Another birthday has come and gone which means ANOTHER year I’ve been sorely disappointed that I didn’t receive the one thing I really wanted: 4 muscular, oiled up men in loincloths carrying me around in a golden litter, Cleopatra-style, waving palm fronds at me and feeding me peeled grapes. It’s not because I don’t like the skin on grapes but it’s more about the effort! But seriously (seriously!) I actually celebrated the big 3-0 with amazing friends and family who accept me for who I am, overly dirty thirty sense of humour and all.
I’d like to say I was above such mundane worries as the inevitable departure from my 20s but I’m human and that decade is idealized as “the best time of our lives.” We’re free to enjoy life pre-marriage, mortgage, and babies. It doesn’t help that I’m female and beauty advertisements tell me that my worth is dependent on a face free of furrows. When people ask me how it feels to be turning 30, I deflect my real feelings with the standard “Well, I’m Asian so I’m going to look this way till I’m 60 anyways.” I conveniently leave out that as soon as I hit 60 that I’ll immediately wrinkle like a prune.
My age is now a topic of interest. More often than not, review of my I.D. at the LCBO will be met with “Good for you!” This is the type of conversation I have in response to the revelation of my age when I attempt to go out past midnight :
“How old are you?”
“Wow! You look good for your age!”
Number one, I guess it’s good that I look young enough that people don’t consider it rude yet to ask how old I am…?
Number two, when did 30 become old enough that people expect me to look like the crypt keeper?!!!
30 isn’t old, it just isn’t 22 and thank goodness for that!
The 20s are an awesome time but confusing as hell! We spend our lives in a regimented system with a clearly defined measurement of success that we transition out of in our 20s. Suddenly there is no one grading us; validating how well we’re doing with As, Bs, and Cs. That’s why we party all night, make mistakes, take risks, travel to Thailand and jump off of cliffs, explore and fall over and over again– to figure out who we are.
All of those diverse experiences help us to clarify the edges of our identity; to firmly establish what we believe, like and dislike.
It helps us to fully comprehend what our value is on our own terms, outside of grades assigned to us by others. This means that by time we reach 30, we don’t give AF what other people think of us because it doesn’t change who we are. We’ve gained enough perspective to realize that what other people think says more about them (and their own insecurities) than it does about us. The older I get, the more liberated I feel to be my authentic self.
Here are 6 ideals I’m looking forward to embracing in my 30s:
1/ FOMO NO MO’
As extraverted as I am, I’ve been known to worship at the temple of JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). Sometimes I need a Friday night with nothing more to do than put a mask on my face and in my hair, throw on a onesie, grab a glass of wine and settle in to binge-watch Harry Potter. Heaven.
2/ QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
I used to care about how many friends I had on MySpace (is my age showing?) but now it’s less about bulk and more about value. We only have so much time so I’m going to spend it with people who bring me joy. I read somewhere that if you can count the number of real friends you have on one hand, then you’re doing really well and I’m starting to understand that.
3/ “PAY YOURSELF FIRST”
My Dad says this to me ALL THE TIME, especially when I used to get the “You go out too much” lecture. They thought I gave away too much of my time to other people and that I needed to “invest” more in myself. I still spend quality time with people who matter to me, but only AFTER I’ve paid myself first by putting effort into something that is important to me like being healthy and going to the gym or working on a creative project.
4/ PERFECTION BELONGS IN FANTASY
I used to berate myself every time I didn’t reach my lofty expectations, whether it was by not producing a design I was happy with or I didn’t work out as many times as I had planned. I started to avoid taking risks because the potential failure would just be further damning evidence. Age has knocked the idea of perfection off it’s pedestal and has replaced it with the desire to embrace the gloriously imperfect, but authentic, person that I am. Perfection doesn’t exist, it’s just a mismanaged ego.
5/ POSITIVITY EFFECT
In Meg Jay’s book “The Defining Decade” she explains that as we get older, we start to react less to negative information and become more interested in positive information. This is referred to as “positivity effect.” If someone said something unflattering about me, I would get upset for days and compile a list of reasons why they were wrong so I could make myself feel better. Now I take insults (as well as compliments) for what they are, opinions that change nothing at all.
6/ KNOW THYSELF
Difference makes people feel threatened because it makes us question the way we do things. Which way is the right way? Now I’m more concerned with whether it’s MY way and understand that everyone has their own truth. I welcome the contrast as a means to further define myself for myself. I accept who I am and who I’m not. I’ve stopped trying to squeeze into boxes and categories that just don’t fit.
What are YOU looking forward to not giving AF about in your 30s?