Thursday 29 September 2016

This is 30: We are the crop that left college and walked smack bang in to the recession

Today's thirtysomethings have swapped party-hard lifestyles for sedate brunches, gym trips and quiet nights in. Just-turned-30 Vicki Notaro raises a glass to the new boring

Published 09/02/2016 | 02:30

Changes: Vicki Notaro is more content hanging with her dogs Jacko and Dora than bar-hopping now that she's 30. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.
Changes: Vicki Notaro is more content hanging with her dogs Jacko and Dora than bar-hopping now that she's 30. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.

If 40 is the new 30, then 30 must be the new 21 - or so I kept telling myself in the lead up to my milestone birthday earlier this year.

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I had mixed feelings about leaving my 20s behind, but that was more about grey hair and love handles than anything else. When I think about it now, I realise that you couldn't pay me to be 21 again - even the lure of my nubile body a decade ago wouldn't get me in to a time machine - because the quieter, more steady pace of the 30s has already seduced me.

And this generation of early 30-somethings in Ireland is ready for a bit of peace and calm. We are the crop that left college and walked smack bang in to the recession - no jobs, useless qualifications and little hope of ever getting on the property ladder. Lots of us emigrated, but those of us who stayed worked our butts off, and had to grow up quite quickly in the process.

By the time I was 23-years-old, I'd dealt with my partner's unemployment and the subsequent emotional fallout, pay cuts, career stress and a country on the brink of financial collapse. And I was one of the lucky ones, in a paid job and not struggling to get by on an internship. I'd moved out just before the crash and had my independence - subject to the ability to pay crippling rent, of course.

It wasn't a case of self-pity at the time. The vast majority of us are only aware of the strain in retrospect, and we played as hard as we worked. I took advantage of every professional soiree and drinks promotion, and believe me I've fallen out of my fair share of nightclubs. I slept in fields for the love of music, and whistled on my way to work even with a stonking hangover. But trust me now when I say I'm thrilled those days are behind me.

Hands up who enjoys spending Saturday mornings getting stuff done, from housework to the gym? And settling down on a Friday night with a glass of Chateauneuf de Pape to watch Graham Norton after enjoying a home-cooked steak dinner? Oh my god, me too.

I used to get edgy if I hadn't been out at the weekend, suffering from FOMO and fretting that everyone would think I was boring. Now I revel in the calm of work-free days.

Now this isn't to say I have no social life. My fiancé and I don't have any children so we go out when we please, but it's an entirely different experience. No high heels or body-con dresses, no pre-drinking and no hitting the town at midnight. We go out to eat, often for brunch, and if we roll home around midnight no harm done - we still get the full eight hours.

Of course there are times when we get carried away on a school night and end up in a dodgy club doing shots with the boss, but the subsequent three-day hangover is enough to put us off again for a while. And I still go to festivals, but I sleep in a bed because nothing ruins the fun of Electric Picnic like lying on the ground for three days.

My own birthday celebrations this year are a perfect example of what it's like to be 30 in 2016. My pals and I were in New York and we went for a bottomless brunch which, for the uninitiated, means you pay a set price for a main course and as many Proseccos as you can sink in 90 minutes.

This might sound like the behaviour of the young and the reckless, but it's quite normal for a Friday afternoon in NYC and we didn't go bananas.

Still, because we started early I had terrible heartburn from all the bubbles by the time we got to our 9pm dinner reservation, and could barely eat a thing. Then we went to a world famous cocktail bar but were annoyed by the confusing menu with too much choice. Sixty-four cocktails based on the seasons of the year? I'll just have a gin.

The next day, a blizzard hit the city and everything closed except the pubs. We trudged through the snow banks and spent the entire day and night sipping beers and playing card games in our warm layers, and had a much better time than when we got dolled up the night before. Who needs a nightclub?

I've felt like an adult for a long time, because I shot up the career ladder due to the aforementioned recession. However nowadays I know I'm a grown up. I have no false friends, I've finally got a handle on my finances and after a few blips, my self-esteem has steadied itself. I know the importance of looking after my health, and know I need to be there for my mother and father as they deal with their own parents' dotage.

But look, my generation know we're a lucky bunch. None of my friends have children yet, so we have the wisdom of experience without the responsibility of little ones. Many of us are sitting pretty career-wise, with a bit of choice and satisfaction, so we can afford to be self-centred, spend our money where we want and our free time relaxing. For many, it won't always be that way, so we should embrace and enjoy it while we can.

I'm happy to get more excited by bed linen than beaded minidresses, and to focus on skin care, eating lots of protein and getting an early night. I'm happy not to hang around in big gangs, and that screeching isn't my default setting to register excitement.

I enjoyed my 20s and wrung those learning years dry, but I plan to enjoy my 30s even more. Bring on the sort-of quiet life, and I'll adjust the volume where necessary.

Irish Independent

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