“Why does turning 31 seem so much scarier than 30?”

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Hollie Richardson
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Turning 31 this year? Here, digital writer Hollie Richardson explains why we should just embrace the weird and wonderful next step after 30. 

When I turned 30, I wanted the whole world to know about it. I chose to celebrate with no fewer than three events in three cities with three groups of family and friends. The third soiree involved drag queen karaoke in Dalston, a scandalously short gold tuxedo dress and about 57 bottles of prosecco. 

I was “30, flirty and fabulous!” – just like the messages in most of my birthday cards told me. Sure I didn’t have a boyfriend. Or a house. Or a dog. Hell, I still don’t own a half-decent frying pan. But there I was, living my best (albeit poor) life as a freelance writer in London, surrounded by great pals, and turning 30.

I believed Carrie Bradshaw when she once said: “Your 20s are for enjoying yourself, your 30s are to learn the lessons, your 40s are to pay for the drinks”. Being 30 would surely signal my exit from a chaotic decade, leading me to ten years of achievements, wisdom and contentment, right? Big things would happen as I rode the wave of 30s fabulousness. This was the year I would “have it all”.

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Fast-forward a year and the celebratory plans for my 31st birthday tell a very different story.

I’ve asked a handful of friends to join me on a “wintry walk around Hampstead Heath, followed by a pub lunch”. I even added: “Plus ones welcome.” The low-key WhatsApp message is a far cry from last year’s “get your Freddie Mercury on, bitchez”.

The thing is, I haven’t really been in the mood for celebrating. And that’s coming from a woman who once marked her birthday on so-called Blue Monday with a pole dancing lesson and dinner at Nando’s.

What’s with the change in attitude? Why do I feel a little bit *gulp* scared and sad about turning 31?

Turning 31
"I’ve loved being 30. I felt bold drawing out the big, round numbers on forms."

I’ve loved being 30. I felt bold drawing out the big, round numbers on forms. I liked to use my milestone age as an excuse for every single decision I made: I turned down invitations to stay in with a Netflix series because I was 30; I stayed out until the early hours guilt-free because I was 30; I ate pizza three nights in a row because I was 30. I pulled my socks up and opened an ISA. I went for a new job that I absolutely adore. I enjoyed telling people: “Oh 30 is great, you’ll LOVE it!”

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But on closer inspection, I’ve realised that no big thing actually happened when I turned 30. The chaos of my 20s continued in my life well after the stroke of midnight. Life didn’t just iron itself out. A magic frying pan didn’t appear in my cupboard. That fabulous feeling was quickly replaced with the cold hard realities of a tax return and family quarrels.

Really, it was the buzz and power of entering a new decade that I really loved.

So stepping into the next year – replacing that round 0 with a straight 1 – is freaking me out and making me think about what I’ve actually achieved beyond small but mighty moments. Surely, as the inspirational affirmations and pop culture references point out, I should have learned big life lessons, found contentment and #slayed everything in my way by 31?

The truth is that both the highs and lows will continue to follow me as I step into 31; I just won’t be able to hide them behind the glittering sheen of 30s excitement. And perhaps that’s what’s causing the anxiety. 

But I’ve realised that age really is just another number and it doesn’t define what happens – good or bad – during a 12-month period in my life. 

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Over the weekend, Nigella Lawson talked about how she is embracing turning 60. It gave me food for thought. Speaking in The Sunday Times Style, Lawson said she views the remainder of her life “as a great unfurling mystery”. If she – a woman who is literally double my age – can see the absolute privilege of being 60, then I can get over turning 31. 

I might even treat myself to a Le Creuset frying pan.

Images: Getty, Roseanna Smith @ Unsplash


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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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