I turn 30 in just over three months. I don’t make a big deal about my birthday, usually. Unless you forget about it or don’t act accordingly on the day, that is. I’m both indifferent and intense about my birthday. Doing something big often adds a lot of pressure to the lead up, but when the day arrives I tend to wonder why people didn’t make more of an effort.
Some of the worst arguments I’ve had with people have been on my birthday, and I remember a couple of them (hello, 25) as some of my unhappiest days. That forced happiness, the expectation everyone puts on you is hard to handle. Having people ask you – over and over – how the day is going, if you’re having fun, what you have planned, what presents you got… it’s all too much especially when your answers are “Fine.” “No.” and “Nothing.”
“Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we’ve grown. No matter how desperate we are that someday a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know it’s not to be, that for the rest of our sad, wretched pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end. Inevitably, irrevocably; happy birthday? No such thing.” – Jerry Seinfeld
Being sad on your birthday feels selfish. How dare you not love everything people have done and the extra attention you’re getting! You should be happy.
For me, my dread of birthdays has never been about age. It’s about hating the expectations everyone has for you, and having to pretend to be happy when you really just feel ordinary. I feel the same about Christmas sometimes, or I did when I was younger and it mattered more.
I don’t usually start feeling bad about my birthday until a month before. This one is different though. When I turned 29, people started (un)helpfully reminding me that 30 was coming up – even on the same day! “Nearly 30!” “Um no, I just turned 29, thanks.” I don’t know if it was meant to be funny but way to make my birthday even harder guys.
Look at the Google search results when you type in “turning 30 crisis.” There have been a lot of things written about this – as well as so-called inspirational pieces telling you what you should achieve by the time you turn 30.
All of them have the same advice:
- Move to a new city
- Run really far (either a half or full marathon)
- Learn to cook
- Learn about wine
- Learn a new language
- Go to a music festival
- Sing in public
My problem with these kinds of lists is, while they’re meant to give you ideas of things you can do to add meaning to your life before a certain age, they seem to assume that once you turn 30 you just stop trying.
Probs not going to not learn a new language just because I’m 31… and I’m definitely not going to stop going to music festivals. I might change what I do at said music festivals (I’m never camping at one again) but I’ll still be enjoying them long, long after 30.
Then, there is the idea that there’s no real hurry to get everything done – 40 is the new 30 for us millennials! Right guys? It’s OK, we’ve got another ten years to get our shit together! But this attitude is still putting limitations on our lives. Why can’t I go to a music festival after 40? Why can’t I have big nights out and party after 40? Why can’t I (as unlikely as it will ever be) run some kind of marathon after 40?
And what about physically aging? I asked for input from some friends on the matter and was told not to worry because I still “look young.” And? What does 30 even look like?
This is what 30 looks like, but I don’t really care about that. How does not having wrinkles stop me from feeling anxious about my age? Sure, I’d love my 23 year old metabolism back, but that’s not going to happen so why worry? I still have fun and achieve good things no matter what my face looks like to others.
Even though I don’t want to buy into the “rules” or “helpful hints” about what to do and how to live before I turn 30, I’m finding it hard not to. Maybe I’m being really fucking millennial here, but most of this is coming from wanting to do something meaningful.
I don’t want to explore this desire by way of a relationship, marriage, or children – I’m still happy being selfish for now – but rather, I want to feel that I have achieved something meaningful. I just don’t know what that is yet.
While I figure it all out, I’ll be creating pieces to explain my existential crises.
“30 Before 30” will be a series of personal essays, detailing my feelings of unease, dissatisfaction, and flat out fear in the lead up to my 30th birthday.
I hope you’ll share the journey with me!