Do not talk to me about birthdays. In my life they have become something of a taboo to me and I don’t enjoy celebrating them. Not in that fake way people have of saying ‘I hate my birthday’ and then throwing themselves a massive party with on sight admirers/arse-kissers to tell them how amazing they look and they can’t believe their age. I just plain don’t enjoy them and this one will be no exception.
You see, at some point, in the not too distant future, I shall be approaching a milestone in my life. It probably won’t seem like much of a one to many of you. Perhaps you’ve past it and can now look back on it with that wonderful tool of hindsight or maybe it doesn’t or didn’t bother you and you sailed through it with ne’er a backwards glance. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to do that. In fact when I stop to think about it sometimes I find I lose part of the definition of myself.
For God’s sake, I’m not dying or losing a limb; I’m just turning 30! But to me thirty is a dirty word.
Ten years ago I was turning 20 and could not be more chuffed about the whole situation. The 20’s was the age when people take you more seriously as you’re no longer a teenager, the age you stopped getting asked for ID for booze and fags, the age when you got a proper job, had a proper relationship and basically started your ‘proper life’! In 2002 I was ready to be 20 and looking forward to the ensuing chaos it would bring. And boy did I bring it.
In the last ten years I have had four relationships, varying in length from eight months to five years, one of which turned into an engagement. [Obviously that did not end in the textbook fashion, moving on…] I have also lived at ten different addresses, studied three different courses at two different universities and worked in 12 different places, nine of them being pubs or bars. I have drunk an inordinate amount of alcohol and probably regurgitated several times my own body weight. I have also gained a degree, a post-graduate diploma, an NVQ, numerous work related qualifications, a great many friends, several new members of my ‘chosen family’ and thankfully only a few enemies – that I am aware of.
All in all, I’ve been rather busy.
But now, this great and awe-inspiring decade is coming to an end and I am finding myself loathed to leave it behind for a number of reasons but the first of which being the most simple; age.
Thirty has always seemed like the first negative big milestone. Before this everything you reach has a purpose, a landmark to show you how far you have come and how far you still have left to go, but with 30 it feels as though the safety net has been pulled out from under me. No more child-like excuses or reasons of immaturity or not knowing. When 30 years of age are attained, life must be signed, sealed and organised because suddenly you’re nothing but an adult.
The funny thing is if I really think about it, I still don’t get taken seriously by those older than me now, I got asked for ID for alcohol less than 4 months ago (the last time I went out drinking) and I am still unaware what it is I want to do with my life. In this respect I can either be reassured that a few months will not change reality as I know it, or conclude that I have not travelled very far at all in my latest decade. Trying to go with the former…
Thirty is described as a rite of passage, particularly for women and if you pick up any magazine now it will begin to tell you how 30 is the new 20, 40 is the new 18 and I’m sure sometime soon, about the new 90 which means you can revert to your old habits of liquid foods and incoherent babble. Actually, in some cases that is not too far from the truth.
A rite of passage is it? Really?? That’s what 30 is supposed to be. Perhaps once upon a time when you were married before 20, kids before 21 and tied to the kitchen sink between every child dropped! But now in the constantly evolving and revolving society we have, to be old is to be beyond your use, have lived past the sell-by date and to be taking up space that others could exploit more fully. No longer in the pigeonhole of ‘youth’ but not high enough up to be middle-aged, geriatric, retired or solvent, to be 30 is to be relegated to the back of the shelf and left there to fester because it is no longer necessary for society to care what it is you’re doing; you’re on your own.
I am daunted by the prospect of looking back at my life and seeing what I haven’t yet done and why it has not come to fruition only to be greeted with a plethora of my own mistakes and self-imposed misfortunes. I am also unwilling to share these thoughts with anyone ‘real’ because they would surely try and persuade me otherwise and there is only one thing worse than having to face up to all the dumb-ass things you’ve done that have led you to this very point you’re not all that keen on standing on. And that’s having an audience while you do it.
So instead, you get my neuroses and my near-hysterical ramblings as I fret about the looming date which is in point of fact, a date. A day like any other, one that I will to all intents and purposes try to ignore as I do most years and will pass with no more pomp and fanfare than those surrounding it. In my mind thought it may be a millstone rather than a mile, it will not be a culmination of my failures and foibles; a buffet spread from my silly mistakes and bad choices made at an age when I was too adolescent to spot them and too shallow to care. It will be just a day, shared with others and liable to pass whether I wish to celebrate its coming or hide from its looming presence. And yet, even knowing all of this, I cannot shake the feeling that it is a turning point and should be treated as such.
I have lived my life up until this point with a carefree abandon that has amounted to very little to show but a great deal to remember. I have memories I will treasure forever and those that I wish I could tear out of my mind but instead will look and learn from, knowing I couldn’t be who I am now without them. I may be young in some eyes but I am old in others and right now I am in-between decades; not quite finished with one, just not ready to step onto the next. But perhaps that is the point. Without the use of these landmarks, where would be the perspective of knowledge and the hindsight to see how well you really did?
Perhaps I have been looking at 30 all wrong and actually it is not a milestone to pass, but one to look back on and see in the distance; a signpost to the way forward of the person I am still to become.
And yet even knowing all of this to be a distinct possibility I cannot shake the feeling that life is creeping up behind me, ready to jump out with wrinkles, cardigans and bitter envy of the youth as well as contemptible intolerance of their unappreciative nature of what they possess. I think I would do ‘old’ well provided I could do it my own way and in my own specific style. But not now. Because 30 is not old; it’s not even half way there!
Now all I need is to understand that is the case and let time flow on by; once a second, every second as it has been doing for millennia, and will continue to do so long after I have been forgotten. And perhaps just a gentle reminder once in a while that, milestones are important yes, but also personal. What one person celebrates, another may dismiss as wholly unimportant. So if I choose to throw a mental tantrum about something I can no more affect than the movement of the Earth, then I only have myself to blame.
All I can affect are my own actions and emotions and maybe, just maybe, if I can get those under control, I can sail through this transition smoothly with the wind at my back. Because it’s going to happen, whether I’m ready or not.
So, enough moping and maudling, it’s time to start looking forwards and brushing away the needless mind blocks I have subconsciously been erecting. Time to start planning for a new decade’s memories with optimism, even if I may need subtle reminders of it now and again…
Besides, if this next decade is anything like the last one, now may be the time to start putting up the buffers. Because they’re sure as hell going to know about it once I’ve arrived.