I turned thirty on the 16th July. It was a fairly quiet celebration, as I’d already had my big party earlier in the year — before taking off to the USA for three months. We went on a boat trip, enjoyed a nice meal, and I drank a glass or two of wine. Restrained, and, honestly, pretty grown up.
I completed my thirty-before-thirty, or at least half the items on the list. I started coming up with ideas for my forty-before-forty. I completed the second draft of my second novel, and have almost completed the first draft of a sequel to The Rising Wind.
I also got some bad news about my visa. For those not in the know, I applied for a spousal visa to join my husband in the USA back in December 2013. Initial time estimates suggested we should have it by July. Further investigation suggested September. And now it looks like there’s yet more delays and we won’t get it until February 2015. So I’m facing another six months without my spouse, for no real reason other than red-tape. It all feels slightly kafka-esque.
But, because I’m thirty, I just sort of deal with it all. The day I got the news was the same day I started to apply for contract jobs back in the UK.
Turning thirty is considered a big deal in our society. In the same way that 18 (or 21) takes you from a teenager to a young adult, thirty takes you from young adult to very firmly adult. You probably have a career, as opposed to a job (well, maybe. The economy may have dictated otherwise). You may be married, or at least in a relationship that has lasted longer than three hours. You might have children or be planning for them (it feels like a lot of my friends have kids now).
It can carry a negative stigma. Choices start closing down. If you do want kids, you should definitely be getting your skates on (if you’re a woman). Suddenly decided you want to become a doctor? Thirty is probably your last chance.
Thanks to improved heath-care (at least for the middle and upper classes) thirty is no longer middle-aged. I can comfortably expect to live to eighty, as long as I don’t get hit by a bus or the world’s water supply doesn’t run out, or all the farmland doesn’t get turned to desert and/or vanishes underwater thanks to global warming.
In a lot of ways, I have more choices. I have more money (or less debt?). I can go after more prestigious jobs. I have enough experience that I can plan out exciting holidays. Life is stable enough that I can have a rough idea of where I’ll be in ten years and plan accordingly. When I was twenty I often had no idea what my life would look like next week!
There are exciting things to look forward to. Technology has reshaped culture, medicine, the way we interact, how we learn — and it’s only changing faster. In my lifetime I have watched the internet change everything. As it reaches more places, becomes faster, smaller, more synced up, it will change even more things. Driverless cars, doctors that can perform surgery thousands of miles away from where they are, wearables that can track all your health indicators and warn you the second you need to see a GP. And things out of science-fiction: private space-travel, faster-than-light warp drives, access to the entire worlds knowledge on a gadget smaller than a book.
At thirty, I’m more sure of myself. I know what I enjoy doing (hiking, camping, superhero movies, writing, reading, slow travel) and I know what I don’t enjoy doing (drinking too much, grimdark action movies, driving, chicklit). I don’t need to waste time on a bunch of stuff I don’t enjoy.
There are some things that I’m glad I kept hold of:
Your job is not your identity. I didn’t have a problem quitting my job and spending three months in the USA. Life is way too short to worry about ‘being a productive worker’. Yeah, you need money, and you can’t rely on other people’s goodwill forever… but equally don’t spend all your time building safety-nets and never actually going on the adventure.
On a similar note: your bank-account does not dictate your worth as a human being. The work that I am most proud of is often the work I got paid least for. Equally, the time I have spent supporting my friends, looking after my family, and generally ‘being a good person’ is worth far more than the time I spent copying numbers from paperwork to computer screen… even though the latter paid more.
When people tell you it’s ‘who you know’ that counts they are not kidding. Cultivate friends everywhere. Don’t ever be a jerk. Keep your promises. Always do your best work, even when it’s menial or boring.
Maintain interesting hobbies. Too many people spend their free time drinking or mindlessly watching netflix. Yes, netflix is cool, and sometimes you need the downtime. But at the same time you should have something you do that is just for you, that is interesting and keeps you busy and works your brain or your body but that you don’t get paid for.
Exercise. I was the nerdy kid who hated PE at school. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the way exercise helps me sleep, wards off depression, gives me energy and keeps me strong. I never want to exercise, but I am always glad when I do.
I guess that is all of my thoughts on being thirty… but I should have a forty-before-forty post up here soon. I have some exciting goals to aim for!