Reflections on Approaching 30

I’m turning 30 this year.

I have never felt as much resistance approaching a birthday. I can feel myself crawling backwards as the months carry me forward closer to the day. Here, I’m going to turn to writing as my favourite method for making sense of fear.

I can sense an identity shifting… perhaps I’m mourning the death of that identity.

You grow up ‘young’. Just like you grow up ‘British’ or ‘Spanish’. That’s who you are growing up, a ‘young person’. Youth is something favourable, and since you’ve only ever been young, your identity is that of a young person.

But once you’re no longer the youngest person in many circles, you begin to feel the need to slowly let go of that identity. Like a gold ring who’s outer layer gets chipped, no longer shiny like the old days, no longer flawless. Of course, this doesn’t happen suddenly. Like a rollercoaster, it’s gradual at first, then you slide down into 30 in a blink of an eye. I think for many it starts around 26 or so. Until then you are going up and up. Your trajectory has a divergent element. But from 26 or so, the trajectory shifts ever so slightly. At first, it’s unnoticeably subtle. But then you start to notice it more and more. You have to contend with the fact that you’re no longer the source of promise and untapped potential in the room. And as you turn 27/28, you start to cling onto the remaining years of your 20’s ever so slightly.

You’re told your 20’s will be the best years of your life, so you “better make the most of it”. Meanwhile, you’re figuring your life out. You’re trying to understand yourself while trying to get on the property ladder, maybe find a partner and grapple with the fact that work will continue to be the dominant part of life. Work is here to stay. Your dreams will have to be seriously considered, you have to face reality. It’s maybe now or never. These are at least some of the prominent things I and others I know in their 20s have had to grapple with.

Then there are the physical elements. As hyperbole as it sounds, you can’t deny the fact that you are not who you once were. You have to face the loss of the body you’ll never have again. There are wrinkles you can’t undo, there are freckles and moles that are here to stay. There are new grey hairs that weren’t there before. And if you’re a woman, the pressure is even higher.

But meanwhile, you feel better mentally than before, perhaps even better than ever before. You know yourself more than you did when you were a naive 22-year-old. You’re still naive but more informed. You are better at setting boundaries, and you are better at understanding your emotions. You feel there’s at least an upward trajectory in that.

I think what makes this passage painful, despite its upsides, is the giving up of a deeply engrained identity that has served you for so long. For some, this happens at 30, for others it might come at 40 or beyond, however, I believe everyone will or has experienced it at one point or another.

Part of the problem is our skewed perception of people’s age when we are children. To the 8-year-old me, a 30-year-old woman felt like a mature, working woman with a child or two. It felt as “adult” as it gets. Now approaching 30, I don’t feel that “adult”. We are still children inside. Children who seek love and guidance. There’s something so comforting in being able to rely on a parent, a leader, a person who’s in charge. And becoming an adult is having to give that up, not only that but it’s about needing to become that yourself. It’s now your time to carry the torch. Without having ever been shown how.

Becoming 30 is a symbol of that child–which I believe will always remain–fading into the background even more. It’s about giving that up for paperwork and life admin. Dealing with leaks and broken toilets which was once dealt with by the adults in the house. 30 feels like the numerical representation of that shift in identity. From that of a young person to that of an adult.

And finally, as you let go of the identity of a young person, you get to be the source of guidance and wisdom that you’ve been searching for…

Thank you for reading, you might also enjoy My Psychedelic Journey to Self-Compassion or a short post On Shedding Identity.

Reach out to me on Twitter, I’d love to hear your thoughts.