Insecurities and Turning 30

CW: Weight gain, mental health.

I’m writing this on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, filled with dread and trepidation.

I’m not one of those people who had a ‘To Do’ list for their life – married at 28, kids by 31, house purchased by 35. Not only because the housing market has completely tanked any chance my generation had of owning their own home, but because I never thought those sorts of deadlines were very constructive. But now, I’m discovering that these deadlines must have existed in some invisible, secret form, else why do I feel so anxious?

I still have no direction in life. I don’t feel particularly driven. I don’t even know if I want kids. I work a casual job. I’ve had to retrain and start my career again after being forced back to square one thanks to my mental health. I’m living in a city I’ve barely gotten to experience, thanks to the pandemic. I’ve completed a degree in a field that is just as competitive as my Plan A. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, the result of baking my way through the first, second, third, and fourth lockdowns. I still barely have enough money to scrape together to pay rent. The voice in my head is screaming: WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!?!?!?!?!?!

Perhaps I’m frustrated that I still find myself here. That at 30, it feels like I don’t have any more of a handle on things than I did when I was 20. My therapist has told me she thinks I’ll probably be in therapy my whole life. How’s that for a prognosis?

There’s no direction, no drive. Just uncertainty. And all the while, time keeps keeping on. My eggs are dying. The wrinkles are forming. The grey hairs are sprouting.

Assaulted by these feelings, I’ve decided not to have a birthday this year. I will acknowledge the passing of time, but I will not be celebrating. “Nothing will be open, anyway,” I tell my friends. “There’s really no need to get me anything,” I tell my family. I hope that if I can let the day pass unnoticed by others, then maybe I’ll forget, too.

I’m angry that the pandemic has stolen the last years of my 20s. And I feel guilty for feeling angry because I know others have given up so much more. And what have I lost, anyway? I’ve not ever really been one to go out partying until the sun rises, but I think birthdays have a habit of making you nostalgic for memories that never happened. It would have been nice to have a last hurrah.

Julianne Moore summed it up in Crazy, Stupid, Love: I’m so much older than I thought I’d be.

Of course, I know nothing bad will happen. The day will pass without consequence, just like all the others. It’s not like 30 is a death sentence, and I hate that I’ve internalised this misogynistic ageism from the world around me. Women exist after 30. Women have long, happy, dramatic, purpose-filled lives at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80…

But there is nothing like the passing of time to bite you on your arse and force you to confront the fact that you’re not where you thought you’d be, however invisible those plans were. It’s like those ‘Trace the Letter’ workbooks we did as kids, little dotted lines mapping out the As and Bs and Cs. I want something concrete – a thick ink to stain the page in certainty.

I don’t know what I want in life. I don’t know where I’m headed. But perhaps these feelings that are plaguing me can be satiated with acknowledgement: Thank you, brain, for telling me that I’m not where I thought I would be. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me what an utter disappointment I am – duly noted.

I know no one knows what they’re doing, and I anticipate family members reaching out after reading this telling me they felt the same way when they were 30. Maybe in a few days I’ll have a little perspective. But right now, alone, I’m not really feeling it.

I don’t have a rallying cry that will give this piece a cathartic resolution. That also wouldn’t be truthful. All I know is that I will wake up tomorrow morning, another Tuesday, and try my best to get through the day. That’s all I can manage right now.

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