It had to happen. Our generation has hit its thirties and we're handling it with all the poise and grace of a bunch of skinflints hitting the breakfast buffet in a cheap hotel. We are in a desperate, greedy rush to tick off our often-identical checklists as quickly as possible, usually in the shape of careers, weddings, kids and houses. Facebooks and Instagrams have become competitive brag-fests as we silently fume that Mandy, fucking MANDY, managed to bag a husband before us. We sit wondering if that perverted accountant was actually that bad and not worth a second date, we despair that we can't afford our 'forever homes' and wonder if now is the right time to have a baby (because if Sarah from HR shows us one more picture of little Milo eating courgetti like a smug prick, we're going to throw her phone out of the office window).
Bearing in mind that the UK life expectancy is 82 years, and many of us will live years beyond that, here we are in our thirties, panicking that everything isn't sorted and tied up in a cute little hipster bow tie. The job isn't great, but it's too late to change paths. The partner isn't lovely, but starting to date again would be like admitting defeat and finally trying to get into Game of Thrones. We don't own property yet - dear God, where are we going to live? There's no savings in the bank, and seemingly no chance of getting any because at 30-odd, we are done, cooked, finished. What we have in front of us now is apparently what we'll be saddled with for the rest of our lives. We are setting ourselves a deadline to have everything fixed before we've even reached our halfway point of existence. There's planning ahead and then there's panicking ahead.
No wonder the divorce rate has skyrocketed as more and more people commit the next half century of their lives to a person they have only known a couple of years, before they have experienced the majority of that great human trait - growth - that continues all our lives. Don't get me wrong, how wonderful to find someone that you can mature and grow together with, but should we be fretting at 30-something if that hasn't happened for us yet? Is it worth ticking that target off with any half-decent available human so we can move on to the next pressing goal-for-life?
Perhaps it is, after all biology is an obvious factor in this desire to settle down as soon as possible, especially for women for whom the uterine clock doth tick like a cheap Casio that could give up on you at any minute. The sword of responsibility and settling down dangles over our heads as we try to enjoy life. I mean, we all love brunch but that doesn't mean we want to wake up at 45 and realize we forgot to have kids because we were too busy eating over-priced avocado on toast. Children, like it or not, are largely only achievable up to a certain age. But in this modern age of advanced feminism and progress, why are we so obsessed with our thirties being the decade in which everything is settled and decided? We are stunting our growth, telling ourselves we have done all the changing and exploring we're ever going to do, and settling for whatever seems achievable in the present-day.
For example, I have heard many smart professionals in their thirties bemoan the lack of excitement or enjoyment in their jobs, resigned to the fact that at this age it is too late to explore a different path. At only 10 or 15 years into our chosen profession, we are prepared to accept that the career decision we made as a youngster all those years ago is unchangeable, even though we have a good 30 or 40 working years left to go. No, we are in our thirties, the party is over, it is time to accept whatever mistakes we made in the Red-Bull-and-vodka-soaked haze of our early twenties, suck up some responsibility, and shut the door on any exciting new direction.
Admittedly we are living in unsettling times and a certain amount of security is reassuring, but if you don't like the way you are living, now is the time to change it, rather than shrugging your shoulders and reconciling yourself with the idea of dissatisfying years to come. Despite our millennial tag being associated with ideas of selfish fun and irresponsibility, in reality we are still striving for the same patterns of the generation before us, even though times have changed so much. No wonder then that our thirties have become a time of dreariness and worry. We put far too much emphasis on security, and not enough on happiness and fulfilment.
The idea that being 30-odd is too old to pursue your passions and dreams, even if that involves a drastic change, is ludicrous. You are not yet halfway through your life. You have survived your twenties, observed yourself change and grow, and now have a better idea of who you are and what you want than ever before. So why not chase after that instead of resigning yourself to whatever your current situation may be for decades to come?
And of course, having it all together in your thirties is absolutely no guarantee that your happiness is secured for life. Well done if you've achieved everything you've aimed for in life - I still count beans on toast as 'cooking' so I'm immensely impressed by anyone who owns a blender. Enjoy your successes but place your happiness above all else, because - forgive me for acting like the 6am night-bus that trundles you back into grey, harsh reality after a great night out - it's worth remembering: marriages fail, jobs disappear, children grow up and move out. Ultimately we grow old with ourselves - who we have become and the lives we have made for ourselves. And if you don't like the path you have forged for yourself, then you're in trouble.
Bravery at this age should be encouraged and rewarded. Stop comparing yourself to everybody else's polished social media projections of a perfect, 'finished' life. You are allowed to be different. You are not old. You still have an almost dismaying amount of growing to do (I know, I'm tired too). Life is stressful enough without creating ludicrously early deadlines for important goals and panicking when you don't hit your targets. There is no need to panic about things that you still have more than enough time to achieve. There should be no pressure to make your decisions for life now. Keep an open mind. Give yourself time and space to mature and develop. There is no reason to fear your thirties. Go after what you want now, and be happy, because the next 30 years will be over before you can say "mid life cri..."