Turning 30

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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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I just couldn’t do it you guys. I was going to take a break from my beloved little nook of the internet for my whole 6 month trip, but then I realised that would mean I couldn’t write my annual resolutions post and that sent me into a spiral. So you still need to follow my travel tales here at TwentySomething Burnouts (and while you are being kind, please vote for us here in the UK Blog Awards!) but I couldnt resist just one post.

Back in January 2013 I tapped out my resolutions here. I then did a recap post in March, tracking how well I had done at actually achieving any of them. I was so happy to kiss goodbye to 2012, aka the worst year of my entire life, that my resolutions were especially important and more of a mantra that this year would be different. In a desperate desire to control my life again, I just knew that I had to take some big steps to ensure 2013 didnt batter and bruise me in the same way. Lets see how I got on…

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2013 Resolutions

01. Read 51 books: Smashed it! I actually read 70 books in 2013. Obviously travelling spiked the number I could rattle through, without pesky things like fulltime work getting in the way. I would say it has also been my very favourite year for books. There were some incredible releases this year, plus through pure fortune I discovered new authors and books that have been floating around for years but only captured my attention this year. This led to some obsessive compulsive back-catalogue consumption. In particular two authors Erik Larson and Jon Krakauer set my imagination alight. I downloaded The Devil In The White City as my big flight-to-Venezuela treat and it instantly became my number one read of the year. Larson has invented an entirely new way of learning about social history and his writing is instantly captivating. Everything he writes is fact (entirely proving the phrase about fact being stranger than fiction) but it never vears towards being dry, even when in books like Thunderstruck he charts the rise of Marconi, the inventor of wireless communication, which if I am honest… I would never ever expect to find interesting. In The Garden of Beasts was actually my favourite of his, as I often think there is very little left to depict about World War 2 yet here Larson has cast a whole new light on the events of 1933 by telling the story through the perspective of William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, and his socialite daughter Martha. Larson quotes all his references and notes at the back of each book, sometimes running up to 50 pages of information, but I become so captivated by his writing that I hang on every word and there are often extra tidbits of information lurking at the very end to reward us fact-geeks.

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Jon Krakauer is best known for Into The Wild. I had seen the movie, but for some criminal reason the book passed me by. It was by pure chance that on our Galapagos cruise, one of the other tourists left his copy of Into Thin Air which Nick snapped up and we both devoured within days. Into Thin Air depicts the 1996 Everest disaster, Krakauer was a member of an expedition party that made the summit on that fateful May day. It is incredibly well written and stirring, as Krakauer wrote it almost immediately after returning safely home… unlike many of the party members, including his guide. I think it had slightly extra impact for me, as I had just been travelling through the Andes and experienced altitude for the first time, hiking sometimes at distances over half the height of Everest. The familiar descriptions of the lack of oxygen, fuzzy head, speckled vision and waking in the night gasping struck a close chord. I also recommend Eiger Dreams, his more light-hearted collection of mountaineering short stories, which more often than not do not end in a successful summit bid. His likeable, self depricating tone make them really entertaining whether you know what a crampon is or not. Hmm I have written for half an hour and only covered books! I have missed writing about books! In short, my other 5* reads this year and books I highly recommend are: Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein, The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt, Misadventure in the Middle East – Henry Hemming, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce, The House at Riverton – Kate Morton, Night Film – Marishna Pessl (also the book I have forced most other people to read this year. Do it!) The Memories of Trees – F G Cottam, Kiss Me First – Lottie Moggach, Rules of Civility – Amor Towles, The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell, The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson, Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie OFarrell, AND The Innocents – Francesca Segal. 

02. Learn to surf: Done & done!

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: Well, I didnt quite manage 10 new cities but that has been blasted out of the water by the fact that I have visited 9 BRAND NEW countries! At the start of the year I imagined my travel would be limited to snatched city breaks. Instead, my whole existance soon because about life on the road and shiny new passport stamps.

