Turning 30 (da da DAAAAA)

This is it, my FIRST post of my thirties. How on earth did that happen? On Sunday, I woke up in the most remote part of Exmoor National Park, donned a dress covered in beetle & butterfly print and ate the biggest full English of my life, with extra fried bread. I was now 30 years old. When Nick had asked how I wanted to spend my birthday weekend, I think my requirements were pretty simple; somewhere wild where we can hike around, somewhere just us and somewhere I could eat a cream tea! He chose the most incredible little country house nestled amongst the hills of Dunkery Beacon and beneath one of the only dark sky patches in the UK (stars!) We will be writing about this trip as our first UK-Travel adventure over on Twentysomething Burnouts so I won’t spoil it here, and I don’t want to write about it here anyway because instead I want to write about ~feelings~.

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I had been warned by older relatives and friends about the pre 30 freak-out. I hated the way it was talked about with such inevitability and that from the moment I turned 29 last year the words on everyone’s lips were “ooh 30 next!”. At around this time I started to take stock of my life and the one area of my life I felt there were some pretty heady regrets was seeing the world (and the fact I hadn’t done it, basically). There were many reasons Nick & I decided to quit life and go to Latin America, but a secret one I kept tied up in my heart was that I felt I could perhaps dodge the freak-out bullet by facing head-on the one unsatisfactory area of my twenties, before 30 chased me down once and for all. For anyone else teetering on the late-twenties nearly-thirties gap, I would highly recommend this tactic. If you can use the big day as inspiration to take a look at the bits of your life you would ideally change beforehand, and then make steps to do this, there isn’t a whole lot left to be freaking out about!

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Lately I’d been so distracted with interviews, house hunting, catching up with long lost friends, shuttling around under ground and re-acclimatising with London-me, that I didn’t do very much of thinking “this is the last cup of tea of my twenties”, “this is the last time I wear this dress in my twenties”; the type of thoughts that might start to make your heart patter a little faster. I felt a bit super-hero-esque about this whole turning thirty thing. I kept trying to prod and pinch myself with little tests of if I felt weird about it yet… but I mostly felt excited at the prospect of getting to make an extra big fuss of celebrations more than anything else.

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And then it happened.

It was actually due to my plans for writing this blog post that things started to unravel. I wanted to post some old photos of me through the ages, and therefore knew I needed to have a dig around my storage boxes and bin liners. I found a tote bag that on the surface seemed to be filled with photos, and set about spilling the contents around me. Disappointment quickly stained my initial excitement as I realised all the photos were reasonably recent (mostly blurry drunk photos and Lol & I at various indie nights around Leeds). Having filtered through all the grins and gins and finding nothing from earlier than my twenties, I noticed the bag was still half full. I blindly dug around tombola style, pulling out scrap of paper after bank statement after ticket. I’m not sure why, but the rest of the bag was a mini time-capsule of 2006. I must have stuffed everything in there, before moving down to London, and thought I would sort it out at the other end. Five house moves and nearly eight years later, and that obviously never happened! It was so surreal to suddenly be face to face with my life back then and to every bit of paper trail that surrounded it.

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I dragged the bag to a shredder and sat reading every item before destroying it forever. Some parts were fascinating; like my revealing wage slips that showed how many hours I worked at a busy gig venue & bar but how pitifully I got paid. All my bank statements were just one more H&M splurge away from the bottom of my already-extended overdraft. There were cheque books (how quaint!), receipts for dates I don’t remember, an annoyed letter from my dad about my eating habits (which I had no recollection of) and endless ideas and plots and plans for short stories I never wrote, and maybe should. There was a doozy of a heart-wrench find in a letter from my ill-chosen university boyfriend, who had apparently staggered drunk into my work and had to be thrown out by my manager. Talk about dramatic, I don’t remember my life being so Hollyoaks like. It was three a4 pages of empty apologies and promises I had heard a million times. Safe to say, things didn’t last very long after that! Shredding that particular find felt extra satisfying.

I’m actually really happy that by some twist of fate, I ended up having to face up to some lurking ghosts of my past and the inevitable reflecting that comes along with switching decades. The feelings I felt most strongly were disconnect from that early twenties in-debt love-troubled bar-working dreamer. It felt almost like rummaging through someone else’s life. It was familiar, but mostly it was shocking how far removed I have come to be from that chunk of my life.

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The key learning I took from it is what I think it the NUMBER ONE difference between the twenties and thirties. Are you ready? In my twenties I thought I knew everything. I thought I had everything and everyone sussed out, I thought I was wise before my years (cringe) and I thought I had it pegged exactly how my life was going to pan out. In my thirties, the first thing I am happy to do is put my hand up and admit I have a LOT to learn. I certainly do not know everything, and that’s exciting to me. I don’t rush in making snap judgements anymore, or assuming I know what someone it about. I sit back, I take my time and I am happy to admit when I was wrong and have to go back to the drawing board (the big “lets move to Brighton” plan for example!)

