Column: Womanity - embrace those milestone birthdays
Milestone birthdays can feel frightening, but it's important to embrace them
I've watched plenty of friends turn 30 in the last year. I know the drill. The celebrations have varied between frantically blowing into a paper bag while searching for fine lines and grey hairs in a recently acquired magnifying mirror, to drowning in a sea of mortgage applications and sky diving over the Grand Canyon, with all the various stages of meltdown in between.
A milestone birthday, whether 21, 30, 50 or 80, is the perfect time to pause and reflect on all the things you haven't yet done. There are overachievers who write lists of goals and make you feel like a flunking failure if you haven't ticked them all off before you turn 30; Route 66, a marathon, falling in love on the top of the Eiffel Tower while a meteor shower rains overhead, all while wearing the black belt you just got in Taekwon-Do.
We've all set ourselves ridiculous goals in the innocence of our youth. Back then you couldn't see past 30. That was the age when everything supposedly fell into place. In this picture, you had achieved that blissful state of financial security, dividing your time between your sprawling country pile and a villa in the sun, a couple of shiny happy kids behaving themselves in the back of the people carrier. This delusion gets you right up until the big birthday, and nowhere in this vision was there any reference to credit cards and overdrafts and the countdown til payday. Hence the cataclysm when you see 30 candles waiting to be put blown out.
So when it was my go this month and the birthday loomed, I found myself bucking the trend. As I approached my birthday, I found myself in a state of pleasant indifference about the fact that I am a Gen X-er. Instead of counting crow's feet and losing myself in an age-induced panic, I welcomed this new era with open arms, I was delighted to celebrate the big 3-0.
Instead of heeding warnings that a lady should never reveal her age, I was after maximum fuss. Who cares if Mark Zuckerburg was celebrating his 30th just the day before by counting the zeroes in his bank account? Who cares if Jennifer Lawrence will be polishing God knows how many Oscars on hers? I wasn't going to worry about what I hadn't done; I was ready to take stock of what I had.I'm just happy to celebrate another year of being happy and healthy, with the people I'm lucky to have in my life. And that is the very best symptom of growing up. You finally stop giving a shit. What a relief to say goodbye to the niggling insecurities of my twenties, where I was too happy to bend over backwards, too worried to offend. My thirties are a bullshit-free zone. While I was growing older, I was also growing a backbone, and my tolerance levels are resting at an all-time low – just the way I like it.
Don't get me wrong, there are still some perks to my twenties I wish I could retain. I'm still horrified when I can sail through Tesco, a bottle of wine tucked under my arm, and not one person stops me for ID. Metabolism is another endowment of our youth. It seems that while we're ageing gracefully, our metabolism proceeds in dog years, and by the time you reach 30, it has sadly departed; where once you could lose weight from the effort of ordering a takeaway, in your thirties, you get to watch the effects of cake settle on your arse before
you've finished the slice. And let's take a minute to mourn the perpetual energy of our twenties. Previously I blamed my compulsory nap time on my 4am starts, I'm now rising at a reasonable hour, and still fancy a little snooze before supper. And sadly it seems my sociability is also wavering, having recently refused a night out in favour of a very enjoyable evening spent organising my towels into fancy and non-fancy.
But other than that, those few minute traits symptomatic of the twenties, I'm more than ready to embrace my thirties. Because finally, at this grand old age, I know exactly who I am. Somewhere in the last decade, self-consciousness was replaced by self-awareness. Insecurities, self-doubt and uncertainties give way to a delightful state of acceptance. Take me as I am. You finally realise you don't need everyone to like you; you just need the precious few to love you. Over these initial 30 years, I've acquired a healthy dose of cop on, and I've figured out what's important in life; whether that's a dinner with the folks, a drink with a friend, or an evening with the fella. Somewhere between the twenties and thirties a laissez faire attitude descends, and you stop sweating the small stuff.
Instead of quietly tipping into the fourth decade counting all the things I haven't gotten around to, I've decided that's what the coming decade is all about – doing all the things I always wanted to do, and being better equipped to enjoy it all the more.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent