Just over a month ago, I turned 30. I’d been watching it creep up for a while; looming ever nearer, whispering sneaky little comments about being too old, too late, too lost. The mere mention of it made me hyperventilate. You’d think by now I’d be used to getting a year older every, well, year, but each time I end up feeling like a tally has been rubbed off the chalkboard rather than added on, counting down the useful time I have left. That said, I never really felt different, exactly. Just more of the same.
When I was younger (by which I mean, when I was young enough to not have much occupy m y mind and all the time in the world before me) I had a notion that 30 was a grown up age. By the time you are 30 there are a good deal of things that should have been achieved. According to whom I’m not entirely sure, but I always felt quite convinced that grown ups meet certain criteria and grown up starts at 30. So when I woke up, never to be a twenty-something again, I definitely felt different. There’s nowhere to hide with 30. University is a distant memory (in most cases) and career paths generally well forged. I looked at the ceiling and thought to myself, as I’m sure many have before me and many will in the years to come: what have I done with my life?
At first, the overwhelming answer was: Nothing. Nothing at all. But that can’t be true, can it? Have I really spent 30 years achieving nothing? Surely not. Once I got a grip of myself, I reconsidered. It doesn’t necessarily match up with the checklist of adult musts I, almost instinctively, held on to for so long but I can claim a none-too-shabby list. When I was born, I couldn’t do anything. Now, just 30 short years later, I can walk (and rarely fall over), talk (both coherently and nonsense), read and write, tie my laces and boil an egg. I’m fairly sure that there would have been women my age just 100 years ago who couldn’t have done all that. I successfully navigated 16 years of education, held down jobs I hated without getting fired (or starting fires), moved house 8 times, taught myself guitar, went out with people, broke up with people, made friends and (I’m surprisingly proud to say) enemies. I’ve hurt so deeply I thought I’d never breathe again but I’ve loved and been loved too. I’ve been to three continents. I can programme a VCR (which, come to think of it, is something not a lot of adults can do) and use a mac and a pc. I even got married, although that one only just scrapes in under the wire.
In short, it occurred to me, I’ve been living. For 30 years. It’s quite a feat, whichever way you look at it. A lot of people don’t make it that far. Realising this leaves me with a different, different feeling. If I can manage this much, from scratch, in just 30 years (less time than the gap between man first reaching the north pole and man reaching the moon) what can I manage in another 30? I can’t wait to find out.