04. Climb Snowdon: This didnt happen as my climbing buddy sort of vanished from my life. That was an unexpected sadness in 2013, and one I am still quite wounded by. I think at this twentysomething age, grown up life sneaks up sometimes and severs relationships that you took for granted, as peoples priorities and perspectives shift. It made me look extra hard at the other friendships I have, and really put effort into maintaining ties those precious people I can tell anything to, even when I am thousands of miles away.

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05. QUIT caffeine: Done… ish. In South America I thought I would constantly be tempted by amazing coffee, but the sad fact is that the best beans are exported to the US and Europe, and most locals LOVE Nescafe instant coffee! So it has been reasonably easy to keep up my quittage although when we have visited cafe plantations and on the odd tired occasion I have had proper coffee. The second we return home itll be back to my herby happy liquid life.

06. Finish knitting my scarf: Damn I forgot about this one, I guess this will be my resolution again this year. I started this scarf when I was in hospital, and I think I have a psychological block when it comes to restarting. Maybe I should buy some new needles and good ole alpaca wool and make an even better scarf!

07. Brush up my Spanish: Although night school plus fulltime work plus homework, which I inevitably left until Sunday night, was crushing at times I am so happy I learnt Spanish. It has been our lifeline during our travels, and helped us in some really sticky situations whilst also enabling me to communicate with locals. One bone of contention is that Spain-Spanish and South American Spanish is very different. Add to that each individual countries having slang, strong accents and local terms… sometimes I know I am saying something exactly right but it is met with stony silence. My confidence takes the odd battering, and I do sometimes resort to asking habla ingles? when I am tired but I will keep on keeping on, and once I am home I definitely plan to maintain the learning, even if it is just using the Duo Lingo app which I love. It is impossible to quit, as making the owl cry is TOO SAD.

08. Write half of the secret-project: Still can’t talk about this. But travels have changed it into something bigger and better.

09. Blog more than 2012: Definitely, I was a blogging whirlwind. I finally found myself blogging purely for the love of it and now the thought of ever stopping fills me with dread… even if it was only me reading back on it to jog my memory or re-live experiences (I do this all the time!) I would still do it.

09. Alter my work/life balance: Tick! I would recommend to every single person who reads this, that at some point you take a huge step back from your life and really examine how you are living it and what you want from it. It is cheesy, but life is SO precious and to be just existing day to day is such a waste. Don’t wait for something to shock you into making a change towards being happier. It doesnt need to be as drastic as travelling into the wilds with a tiny backpack, but even having a weekend to yourself to really work out your plans or moving town or starting a diary. Now that I am looking at my ’old’ life, I cannot believe some of the ways I was stretching and punishing myself on a daily basis. It is no wonder I got so poorly, and it is something that only time away to experience new things has allowed me to take in and make peace with and realise that once I am back in the UK, there are certain parts of my life that will not be the same.

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10. Be brave: I have been more scared, more times in the last 3 months than in my whole life! Over and over I have thought I cant do this and then, sure enough, I have. Scaling waterfalls, negotiating night buses out of sketchy depots, hiking the salt flats, living without makeup, having no hot water ever, getting in an 8 seater plane, surviving a trip to Ecuadorian A and E, trekking through the jungle past dinner plate sized spiders etc etc. The only way you can push your comfort zone is to just force yourself into the outer limits and learn from experience that you CAN do the things you are afraid of and… you will probably really enjoy them!

11. Get back in music: Could do better. I still dont understand what twerking is either.

12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: Considering I just nearly gave Nick a heart attack today by yelling this at the TV today (there was a scary advert where a man had his face cut off with an axe!) this is a definite dud.

13. Daily Records: I filled out my Q&A book every day this year until September, but then didnt want to lose it by bringing it away which means that it will be a weird half and half for a while, with 2015 being the first full year. The OCD in me finds this super annoying.

