When I was in my early to mid-20s the thought of turning 30 terrified me. It felt like a mythical far-away age that meant real adulthood and responsibility that I wasn’t ready for.
Then when I reached about 28, something strange happened; instead of dreading getting older I started to look forward to it. I became less scared and more confident, with each year I progressed nearer to it and further away from my 20s I grew more into myself. Sure, my 20s were fun, I did some great things and I screwed up plenty of others, I had highs, but I also had some real low moments. But as with all these things, I grew from them and learnt a lot about myself in the process, lessons that have shaped me and made me a lot happier and more content in who I am.
As I like to use my blog to muse and mull over things I’m going to share some of my thought’s and experiences of the past decade as I draw a line under it and step into my 30’s.
Health is happiness
Your health, and looking after it, is probably the single most important thing. Reaching 30 is a privilege in so many ways but being in good health after all I’ve put my body through is something I’m incredibly thankful for.
Its a massive cliche i know, but you really do take it for granted until you have any sort of health scare. I certainly did until a couple of years ago when I casually opened my routine smear letter and the words ‘pre-cancerous’ cells turned my world upside down. It led to further painful and intrusive procedures, making me so conscious about that area of my body it was near impossible to feel comfortable or sexual. It’s sad that these things make us feel shame before anything else. I beat myself up about who or what stupid incident had caused it, wishing I could go back and make better choices. But after talking to female friends and family I learned so many women have been through the exact same thing and the reality is its indiscriminate and sadly common.
I’ll be honest, sharing this on my blog is something i’ve debated quite a bit. It’s massively personal for me and its bloody scary to put yourself out there but I believe its something we, as women, should feel open about sharing. Social media is a noisy place where we often only show the best parts of our life, the shiny, filtered, smiley sides of ourself and leave out the gritty, unpolished reality. But it’s those soft, sensitive parts of ourselves that make us who we are and what true personal connections are built on.
Don’t stress, do your best, forget the rest
After that, I learnt that stress is one of the biggest contributing factors. The virus that causes it is dormant in majority of people but its things like stress, being run down, not looking after yourself properly that cause certain strains to cause health issues. I started to realise how much I let stress get to me, I’ve always pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in my career, forcing myself to do things that don’t come naturally to me to compete in the workplace. From my experience the corporate world thrives on extroverts and forces those with introverted tendencies to feel inadequate. If you find it hard to articulate yourself in a work situation or don’t feel confident in presenting in front of a room full of white males, you’re automatically on the back foot.
But as I’ve grown older the weight of pressure has started to ease with the realisation that ultimately the only person that has these high expectations of myself, is me. I don’t need to be the jack of all trades, I don’t need to please everyone, I should play to my strengths, do my best and well if that’s not enough, then c'est la vie.
It’s ok to say no
In this new world of multi-hyphen careers it’s so easy to wear yourself out in a desperate attempt to do everything and please everyone. As someone who struggles with anxiety and also someone who is juggling a full time day job and a part time blogging hustle, I find it increasingly important to listen to my body and know when to say no.
Don't push yourself to go out to events or parties when you’re not feeling it, don’t drink just because you feel pressured to and if you want to sack off the gym because you feel tired then don’t feel bad about it. Focus more on what you’re feeling and less on what other people might think of you for skipping a night out or not always saying yes to every favour. Try to focus on the things and people that make you happy and more nourished as when alls said and done those are the moments you’ll remember.
Quality not quantity
My mum likes to tell me that even as a child I was a loyal friend, I made friends for life not just for the day and somewhat naively thought that was reciprocated. But friendships are funny things and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt the hard way is holding people up to your own expectations can be a dangerous thing.
Assuming people value you in the same way you do them can set you up for disappointment. I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak when it comes to friendship, from bitchy, superficial nonsense and to loosing friends you thought you'd know forever without ever really understanding why. I often think about the time and energy I spent on those people and it makes me sad until I realised I was just collateral damage in their own issues and insecurities. It was less to do with me and everything to do with them and all you can do is knock it up to experience and move on.
I think, like me, everyone feels the fear when it comes to hitting those milestone ages. But I can honestly say I step into my 30s with more contentment and assurity in myself than I've ever felt before. I feel emotionally and physically able to tackle all that life may decide to throw at me armed with the knowledge that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for and I'll give it my best shot.