Ever since turning 30 on Sunday I have felt an unusual sense of inner calm. I think I look a tiny bit wiser/have a new wrinkle. I feel so relieved to draw a permanent line in the sand between the me of my twenties and the me now, who has so much to look forward to. So far, being 30 is pretty excellent! And, because I am no longer twenty and paranoid about what people think of me, I will happily confess that I have practised saying “Hi I’m Bee and I am 30” in the mirror a few more times than is healthy and it feels… ok!

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  1. Kb’s avatar

    Great post and we’re dress twins! I’m 30 in 3 and a bit years and it feels like such a strange thing to say, I’m so used to being ‘not quite there yet’ and now I’m older, I’m still sorted! Still I’m learning a lot and am prepared to make the most of the time I have left in this decade.

    Reply

    1. Bee’s avatar

      Beautiful kb, thanks for your sweet comment. It’s such a fascinating time and it’s really interesting to hear how it affects people in different ways. I think when you then from teen to 20s it’s such a drunken uni haze that it doesn’t feel such a big deal. I think we are all a bit more aware that the 30s may be when we make bigger whole-life decisions such as where to settle, what to do in life etc. which can’t help but feel a bit scary.

      You should be SO proud of where you are (and now wise you are) for your age. You’ve totally smashed your 20s and you’re not even finished yet! x

      Reply

    2. Rosie’s avatar

      Love, love LOVE this post. I am 30 in August and people are constantly asking me how I feel about it and making weird OooOooh noises when I mention being 30 this year, as if I’m being inducted into some secret society. That or my younger friends constantly rib me about how ‘old’ I am. If I’m honest, I feel quite excited about being 30 – I’m glad to be leaving behind a decade of nights out, bad eating, drinking, wrong boyfriends and city living and moving into a decade where I’ll be getting married, we have a lovely house and might perhaps start a family and so on – it feels like a new chapter in my life and I think that should be treated with excitement, not trepidation. I like that you said that you thought in your 20s you had it all figured out and yet you’re entering your 30s admitting there is lots still to learn, I certainly feel the same. I think the great thing about being a little older is that you don’t have as much to prove, so you can make slow decisions and go with what your heart tells you, and you don’t have to worry as much about what anyone thinks any more because you realise it doesn’t really matter! 🙂 xo
      PS – Your birthday celebrations sound perfect – glad you had such a wonderful day!

      Reply

      1. Bee’s avatar

        Thanks rosie my dear. This is such a thoughtful and lovely comment! I’m glad I’m not the only one who suffered the ghoulish “oooh 39 ey!” comments. I also feel the same about my younger friends; I have quite a lot and have never even really considered the age difference but all of a sudden I feel like a dinosaur!!!!
        It sounds like you have entirely the right attitude though. It’s so satisfying to leave behind a whole decade of learning (and mistakes!). I have that new-year new-start feeling you get in January, but times a hundred. A whole new decade, and one that as you said will see me get married, settle into a family home and all that grown up stuff. I can’t escape being a “grown up” anymore and maybe I don’t want to now 🙂

        I loved what you said about caring less about what people think. It’s the one big difference I can feel already. My friend said this week “thirties are just your twenties but without the insecurity” and I love that idea.
        What do you have planned for your big bday in August? xx

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      2. Laura’s avatar

        Love this post Bee, and glad you had a lovely 30th birthday! Your thoughts echoed a lot of what I was feeling last year when I turned the ‘big’ 30 – one of my friends also commented that it’s not the actual turning 30 it’s just the constant ‘how do you feel now?’ questions from others that start to grind! I had fun asking some of my friends their thoughts on turning 30 when I was researching my zine last year, some people said it changed things and others didn’t, but I didn’t have any negative comments from anyone so I think 30 is a good age to be! x

        PS also enjoyed seeing those old photos of you, might have to dig out some of mine too… and I know the feeling of finding ex boyfriend’s letters etc amongst the shoeboxes of things. But I can’t quite bring myself to shred them!

        Reply

      3. Grania’s avatar

        I was really excited to turn 30 – it was turning my back on what at times was a tumultuous and painful part of my life, and entering a new decade feeling like I had a vague clue about what I’m doing (only vague, mind…)

        I really resent the amount of pressure put on turning 30 – bucket lists, ribbing about the loss of youth and so forth. For me, it installed a sense of calm – I am no longer expected to go to clubs and stay there until 4am, no one bats an eyelid if I slip off to bed at 11, and I feel fairly sorted about my life. It could obviously all change, but for now I’m very much enjoying having all the fun of my 20’s, (without the clubs!) with an established set of friends and a sense of peace.

        I think particularly as society has changed, 30 is no longer considered old in the way it once was. My grandparents’ generation had finished having children by my age, and my mother was considered an “old mum” when she had me aged 30. In contrast, I am thinking about kids, maybe, in the next few years and enjoying feeling at ease with myself for the first time.

        Sounds like your birthday was perfect – I did something similar for mine! 30’s are the new 20’s, minus all the dramarama.

        Reply

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