So I recently turned 30. Well. A few months ago, now. Yes, I know, I don’t look a day over 25. It’s all the virgin’s blood I bathe in regularly. And the sheep placenta I inject daily. Keeps my skin positively glowing. I digress, however. Turning the big 3-0 has been a completely anti-climactic, yet also a seismic event that could be recorded with a Richter scale machine. Is it such a big deal? Does everyone in their 30’s have their moments of melancholia? Is the concept of a Saturn Return fact, or simply just a hokey Astrological term created to explain what happens when one ‘crosses over’ into the morass of the 30’s.
I’m pretty sure for everyone over the Great and Invisible Barrier that is the 30’s has had some such similar thoughts or experience with regards to reaching that one single, yet exponentially important year. Some people react positively, and embrace it fully, and shout it out to the world without abandon. And some will simply stick their heads in the sand, and will be forever 28. I’ve known people in the latter category, who have been so in denial about being in their 30’s that they’ll simply compartmentalise it and carry on dressing and acting like a 19 year old.
Leading up to my birthday this year, I honestly couldn’t have cared less about turning 30. It was months away, and it was something to look forward to. Everyone over 30 looked like they all had it so worked out, and so with it, that I really well and truly had little to worry about. It’s just another year. No biggie. Alas, my poor 29 year old’s eyes and brain had no clue what it was in for. Fast forward to a couple months later, to me having small mini-freak outs and talk after talk about ‘what I’m going to do with my life’. Talks that never used to occur, back in the heyday of my mid-20’s. Yet slowly but surely they began to pop up. From loved ones, from friends. It seems like once the party is over, once all the alcohol has been consumed, the food eaten, the rubbish taken out and the music danced to as much as one’s limbs can gyrate to, it’s crunch time. Welcome to 30. You better have a rad career and a relationship. Otherwise you better pack your stuff and move to a small hamlet in New Zealand and collect porcelain Ballet slippers. Having never visited the ‘Crunch’ or been in any proximity to said ‘Crunch’ in my 20’s, I was sorely prepared for the proliferation of many a self-induced, never ending cycle of thought, being ‘What Are You Going To Do With Your Life Now You’re Thirty’.
Some background on me, first. I would be best described as a ‘Floater’, if you will. I seem to get work when I need it, yet struggle to gain a career. I get so flummoxed and confused as to what I should be doing with myself, and with my life. I lack the drive and momentum to find something that is fulfilling yet also pays the bills, in essence. And then, of course, I end where I started, which is back doing a less than desirable job [Although I end up being great friends with all I work with], that may get me going for however long I need it. As my boyfriend, [who is so infinitely wise beyond his mere 25 years], has so succinctly stated, I have difficulty ‘finishing things’. This simple statement had such an affect on me, like a ripple in a pond, to retake control and rediscover what direction I should be taking.
Turning 30 can be such a troubling time. In some ways, it seems as bad, if not worse, than my early 20’s were. Back then I had little care for career or education or even the future, I did whatever I wanted, how and when I chose. I was your typical early 2000’s Gen Y Emo, then your typical mid 2000’s Nu-Raver with an asymmetrical haircut. That used to go to Club 77 and watch the Bang Gang Dj’s play. The dark side of this hedonistic and unsustainable lifestyle was that I was trapped within a labyrinthine maze of Depression and despair. Despair, in myself, as I hadn’t come out yet, and when I did, despair in my failings as a person, and my constant pessimism, which then created a rather dire framework of the world, and not to mention a very unhappy, dour young man.
My early 20’s became a period of undefinable darkness, where all that would make me happy would be someone to share life with. All I wanted was a relationship. Time passes, one grows. Things change, yet also manage to stay the same. A relationship came along, which is definitely ‘The’ relationship in my life. I’ve been with this guy for five years, and we’re 5 years and 7 months apart. Sometimes I feel like I’m the 25 year old, not the 30 year old. I still remember when we met. I was 25. I felt so youthful and also so very thoughtless. I mean, without thought. Not cold-hearted. Which is such a contrast to my boyfriend at 25, who is one of the most focused and ‘together’ people I know. He doesn’t believe it, but he’s such a hard-working, motivated person, who has come such a long way. His ’25’, is such a different ’25’ to me. He’s such a singular person. I wouldn’t be the same person, had I not had that chance encounter years ago.
It’s hard to not try and re-asses all the achievements that you’ve accrued [or not] in life by your 30th birthday and find your life somewhat lacking. Especially now, in this era of social media being little more than platforms for self-marketing and bragging, ie #humblebrag. It’s easy to think that everyone but you has this amazing career that is on the up and up; replete with many a tag-in at some [I’m sure] glamorous party in an ultra exclusive club, or a pixel laden iphone picture at a photoshoot, beach, or private yacht on Sydney Harbour etc. The stage can change, yet the same sentiment and plot remains. We live in a time of ‘age’ being a negative. Youthfulness and success are the bars to which one is measured. Especially in a city like Sydney.
