no longer blame my past for my present (well except for my penchant for impeccable table manners. NO elbows on the table, thank you very much). This is growing up, this is maturity. I don’t want to be at a cocktail party when I’m 60, still complaining about my childhood. Not only is that dreadfully dull but it’s really quite sad. Now when I look back on my beginning years I am mostly grateful for the safety and security I received. Perhaps my father wasn’t a famous film director, perhaps my mother was a pisces, but overall I had a decent enough upbringing and the means to travel independently and be educated as soon as I could.
Beyond all of this I have been astonished at how supportive my family and friends have been lately. Recently my romantic partnership abruptly ended. It was a relationship with someone who I still love very much, but our dynamic had shifted for the worst and we had simply grown apart. We were together from ages 25 to 29 - 25 being quite a tidy time to meet “someone”. The more conservative peers I have I would constantly comment, “How nice you’ve found someone to settle down with!” Of course I knew that (most of) these comments came from a place of care, but it pushed me to believe that I needed to settle, that what I was doing was right, even though deep down I knew our relationship had changed and that the relationship, as it was, wasn’t going to last. I admit that one of my reasons for sticking it out with him for so long was that I was worried about being alone at this age, despite my strident belief in the strength of the single woman. It’s so bizarre how we do that to ourselves, how we have firm beliefs but don’t always allow ourselves to embrace them straight away. It can almost be viewed as a form of self-sabotage.
Looking back on the relationship now I also find it extraordinary with how carried away we can get when practising the c-word (compromise). In my life I went from being a Darlinghurst bohemian to being on the road to becoming a Hobart housewife. No offence to Hobs but what on earth was that about? I also allowed myself to depend on a man for more than I should have. Nobody wants to be that girl who relies on a man for money (in my case for half of the overheads). But slowly you become that girl. And then suddenly you’re not that girl anymore and you’re so vulnerable as a result. Then again when the world falls apart, in a way you’re more empowered than ever. Having autonomy over my own life again is a privilege that almost feels overwhelming.
Celebrating my 29th birthday one month ago, miraculously in between lockdowns.
If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that I have a range of opinions on marriage. Look, at the end of the day I still believe that it’s an antiquated and unnecessary tradition that is rooted in sexism and religion - not my faves - but in the modern world even a feminist, atheist, witch, bitch, independent queen, like myself, can make a modern marriage work. More than marriage I believe in love. I believe love can come for a lifetime or just as a chapter, and that both options are equally enriching. So I suppose I do want to get married eventually, well at least once, darling! However with all of these recent changes in my life a new sense of relief has come for me in realising that there is no rush to do this. Basically until you’re dead you can get married any bloody day, well, unless you're in level 4 lockdown. Marriage is obviously a big part of the 30 year deadline but not a part of mine. In fact right now I’m so excited about spending some time being single in all of it’s pure liberation. I am also much clearer on the fact I would like one child too. Each month my potential gay son knocks on my ovaries, causing me rather a lot of pain in the process, asking if I’m ready for them. I reply with a “Not yet!” and a couple of panadol, but one day I will be ready, perhaps with a partner, perhaps not. However when it happens my relationship status won't matter as I will always have my tribe by my side.
The other power that comes from a break-up is reconnecting with close friends, your people. I have always stayed in touch with my loved ones, regardless of my relationship status, but over the last month I have developed a new layer of love for my friends. They have held my (metaphoric, covid-safe) hand throughout some of the darkest days and nights of my life, through all of agonising August. They have sat on the phone with me when I have been too unwell to speak (literally, I’ve had pharyngitis for three weeks, it's my achilles heel). They have pushed me onwards and upwards even amidst their own crises. The gratitude I feel for them is ever-expanding.
So who am I as I hurtle towards 30. I’m a much happier person as I embrace my unconventional spirit rather than feeling so bad about it. I have realised that my true essence thrives best when I know I have the freedom and flexibility I need to make changes. I am not someone who needs routine, I am someone who needs stimulation. I have much more joie de vivre and a lot less anxiety about me. I am finally honest and unapologetic about who I really am. This year I have also let go of being as rigid about my goals, allowing myself to go with the flow a little more, to see what life brings, and have found that life has become so much bigger and brighter as a result. I also highly recommend this approach during a time when life is more unpredictable than ever.
Predominantly I have figured out that I am a storyteller before anything else. Now this information seems so obvious (I’m literally writing this all down and you are reading it). It’s frustratingly silly that this is something about myself I didn’t embrace for the longest time. In every small business I’ve worked in it would always end up being me writing the blogposts and newsletters, regardless of my job title, as I was often the only innate writer on the team. In any case I am now doing much more of what I love and was born to do. As I move forward I am determined to make this my bread-and-butter and build a really solid career in media and as a writer.
In embodying my true self when I think of the 30 year deadline, I don’t fret so much anymore. I see the notion of being “settled” as no achievement. Instead what’s clear is that living authentically is the ultimate achievement. Your version of authenticity may differ greatly to mine, and could be much more like what society would rather, but that is what the 30 year deadline is about. It is about figuring that out for yourself.
So at age 29 years and one month old, this is who I am:
Completely My Own