When I turned thirty, I kind of expected to feel something. At least something more than what I actually felt, which was excited. I was expecting… wistful? Scared? My own version of that Friends episode where they all turn thirty and each freak out in their own unique way?
Instead, I was pumped about my party (my ‘wedding for one’ — complete with table seating chart), several overseas friends who were in town, and my first book launch. Thirty? No biggie! Age is just a state of mind!
This year… I am not so chill.
Age is not just a state of mind. It is a number. A very real number.
The other morning, I was making a smoothie and rummaging around the fridge for some spinach; found some; the ‘best before’ date was a couple of days earlier; I shrugged and wondered if I would taste the difference; I didn’t. And that’s how I feel about this upcoming birthday. Like I am becoming semi-expired spinach.
Where does time go? Where do we go?
The people we were, fresh out of uni? Time goes on, and the things that were once the future dissolve into memories. You make some wins; survive some losses; get tougher on the outside, softer on the inside. You pick up more baggage; you try not to, but with any story comes a lesson and with any lesson comes something you had to go through to get to that.
I am no longer terrified but am instead borderline impressed by how dull I have become. I am overcome with serenity when the dishes are clean and the laundry is folded. More than one friend has told me how much their garden excites them. Worse, I totally believe them, because I can so relate to that thrill of acing domesticity.
Most teens and twenty-somethings are sheep-like, searching for signals on who to be and what to do, whether it’s with a weekend or with a life. You get older, you become more decisive, less apologetic. David Bowie said, “Ageing is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” As long as you stay true to yourself, as uncomfortable as that can sometimes be, you end up somewhere that feels like the truth.
There is something funny about becoming the person you always were, and realising that it means giving up these false versions of yourself which once upon a time could have been true. Sometimes I miss not knowing things. I miss feeling like there was a big blank canvas in front of me; or like I was the blank canvas. I definitely miss feeling weightless. And not knowing how things were going to turn out.
You are the most malleable you’ll ever be in your twenties. It’s not like you don’t change or learn or grow in the decades that come next. It’s just that the more you live through, the more things become fixed. You can’t lie to yourself as easily because you know yourself better. It’s a great thing. It’s a sign that you’ve grown up. But growing up means letting go.
When you finally let go of what you know deep down was never meant for you, there is a deep peacefulness, which can be as welcoming as it is scary. You no longer attach to what doesn’t feel right. And sometimes that means going to bed early, with clean dishes and folded laundry, dreaming about the garden.
How sad! And wonderful. To realise how maturity is linear and that once you outgrow something, you can’t grow back into it. When I was in high school, I remember heading out to a party on a Saturday night. As I walked towards the front door, I passed my parents watching television.
“Wouldn’t you rather stay home with us?” Dad joked. Mum laughed.
I remember holding my car keys and waving my parents off and feeling elated as I walked through the front door, gravity coaxing me out. Something was waiting, something exciting. This party, these people, this guy I had been texting, it all seemed so important and bright and defining.
As it turned out, the party was average. I’m still glad I went. I was sixteen. But now I’m almost twice that, I’ve since been to a lot of parties. I spent so much of my teens and twenties waiting for things to happen, then things did, and today I’m here. I’ve always known that my parents were joking that evening. Yet this year, for the first time, I get where they were coming from.