The Year Of Fear

The thing about turning thirty is, that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, it makes you take stock. You can avoid it all you like, you can stare it in the face and say defiantly “I’ll change when I want to change, look back when I want to look back, be nostalgic when it’s me, a glass of red and an old diary thank you very much” but it’s persistent, thirty. 

It whispers in your ear. “What have you achieved?” 

“Is this what your eighteen-year-old self wanted for you?”, it mutters under its breath when you’re wedged between commuters at 8am on the District Line.  

It chants quietly with increasing regularity “make a list, look back, TAKE STOCK, everyone else is, you’ll miss the boat, LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO”. 

Until finally, just to shut it up, you give in.

This isn’t a post about all the things I’ve achieved in the last thirty years and how proud I am. I’ve done some incredible things and some dumbass things. Pulled brilliance out of the bag at the last minute and made colossal mistakes.  Seen the sun rise over the Adriatic and been sick in a gutter.  Loved and lost and lived and blah blah blah. Haven’t we all?  Reading those lists always makes me feel inadequate, anyway. No, I haven’t taught a village of blind Ghanian children to see.  I’ve learnt to make fire though. Does that count?   

I know this looks like an ad for tan footwear.  I assure you it isn’t.  
Andy and Bev are two of my oldest friends. We’ve been cultural in Italy together, been less cultural at Glastonbury together, laughed, adventured, and laughed some more. Usually, our adventures start off as mad ideas until suddenly we’re doing them.  It’s usually my fault – my big ideas more often than not ending up in madcap plans – but without fail, they come along for the ride.  
We all have steady jobs. Two of us are married. And we’re comfortable. We don’t push ourselves any more.  We don’t need to rock the boat, go outside our comfort zones, invite nerves and adrenaline and “what the HELL am I doing this for?” into our lives.
So we decided to change that.  As of March, we’ll all be thirty.  And we plan to kick off the decade in which life begins (it better do, by the way.  I’ve been quoting that for as long as I can remember), we plan to jump into The Year Of Fear.  
The premise of The Year Of Fear is simple. Every month, we are going to do something that pushes us out, way out, of our comfort zones.  Some of these things only terrify one of us, some of them terrify all of us (I’ll let you guess which one that is). The point is, that we start small, and then build to a crescendo at the end of the year and which point we will say yes, that was difficult, but we feel alive.  We feel powerful.  We can do anything.  Fear’s not so bad, is it?  And we’ll all be stronger, better people for it, able to handle anything those pesky thirties throw at us.             
So over brunch at the Riding House Cafe, which is fast becoming a regular (I’ve been here with Esme, she can vouch for the pancakes), we made a LIST.  We all know how much I love lists.  Especially ones with bullet points.  But this list?  It has some seriously scary stuff on it.  

1) Coasteering in Pembrokeshire.  If you don’t know what coasteering is, it basically involves climbing up cliffs and flinging yourself off them.  I must point out that Andy and Bev are basically supreme physical specimens who go to the gym and run long distances more often than most of us shower.  So whilst they’ll be pulling themselves up cliff faces using only their hands, and standing in silhouette on top of mountains, I will be dying of shame in a crevice somewhere.  In a wetsuit.  I don’t know which image is more horrifying.     

2) Open mic night with poetry.  Andy and Bev both hate any sort of attention on them.  Not in a “oh I couldn’t possibly”-whilst-looking-coy way.  We’re talking panic attacks, sweating and hiding in your coat collar way. They can cope with a small group, anything more than that and the sweats start.  So whilst I think open mic night sounds rather fun, they think of it as akin to being paraded through the street naked.  Speaking of which…

3) Life-drawing.  Not just drawing naked people, although we’re going to start off with that so we can get the gist of what a life-drawing session is actually like, but being the model.  I’ve always wanted to be more comfortable with nudity.  I once lived with a nudist, but it didn’t encourage me to shed my clothing, rather the opposite.  In Germany I used to go to saunas where everyone was lounging around naked and in provocative teutonic poses, whilst I wore a swimming costume.  In Russia there was a sauna, nudity, and being beaten with birch twigs.  I have endured being scrubbed to within an inch of my life in a hammam by a woman with pendulous breasts and a see-through apron.  But full nudity?  I just cannot do it.  And I want to be able to, so much.  So…life drawing it is.  I’m just going to have to learn to sustain a ridiculously flattering post for three hours.  Like standing with my arms above my head.         

4) A week without makeup.  Less terrifying than nudity this may be, but this is a big one for me and Bev.  Without eyeliner and mascara, I look like a mole.  And my skin is terrible at the moment and so concealer hides the fact that I look like I have leprosy (air con plus freezing temperatures plus delicate British skin do not a good combination make).  Again, it SHOULD be easy…but it won’t be.  But oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to not be a slave to mascara, to be happy to go on a night out without trowelling on the glitter, to be able to look at myself under the harsh lights of the loos at work and think “So what?  That’s what I look like.  Suck it up“.

5) Circus skills.  I have flown through the air and caught a trapeeze once in my life.  I have stood at the top of a totem pole and come very close to closing my eyes and throwing myself off it.  I genuinely hated both experiences and swore I’d never do them again, because they forced me to do everything counter to my basic primal instincts of survival: throw myself into the air and trust that I will catch something to break my fall, stand fifty feet in the air with nothing to hold on to and trust that I won’t fall off.  It’s time to do them again.  Properly, faster, and more fully.

There are more; compete in a ballroom dancing competition, sing with a back-up band, skydive.  I hope this is good for us.  I hope this achieves what I want to it achieve.  I hope that come next February I can say I’ve lived a little wider, further, deeper than I did the year before. 

And if not?  Well.  What’s the worst that can happen?  I might end up with a taste for nudity.  Watch out at the next Any Other Party, readers.   

