Eight months today…I’ll be 30 years old.
I was obsessed with the 30 before 30 project for a long time. For someone who doesn’t believe in new years’ resolutions, I make a hell of a long “to do” list at the end of every December. For someone with obsessive-compulsive list-making scheduling disorder (I’m not disclosing anything Aisling and Clare don’t already er…suspect), readers, let me be the first to tell you, those lists are dangerous. You’re ambushed from every angle by the things you’re supposed to have achieved by the time you’re 30. I started making a tick list. I started doing the things on that tick list (learn to drive. Learn to kayak. Do the 30-day Bikram yoga challenge) until the realisation dawned that I have 37 WEEKS left to achieve 30 Great Acts.
Meg wrote a good post about turning 30, the conclusion of which was that she “lived the sh*t out of her 20s”. I tried to do the same with my 20s for a long time. Because that’s what I thought I had to do. But for me? That too simplistic a way of looking at it. Your 20s, hell you, are more sophisticated and complex than that. You can’t live the sh*t out of something all the time, because if you do that, what’s left?
I was kind of a mess at 20. I had just had my heart broken (not broken, that’s not fair. More like annihilated), I was living in France going a wee bit off the rails, and every so often I read my diaries from that time in my life, free and hedonistic it may have been, but I wouldn’t go back there if you paid me.
I knew exactly what I wanted, you see. I was an old soul with barely anything left to learn. Marriage was an outdated institution. Buying a home tied you down. Love was a concept packaged and sold by Hallmark, and the closest I swore I’d ever get to it again was a torrid affair with a hippy on an Indonesian beach. To stop travelling would be to stop being curious. To work a 9-5 job would be to lose my soul.
Rather than my successes shaping me, I firmly believe it was my failures that put in the hard work, who made me sit up and see what I could become. During my 20s I made some absolute crippling mistakes. I turned down a placement working in Africa for two years. I repeatedly avoided repairing family relationships for six years through sheer stubbornness which led to an irreparable family rift. I nearly wrecked what would become my marriage. I deliberately built walls between myself and my best friend because I couldn’t handle how much we were changing – and nearly destroyed that one, too.
So I guess that’s going to be my 30 before 30. Not achievements, but lessons. Groping through in the dark, getting it wrong, saying sorry, and finally getting it right.