Two and a bit years ago I turned 30, and I can honestly say, looking back, it was the worst time of my life. I don't even really recognise that person that I used to be, and I started thinking more recently about why I 'temporarily' became someone completely different from myself. I've always been a little 'beyond my years', getting drunk and partying to the small hours in high school, wanting to set up 'home' and 'stay in' in Uni, and jumping head first into an intense career in the world of psychology in prisons when I was 24. I was married at 25. I've never been particularly 'trendy', or particularly 'young' for that matter, always just a little bit 'off' the mark when it comes to others my age, but around the age of 29 I changed. I can't really put my finger on 'what' changed, but I did. All my likes and interests seemed petty and 'old fashioned', I was tired of being 'mature' and I could not bare the idea of being that 'settled down' person anymore. My beautiful home, with all my once prized possessions lost it's appeal, and I yearned for a tiny studio flat in a grotty part of a big city instead. I started listening to repetitive dance and pop music, and my interior design magazine subscription went unread for months. What had happened to me!?
I realise now that it was down to an overwhelming terror of turning 30. The idea of being 30 was so depressing to me that I was evidently fighting against it; trying to be 'young'! In my mind, people who were 30 weren't 'old', but they weren't young either. Once you are 30 you have to be settled, with a mundane routine of work and babies and coffee mornings. Your income disappears on prams, nappies, organic baby food and shitty holidays in a caravan. You no longer have the luxury of a lay in at the weekend, a slow sipped cup of coffee and a magazine in the garden. You don't go clubbing, and your only social life consists of going to other 30 something's homes for Houmous and carrot sticks. I was no way near to accepting this as my life, and the idea of having children terrifies me even now. I suppose I felt I hadn't made the most of my youth to be getting ready to turn 30 and start aging already.
My 30th came and went, and what followed, until recently, was a period of soul searching and mistake making. Instead of living the life I wanted, I pressed the self destruct button and created a self induced living nightmare of mistakes, stress, anxiety and depression. I left my career behind for a while, trying to figure things out, and my husband and I briefly separated, a difference of opinion on having children creating an enormous rift between us. I don't think he ever quite got his head around what I was so distraught over; but I don't think men see 30 in quite the same way as women. For me, and a lot of women my age, turning 30 seems like the point where the timer starts in a countdown to infertility. If you worked on a career in your twenties, and find yourself not quite where you wanted to be, but suddenly facing the reality that it's starting to get 'a bit late' to start trying for a family, it's terrifying. To me, turning 30 was a crossroads. I felt I needed to decide on my future; more specifically, did I want a family life, or a successful career life? When I couldn't make up my mind, my mind sort of stopped working!
It turns out I'm not alone. I searched a lot for some research on this but couldn't find any, however there are numerous articles out there written about the same terror in women turning 30. It's the modern female equivalent of the male 'mid-life' crisis in their 40's/50's. Whilst this is somewhat reassuring to know, I can't help but feel that this is a modern phenomenon brought on by a particularly difficult society for women these days. Previous generations of women weren't afforded some of the career freedoms that my generation has had, but as a result, they seemed more accepting and satisfied of their 'lot' in life. Being a 'mum' was not a wrecking ball to a life you had created already, but rather a natural progression into a role carved out to fulfill a woman's natural urge to nurture something (or someone). My urge to 'nurture' was all used up on my job, and my home. I had (have) no more urge to nurture!
It sounds selfish, but I don't want to use my energy and time to dedicate to anyone but me, my career, and my marriage. I enjoy the freedom of spending my hard earned money on things that make me truly happy, like travel, going out, shopping trips to Homesense, and cult beauty products. I'm not even ashamed to say that. I love to sleep, I love to listen to loud music, I love to go away for weekends and impulse buy gifts and presents for people. Turning 30 seemed to me to put all of this in jeopardy.
I'd love to say that now I'm 32 (and a bit) I've got it all sorted, but I haven't. I am at least out of my depression, and no longer have bouts of unbearable anxiety about my future. I'm back to the old me, but I'm wiser now. I've stopped taking things for granted, and have started appreciating the little things in my life. I'm more equipped to deal with stress and problems, and know I can cope when times get tough. I'm more in control of my emotions, and clearer in my mind of who I am, what I stand for and how I want to be seen by others. I'm more committed to my health, and more dedicated to creating a 'life' and not just a 'career'. But the question about children still hangs over me, and my marriage, and is the final piece of the puzzle that needs to be found. Time is ticking away, and I'm still waiting for that maternal urge to kick in, but I've realised that your 30's are just that...yours! You make them what you want them to be, as with every decade in your life. I'm busy creating a life I love...and we'll see what happens next! Until then, I'm taking life one step at a time.
Have you experienced similar feelings turning 30? Do you have a different experience? Leave us a comment and let us know. We'd love to hear from you on this subject.