Marriage, children, job expectations and salary goals. Does society put pressure on us to have met this certain criteria? A member of the Stylist team, Billie Bhatia shares her thoughts as she approaches the big day.
At university, there was one cardinal rule we lived by (other than ‘cheese goes with everything’): never go out clubbing on a Saturday night. The idea of aggressively gyrating to Timbaland and downing Jägermeister with the 30-year-old locals who had put on their gladrags for a good old-fashioned knees-up (this is how we described them) was totally gross. They were just so… old.
“Guys, promise me when we’re 30 we won’t be as lame as everyone in Tiger Tiger on a Saturday night,” I obnoxiously pleaded to my housemates as we stayed in drinking white wine on offer at the Co-op and chain-smoking Mayfair Blues because we couldn’t afford Marlboro Lights. “Of course we won’t! By 30 we’ll be married, rich, successful and getting shitfaced at dinner parties while our babies are asleep,” they responded. Phew. What a relief that I had 10 years to ensure that my life went according to the plan we had so artfully constructed. If the agonising pace of my teenage years was anything to go by, I had all the time in the world to get my ducks in a row by 30.
Except my 20s weren’t the drawn-out decade of meaningless but fantastic one-night stands and debauched parties I’d hoped they would be. Rather, they were a flash in the pan of career choices (some good, some catastrophic), evolving friendships, family dramas and more ghosting than I care to admit. Gone before I could say, “Wait for me!” Now, I’m left with single-digit days of my 20s left (spent in coronavirus quarantine at my parents’ house) to action my plan of ducks and rows before I hit the big 3-0. And I am well and truly terrified.
I’ve cried. Daily. For the past month. One part mourning the decade I’d only just settled into, one part grieving my cancelled birthday plans due to virus lockdown (I am nothing if not a social butterfly) and one part unadulterated fear of the unknown – for both myself and the world, given the current circumstances.
I no longer have 10 years to ensure I have financial security, a house decorated entirely with Farrow & Ball paint, an adoring partner, the beginnings of a family, an incredible career and the body of a Victoria’s Secret angel (remember, these goals were set in 2010). I have a matter of days, stuck in the sodding house, until I am faced with the biggest turning point in my life, and the crushing anxiety weighing on me feels like the small child I’m supposed to have birthed by now is sitting heavy on my chest. Screaming.
Everyone is quick to reassure me that 30 isn’t so bad: “It was like a weight had lifted”, “You just don’t care as much any more”, “Honestly, it’s so much better than your 20s”, “It’s going to be great, just you wait!” But what if it isn’t? What if the hangovers really are too bad to handle going out until the sun comes up? What if, once I change the age range of my Bumble profile to something more befitting of a 30-year-old woman, there aren’t any men left? What if I rearrange my birthday party and no one wants to come because they’re still social distancing? What if these are my prime childbearing years, but I can’t get a second date, let alone a baby daddy? What if all the things I had so eagerly and optimistically expected would fall into place by the time I reached this milestone aren’t even in sight? What the hell happens now?
I am clinging on to my 20s like a koala to a tree, looking back on my self-styled golden years through the rose-tinted glasses I have firmly fixed to my face because I don’t want to face the reality of change. Change means I might get left behind. Or worse, that the road I had mapped out for myself all those years ago might never appear.
In contrast to my widely scattered ducks, both my closest friends and social media are painting a very different picture. Many live independently, have marriages under their belts or coming up, have much better money management skills than me and just a general ‘togetherness’ I seem to be wholeheartedly lacking.
The real difference, however, is that they are ready to embrace the next chapter of their lives with a preparedness I can’t seem to muster. I’m staring 30 in the face like Kevin McAllister looks at his scary neighbour in Home Alone, poised to run away. I’m not ready. Not ready to be more serious, more considerate, more sensible and less reckless. I WANT TO BE RECKLESS.
All of this drastic (read: dramatic) overthinking and terror has left me in a spin. I’m scared, even more scared than when I kicked my little brother in the face for stealing my No.7 roll-on body glitter and knew I was in for a hiding. While a life-changing virus has only heightened this fear, the (very small) rational part of my brain says I can’t predict my future, just as the world’s leaders can’t predict the next stages of this outbreak. So for now, under strict government orders, I’m taking my life day by day.
Is there anything more soothing than an oversized hoodie? I don’t think so. An adult comfort blanket, & Other Stories’ cheerful yellow version is the sartorial antidote we need to deal with the constant stream of sombre news.
Images: Sarah Brick