The One Where An Unmarried Woman Turns Thirty
When I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder; I would go on to spend the latter half of my teens and early twenties incredibly sad, lost and unfortunately, suicidal. One of my saddest truths is that I truly didn’t expect to make it past the age of 25.
And yet, here I am! October is my birthday month and being the original 90s baby, I’m going to be the big 3–0.
It’s been a bumpy ride getting here. I have survived myself and my own devastating sadness, one of my closest friends dying and a fight with stage one cervical cancer. I somehow got my BA and my master’s degree, I have (reluctantly) stroked lion cubs and survived adangerous-but-ultimately-fine taxi ride in Johannesburg. I have made the leap into successfully-ish being self-employed, along with starting a small business with my partner. I’ve even done some of the adulting stuff, you know, I’ve met my forever person (Scott), we moved out of London (never saw that coming) and there’s a plan to buy our first house together.
The last twenty-nine years have been rough. So why am I so nervous to turn 30? Surely, I should be ready to turn my back on the last decade, knowing that I’m coming out of it in the best place I have ever been, for both my mental and physical health. Yet I am terrified that I’ll wake up on October 5th, a failure. A failure in a multitude of ways because I haven’t reached whatever rudimentary milestones have been set out for me by our invisible societal overlord. For everything that I’ve overcome and survived, why do I feel like a failure for not being married with 2.4 children by the time I’m 30?
As a side note, honestly, what a year. Currently, I’m sat watching Boris announce the latest restrictions and changes and I don’t even know if I’ll get to celebrate my birthday. And believe me, I know, there are worse things than not having a birthday party and there are worse things than turning 30, this year has made that abundantly clear.
Because I am now almost a real adult age, surviving (and thriving) through a whole host of weird, wonderful and terrible things over the last twenty-nine years, I feel able to give some very brief and vague wisdom! So, I’ll hit you with it, we’ve all got to make our own mistakes and live our own lives but if I can help anyone navigate this world a little bit easier, I’ll take it.
- Nothing lasts forever. And I actually mean this in a good way, because when things feel their absolute WORST, it will.not.last.forever. But also, you know what, nothing lasts forever, so cherish things. Make the most of now, in whatever way you feel that you are able.
- When I feel helpless and lost and small, I think to myself, tonight the sun will set and tomorrow it will rise again. Because it will. This is just one day, and tomorrow things will start again.
- Ugly, belly laughing is the best. Not really advice, so maybe I’ll rephrase it as spend as much time ugly-gasping-for-breath-proper-belly-laughing as you can. Top up on all that soul joy.
- ‘Don’t look back, you’re not going that way’ — I honestly still lie in bed some nights, cringing about stupid things I’ve said or done when I was in year eight and awkward AF, but what good does this do me? We can’t live in the past because that will gnaw at your soul and destroy you. Believe me on this one.
- Another excellent quote: ‘I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.’ This one really sums life up for me. In some small way, I’m trying to work towards the way I want my life to look or be every day.
- Money is this fake societal thing that holds us captive. Time is the ultimate currency. Spend it wisely, with people who matter. Not everyone will agree with me here, and that’s ok.
- Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish yours or make your experiences less valid. We’re fed this stupid idea that only so many people can be excellent, but this isn’t true. We can all be excellent. Lift each other up, fill the world with light.
- You are the only you and you are amazing at being you. You are more than the list of things that you’re scared of and you are more than money in the bank or the numbers on a scale. You are a beautiful, wonderful, sparkly ball of wonder and whatever today throws at you will be less than some days and more than others, but you are competent and capable.
- Eat your vegetables. Invest in nice bed sheets. Exercise. Drink lots of water. Create healthy coping mechanisms. Surround yourself with lovely people that lift you up. Lift up others. Be an ally. Don’t just listen, actually hear. Talk out loud about the way you’re feeling. Dance whilst you brush your teeth. Swish saltwater when you have a sore throat. Burn the fancy candle that you’ve been saving for ‘best’, because…
- Life is so fucking short. Scott and I have a joke, that’s not really a joke, more like an affirmation: I’m here for a good time, not a long time. It feels like life is this long, wonderful, spiralling road out in front of me right now. And I hope it is. I hope that I live until 103 but there’s something about birthdays that just makes me feel a bit morbid, but I think in a good way? Like there’s just something about birthdays that makes me question if I’m doing everything I can to live my best life. Check in with yourself, with your goals, your aspirations and your dreams regularly and just imagine what your life would be like if there was no such thing as money or distance or time.
- Life is messy and weird but also kind of wonderful and I think 2020 has proven that more than most years. Even if it has been a trash year. It’s the little life bits that happen in-between the big life events that I think really stay with us. I will never forget the nurse that held my hand whilst I had yet another biopsy on my cervix and asked about my holiday plans like we were just having a chat, and my legs weren’t in the dangly things and my pants tucked inside my shoes next to the bed. Remember when we were in peak lockdown and loads of people hung art or drew on their windows to make the roads colourful for keyworkers.
It might sound like I think things might be magically different when I’m 30. Like I think I’m going to wake up with a sore back or grey hair. But honestly, I fully anticipate that it will feel exactly the same as 29. Or maybe I will wake up feeling suddenly more worldly or secure or like I’ve really suddenly got my shit together, although I doubt it. But one thing is for sure, I am now excited to be alive and living this life of mine, what a difference a decade can make.
So, I’ll finish this rambly, monologuey piece of writing with one final piece of advice: if you are in the darkest place, the place where you’re not sure you can last until morning, let alone another week, month, year. The darkest kind of place where you are so so tired from just existing, from holding it together and waiting for someone to notice that just below the surface everything is an absolute mess. You have to hold on for the sun to rise again tomorrow, the world is a better place because you’re in it. Whether you reach out to an absolute stranger on the internet, a person you know out loud or even a helpline like the Samaritans, I promise you that this feeling will not last forever, even when you think it’s all you know. You belong here, you matter, no matter what the darkness in your head says otherwise.
Originally published at https://theeverydaymagazine.co.uk on September 30, 2020.