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2014 Resolutions

01. Read 52 books

02. Re-learn to drive. I passed my test first time when I was 17, then enjoyed a few years of driving round like a maniac with Lol and often dinking the car then attempting to blame my dad (sorry dad). I LOVED driving. I loved heading out alone at magic hour, with a ton of mix tapes, and drifting to a service station for hot chocolate and just waiting until the dark came and the lights twinkled to drive home. When I moved to London, driving immediately ceased and I am quite paranoid that in the past decade I have forgotten how to drive. Is this possible? Nick has taken me to a car park in his parents car and I could barely change gears. I will definitely be hiring a driving instructor in 2014 and wishing hard that my old skills come flooding back, and havent been replaced by all the useless animal facts and html code that has filled my brain since I was a girl racer.

03. Stay in touch with travel buddies: We have met some amazing friends from all over the world during our trip to South America, and the wonderful thing is we all have the travel passion in common so the relationships tend to breed more travel chat. I want to make sure I nurture these new contacts and dont let them drift once real life sets in. It helps that we are already making plans, for example we plan to meet our Dutch friends  for Oktoberfest in Munich, and Jordan and Skyler have invited us to spend Thanksgiving 2015 in the USA (and until then we will embark on a transatlantic craft beer postal exchange)

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04. Move to Brighton: Quite a biggie.

05. Eat more veggies: During my time away, I think I am definitely developing scurvy. Fruit and vegetables are SO hard to find, and not really served with menu del dias (the cheap daily meal options our budget stretches to). It has given me have a whole new appreciation for our access to healthy food in the UK and I cannot wait to be back and eating broccoli! courgetts! spinach!! GREENS! I am also so excited to move in with Nick and have my own kitchen. We enjoy cooking together and I hope we get a few recipe books as house warming gifts… in return for trying the dishes out on our friends of course.

06. Finish knitting my scarf: As if this will ever happen!

07. Start a project with my big sister Meg: I have had a big idea and one that I will, by hook or by crook, begin in 2014. It is quite sensitive and will take some guts, but I think this travelling lark has taught me that things are never unachievable and I hope this is the case. TBC!

08. See more of my friends and family: I have missed everyone SO much whilst I have been away and not very contactable. I cannot wait to do a big lap of honour around the UK catching up with everyone once I am home.

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09. Get Outdoorsy: Both Nick and I are loving the hiking, wild swimming and general outdoorsy freedom of our trip. We cannot wait to transfer this into our life back in the UK, where there are endless beautiful moors, heaths and downs to scamper about on. We are already daydreaming about packing a flask of something hot and a picnic, donning our trust walking boots, and heading out to explore at the weekend. Although, I think we are both in agreement that we might end our adventures in a nice B&B somewhere… A break from yucky plastic sheeted hostel beds or cold tent floors is definitely on the cards.

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09. Apply all the lessons I have learnt travelling to my life back home: I am not saying I am a different person, but I will certainly approach life differently, which is a very good thing! I have so many half baked and scribbled plots and plans to get cracking on.

10. Keep trying new things and pushing myself: AKA Do not retreat into the duvet with boxsets for the rest of the year!

11. Get back in music: Go to a festival, I missed that part of 2013.

12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: Must do this one this year.

13. Daily Records: This year I turn 30. I know its a bit pretentious but I am going to document it on Instagram with a photo a day, and my own cheesy hashtag. You can follow these here. 

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I am really excited about 2014, mainly because I have 3 more months of exploring the world… then I will be home and getting prepared to turn 30! And milking it with as many parties and glasses of bubbles as physically possible. A few of my close friends have got engaged recently, so there will be some more celebrating there too to make up for missing out. I think what I am most excited about is that I have NO idea what my life will look like this time next year. That is something that might have previously terrified me, but now I am just so impatient to get on and see more of the world, then move to Brighton and find all the nooks and crannies that will make it my new home, and most of all… enjoy waking up and falling asleep in my own HOME with my wonderful boyfriend bestfriend every day.

And maybe even get some CATS!

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