However, not all of us grow, or manage to jump over that interminably difficult hurdle of ‘success’ by 30. I recently attended a farewell party at a pub, where I ran into a friend of my flatmate. We had all became good friends at this point, and the theme of the night’s conversation was the idea of a ‘Saturn Return’. I’m not sure if you know what that means, but in short, the ‘Saturn Return’ is an astrological concept wherein Saturn is on an orbit that takes roughly 30 years to come back around. Hence, when one turns 30, that big astrophysical gas giant is looming closer. Like someone you so desperately want to avoid seeing out on the street yet you know they’ve recognised you and are starting to walk towards you. Yet another friend brought up the idea of the ‘Saturn Return’, which of course sparked off many a diatribe with Sydney being such a party city where it’s hard to centre yourself [something to which I agree with], and that this person should possibly move back home to Melbourne to pursue a new career path. What’s worse is that this person is also a woman, so time is an even more important factor, something of which I can only sympathise with. I can’t fathom the extra pressures on women.
This period in life becomes a real time for self-reflection. Any time goes from ‘Just being at work doing my thing’ to ‘Self-Analysis/Self-Reflection Time’. Anything, or anyone has been setting off this thought process. From the above #humblebrag social media phenomenon, or coming across an old friend who has a sweet job that you would literally claw and maim to get, anything anywhere, and at anytime, can get the alarm bells ringing. Especially lying in bed at 2am, a time in which those thoughts seem to be at their most potent. So what do you do? What can be done to alleviate or manage symptoms of Turningthirtyitis? I have a few ideas to start:
1: Don’t sweat it. I know, I know. The old adage of taking deep breaths and all. But it’s true. Life’s simply too big, to rambunctiously amazing, too grand to simply worry about things, and not get what you need and be where you want to be. I wish I could take my own advice here, but for some people, myself included, it can be one of the most difficult things in life to turn off that internal monologue which keeps you from achieving. For me, the most difficult goal I have yet to reach is to have a positive mind. I remember a quote from somewhere years ago that said something like ‘The mind is a muscle, you need to work it out’. I really believe that your thought processes create your world and fortune around you. I’m not talking about The Secret. I disagree with the self-entitled notion of ‘manifesting’ your desires. If that worked, we would all be wealthy, famous and successful. The truth is, this doesn’t work. What does work is training your mind to react to things positively, even if it is something negative that befalls you. And this can be the hardest thing you may do in your life. But in short, don’t sweat it, try to relax and enjoy the great things that are happening around you.
2. Surround yourself with positive people. I’ve had friends in the past who unfortunately in hindsight have given nothing to our shared friendship but bitterness, sadness and a very unhealthy outlook on life. I’ve been the agony aunt, a shoulder to cry on and someone to open up to and speak to about problems. Honestly, I feel that this is an integral role and an essential part of a friendship. However, some friends can be a real detriment to have in your life, especially when all that seems to emanate from them is negativity. And all they want is you to listen without reciprocating yet don’t ever make things better for themselves. If you’re not the most optimistic person around, this can be quite damaging to your own mental health. It won’t be easy, but unfortunately tho only way sometimes is to cut ties to those who bring nothing but bad energy into your life. Sometimes you really need to have a proper think about the company you run with. Are they bringing out the best in you? Or do they limit you as a person? I’ve come to this realisation after having several disastrous friendships, the only solution to the problem was sadly to minimise the damage, and not have as close or toxic a friendship.
3. Start Something, then FINISH IT. This is something which is excruciating to me, yet also exciting. At around this time, it really helps to have something you enjoy yet is productive to feed your soul. Whether it be gardening, painting, writing, a sport, or starting a blog [a la yours truly], I truly think that having some kind of project apart from your work is a priority around the time you turn 30. The upside of this is two fold: It’ll keep you busy, and secondly you’ll never know where it could take you or who you could meet. The challenge here is to learn to finish things. Like my boyfriend keeps telling me, I struggle with finishing pretty much anything in my life. You need to learn to have the discipline to finish things by this stage in life, if you’re to get where you want to be.
4. Build a framework for goals and aspirations. This plays in with the 3rd point. You need to start breaking down what it is you expect out of life, whether it is with regards to careers, relationships or friends, and adjust them into steps. It’s taken me all my 20’s to figure what exactly it is I would like to do with my life, something that I know I’m great at that I can truly see myself doing long-term. The trick now for me is to start heading into the right direction, on to the right avenue, and for that I need the framework of how to get there. Some people seem to have this skill kind of hardwired into them. They know exactly what they want, and how to get it. Yet for others, myself included, it is so hard to break out of the habit of procrastination and being unmotivated. If you deconstruct it all into smaller steps, it won’t seem quite as daunting.
5. Get some air. This year I spent close to two months jobless. Which at first was great, especially after finishing a particularly difficult and demanding job. After just two weeks I drove myself to distraction because of a lack of direction, which in turn meant that my productivity took a nosedive, as well as my motivation and general wellbeing. Nothing helps as much as simply putting down what you’re doing, and simply taking a walk or jog outside. Or even grab a book and sit in a park for an hour or so. For me, it’s amazing how worries seem to simply drift up into the ether by simply changing your surrounds and having what I call a ‘nano-sized’ vacation away from your worries.
Turning 30 can be such a difficult time for anyone. I know for me it’s been quite a struggle to make sense of external expectations of society, friends, loved ones and family, as well as what I myself want out of life or expect from it. And it’s only been a few months. Sometimes it can feel like a wash of white noise on an old analog TV. You remember those infernal, wood panelled things? To get a clear picture, you have to adjust the tuner, change the V-Hold slightly and then you seem to get the message you need. Does anyone even remember what V-Hold was anymore? Who knows how the next ten years of my life will turn. Like another newly acquired friend recently proselytised, your 30’s are the best decade yet, as all the uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety that abound in your 20’s simply melt away, as they are replaced by only good things.
Here’s to a new decade!