Felicity Monk, a freelance journalist from London hits the big 30.
I wanted to be all graceful and cool about it, I really did.
“Turning 30? Pish. No big deal. It’s just another number.”
I wanted to be laid-back and zen about it. Maybe I’d shrug my shoulders in a devil-may-care fashion and say: “Thirty is the next chapter, and I simply cannot wait to embrace it.” I even wanted to be excited about it. Triumphantly punch the air with a Tom Cruise fist and yell: “Yessss!”
It’s nice to have aspirations.
It’s not about the wrinkles. It isn’t, I swear. They’re making themselves at home amongst the scars from trampolining misadventures and bicycle crashes.
It’s not about the fact that I am one third of the way through my life (an optimistic assessment, I know). I’m totally okay with my mortality. I think.
It is about suddenly, urgently, taking stock of those things I have achieved in my 30 years and realising how woefully, pitifully inadequate that list reads.
I will now never be referred to as a child prodigy or ‘rising star’; will never be marvelled about in critical circles for my genius precocity. No-one will ever say: “You did what? And you were only <insert any age under 30>?”
I appreciate, of course, that I have had three decades to make this happen and have failed. But the point is, it had always been a possibility, however remote. And that’s what turning 30 represents. The loss of what could have been, of frivolous dreams dashed upon the unforgiving rocks of middle-age.
As I lurch reluctantly toward this milestone, I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be on the bell curve of life. Instead, I am childless, mortgageless, petless, unmarried and a freelancer. Instead of slogging up the corporate ladder, I have spent time working out which ladder it is that I want to climb, if any. Instead of buying a cake-mixer and a jet-ski, I have spent all my savings travelling the world. Instead of spending my 20s married and making babies, I dated foreign boys, lived in Norway, and held other people’s kids, before passing them back. And I wouldn’t change any of it.
"That’s what turning 30 represents. The loss of what could have been, of frivolous dreams dashed upon the unforgiving rocks of middle-age."
Yet, I still can’t help feeling irrationally fearful that I’m running out of time. That this arbitrary number, 30, carries with it some sort of deadline.
I am not the type of girl who has been planning her wedding for the past 24 years; there is no scrapbook. But lately, well, I’ve been feeling rather spinstery. And what was once a quiet, buzzing cluckiness has transformed into a deafening roar. I’ve turned into a head-swivelling baby-gawker whose mind has been taken over by an infant-crazed dictator barking: “Breed! Breed! Breed!”
I swore I wasn’t going to be like this. I was NOT going to be one of those crashing bores who whinge about turning 30. Who say: ‘I don’t want to talk about it!’ And then talk about it. I used to think: “Get a grip! People are dying from starvation, from landmines, from necrotizing fasciitis and all you’re doing is knocking on 30’s door. And then I turned 29 and a half.
More than one friend has nodded sagely as they’ve endured my neurotic ranting. “Saturn Returns,” they say meaningfully. “That’s what it is”.
This is what astrologers call the period between ages 28 and 30. It's the first time the planet Saturn completes its cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born. It’s said to be one of the most important times in your life, a time of endings and new beginnings. It’s also said that few people describe Saturn's Return as a pleasant period.
As my day draws closer I remind myself of something a friend said to me recently: “Freaking out never made it happen a second more slowly. You are never younger than right now… or now… or now…”
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Main picture credit: Rex Features