Long Reads

Turning 30: why it doesn’t matter if you haven’t achieved all your goals by 30

Turning 30? Don’t panic. Nothing is less possible just because you have reached the fourth decade of your life.

A couple of days ago, I was digging through some old boxes at my parent’s house when I came across a small, pale blue notebook. I recognised it instantly; it was one of my old teenage diaries, sure to be full of school crushes and other fun nostalgia. But the first page stopped me in my tracks.

“THINGS I WILL HAVE BY THE TIME I’M 30,” I’d written in confident bubble letters across the page, followed by a long list of achievements detailed in pink and purple (and no doubt scented) gel pens. My 14-year-old demands for my future self ranged from the laughable (have a number one hit single) to the oddly specific (own a three-bed house on the river) but they were all united by one common factor: they were, apparently, unattainable.

I turned 30 last Monday and the items I have failed to achieve on the list include, but are not limited to: getting married, having a baby, writing a bestselling book, becoming fluent in another language, living in the same town as all my friends, buying the aforementioned house on the river and, of course, the number one hit single. 

Turning 30 comes with expectations of marriage, babies and success

Things I have failed to achieve by my thirties include: living in the same town as all my friends, getting married and having a baby

I had already been having mild spasms of panic about swapping the youth of my twenties for the maturity of my thirties, but seeing a list of all the things I hadn’t managed to achieve was enough to tip me into full-blown terror. 

I’ve loved my life so far, and have been lucky enough to travel, meet incredible people, and work in my dream job. But still, I felt like I’d failed to attain even the most basic building blocks of a real, adult life, and that my time to complete the checklist was rapidly running out.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling; in fact, it’s so common that it now has an acronym, the completely unpronounceable FOMOMG (Fear Of Missing Out on My Goals). Model Leomie Anderson coined the term when reflecting on her life, and considerable achievements, in a column for Lapp, noting that despite being at the top of her career, she was still worried about the state of her achievements.

“Why do I feel like I am running out of time to achieve my goals?” she wrote. Anderson described wanting a house by the age of 23 when she was 18, and how she had dreamed of earning nearly a million dollars by the age of 25.

“None of those things have happened for me,” she added. “Everyday I feel anxious wondering when my big modelling contract will come or when will that big brand decide to believe in me.”

Turning 30 comes with expectations of marriage, babies and success

“Why do I feel like I am running out of time to achieve my goals?”

Anderson’s fears are entirely relatable; while we might not all be wondering about our next big modelling contract, or how we’re going to earn our first million, I’m sure that we will all have panicked about the security of our jobs or the scarcity of our savings accounts at some point in the last few days. Financial insecurity goes hand in hand with being a millennial, as our generation faces a shrinking job market coupled with increasingly high rents and property prices. God only knows what Brexit will bring.

And nothing can tip a millennial into true FOMOMG quite like the act of Friends, 30 will forever be viewed as this milestone age by which we are supposed to have magically sorted everything out. We are expected to emerge, swan-like, from the drunken fog of our twenties with a great career, tight-knit group of friends, supportive partner, slice of property and some kind of family prospects, all held triumphantly in our fists. And if you don’t have all of those things, it’s easy to feel like a failure, especially when social media seems to show everyone else enjoying success.

But turning 30 is just like any other birthday: you go to sleep as a 29-year-old, and you wake up technically a year older. Nothing is less possible just because you have reached the fourth decade of your life. If anything, the lessons you have learned and the wisdom you have gathered up to this point can only stand you in good stead for whatever it is that you want to achieve next. 

Putting pressure on yourself to have fulfilled a bunch of arbitrary achievements by the time you reach 30 is both useless and soul destroying, and completely misses the point of being able to embrace all the opportunities and surprises that life throws your way.

This is especially true when it comes to our careers. For proof, look no further than a viral Twitter thread started by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, known for her work on hit films such as The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses.

“Nora Ephron was 51 when she directed her 1st movie,” Brosh McKenna wrote on the microblogging site. “Nancy Meyers was 49… I was 47.

“Tell the people you work with your dream,” she added. “Put your hand up.”

The tweet erupted with over 68,000 likes and 14,000 retweets, as women (and men) took to the site in their droves to share their own stories of finding success later in life. There are so many examples: JK Rowling was 32 when the first Harry Potter book was finally published (after being turned down by almost every publisher in the UK), Kerry Washington was 35 when she was cast in Scandal, Viola Davis didn’t become a household name until her role in Doubt aged 43. 

Anna Wintour was 39 when she reached the top of Vogue. Vivienne Westwood was 50 when her brand took off. Patricia Fields was 54 when she met Sarah Jessica Parker, leading her to become the star’s stylist for Sex And The City. So who cares if you haven’t reached the pinnacle of your career by your 30th birthday?

Turning 30 comes with expectations of marriage, babies and success

Who cares if you haven’t reached the pinnacle of your career by your 30th birthday?

Still not convinced? There are plenty of statistics out there to reassure you…

• The average age of marriage for women in England and Wales is 35.1 years if they are marrying someone of the opposite sex, and 37 years if they are marrying someone of the same sex. For men, the ages rise to 37.5 years and 40.6 years, respectively.

• The average age of having a child continues to rise, growing almost four years over the past four decades. In 2015, over half of all live births (53%) were to mothers aged 30 or over, while 68% were to fathers aged 30 and over,

• The option to delay having children is becoming more and more accessible, as egg freezing continues to rise in popularity. Between 2010 and 2016, there were around 500 babies born from frozen eggs in the UK.

The average age of marriage for women in England and Wales is 35.1 years

The average age of marriage for women in England and Wales is 35.1 years

One in five first time buyers is single, proving that you don’t have to be coupled up to get on the property ladder.

• Millennials are known for their ‘job hopping’ – a recent study found 43% of us plan to leave our current roles within two years, while only 28% of us plan to stay where we are for more than five years. The upside of this is that we’re less likely than other generations to be tied to career paths we don’t like, and we have more opportunities to try out other roles and companies. In short, we don’t have to settle for anything less than our dream job.

• Plus, the rise of ‘digital nomads’ means that remote working has never been so popular – so tech-savvy millennials have more opportunities to switch the traditional desk job for a more exciting office than ever before.

So go forth and celebrate turning 30 with aplomb. I promise you, there’s really nothing to be afraid of.

Images: Unsplash

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