What would be on your Year Of Fear list?  Any to add to ours?    
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience, Written By Anna
18 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Brilliant and brave! Love it.

  2. Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Aaaah I LOVE a list. I've got a 30 before 30 on the go at the moment (next March for me) and am doing rubbishly at it so will be revisiting it and making plans (some of them are starting to happen though).

    Your list is seriously scary. Especially the life class modelling! I hope we're going to get monthly updates on how things go.

  3. Posted February 15, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    **** what does one do for forty then?

  4. L
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Oh God, this list has given me the fear for turning 30 in May! I have nothing big planned at all and now I feel like I should do, or maybe I can just read about your year of fear from the comfort of my sofa!

  5. Zan
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Now I didn't do a list or anything before I turned 30. I instead chose to ignore my impending age then have a small melt-down at my 30th birthday party (Bellini's and some very unlady-like vomiting!). Then afterwards I realised 30 wasn't much different to 29 and I was being silly.

    What I did do was promise myself that post-30 I would do the following:

    - Pay less attention to what other people thought of me or my actions

    - Not not do something just because I was a bit scared. I'd spent far too much of my life afraid of things, so wanted to knock that on the head.

    Seems to have gone well so far. At the age of 32 I skydived from 12,000ft in New Zealand which I think was pinnacle of my 'no fear' experience…esp. given I'm not good with heights! Would def. recommend it though. Terrifying beforehand but as soon as you're done you want to go straight back up in the plane (sounds like a clichĂ© I know).

    Ultimately what pushing my boundaries has done is made me far more relaxed about everything. And that can't be a bad thing!

  6. Becca
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    As someone who has not worn make-up in a month I PROMISE that your skin will be better when you don't wear make-up. Promise. You'll notice a difference and I swear you will feel freerer. FYI get yourself some Origins Vitazing. Its a moisturiser which reacts with the air to tint slightly and give you a glow. Although recently I've thought "what is the POINT" and just gone faceless.

    I'm turning 30 in September and am locking myself into a spa for a week and coming out looking 20. Work is currently making me look about 65. I found a grey eyebrow at the weekend. I didn't even know they DID THAT.

  7. Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Love this post. What an amazing idea. Some of your tasks sound awesome (coasteering… can I come?!) and some sound scary (trapezes and an open mic night.. uh, no). I'd be fine with the make-up thing as I don't wear make-up 99% of the time anyway (lazy), so to challenge myself on that front I'd have to go without my GHDs for a month. That really would be scary… 80's revival anyone?

    This year I've challenged myself to try and learn something new and push out of my comfort zone by starting singing lessons (I can't sing). At the end of term I will be asked to perform in front of other students and their families in a concert. Thinking about it actually makes me breathless with panic, last time I sang in front of anyone it was in a home video homage to the SpiceWorld The Move, starring me and my baby sister. I don't yet know whether I'll agree to do the concert… you're inspiring me to try and be brave though!

    K x

  8. Posted February 15, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Love this! I found turning 30 quite tough, as I was in a quite precarious position and feeling rather disappointed in myself and my achievements. I have since found that you care less about all that stuff once you're in your 30s, which is awesome!

    You are incredibly brave with absolutely everything on this list, and good luck Katie with the singing. For what it's worth I was the "can't sing, won't sing" girl for 21 years!


  9. Posted February 15, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    So true Penny & Zan. I have loved my 30's & shall be sad to say goodbye to them.

  10. Esme
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Flippin' heck Anna – this sounds amazing! Good for you! Such a well thought out list as well because it doesn't just contain things that will make your pulse increase.

    I've been thinking about putting together a 30 before 30 list so maybe I will… The scaryiest thing I can think of would be something involving heights, like bungy-jumping. I don't think I could do this EVER, though.


    P.S. Yes, those pancakes were amazing. I still dream of them :o )

  11. Posted February 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I really really want pancakes now. Damn.

    K x

  12. Posted February 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Huh, you WAIT til you turn 40! Actually, I don't think you should try and top that list – for your own safety! I am a bit of a wuss but there is NO WAY I'd do any of that – not at 30, not at 21, 40 or 50. Good luck!

  13. Frances
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow – this sounds amazing, and a good excuse to try some new activities.

    I don't have a "Turning 30" list just yet (and will now spend my afternoon making one!), but thanks to this post I do now have a list that says "Pancakes" and "I love those boots"… oops.

  14. Helen
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, am I too old to be reading this blog or what?! I'm staring 40 in the face later this year!! I've two things to look forward to this year: getting married in Italy in June – YAY! – and turning 40 in August – not so yay (although I'm glad it's not the other way around ;-)

    I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro when I was 30 – hadn't really planned to in a 'things-to-do-when-I'm-30' kind of way, but it was (and is) something I was v. proud of doing!

    I also met my soon-to-be husband two months after my 30th birthday, so intentionally or not, it's been a pretty good decade :-)

  15. Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Extraordinary. I excitedly await updates via AOW and Twitter.

    And bloody hell – GOOD FOR YOU!

  16. Roz
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I fucking love the list!! (sorry but swearing is completely necessary!!). What an amazing idea, I cannot wait to hear the blog posts that come out of all of these :D xx

  17. Anonymous
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    sounds great, i have been doing static trapeze lessons once a week since last may and so every monday i have to face my fears as i learn new tricks and try not to fall, it feels amazing when you stop feeling nervous and conquer a new pose!
    looking forward to hearing about how it works ou!

  18. Posted February 25, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    this sounds amazing, a great idea to kick you into trying new and thrilling things. Something I definitely need to do something like this. I love the fact that you've called it "The Year of Fear", after all it's fear that stops us all from doing these things that would enrich our lives whether we enjoyed it or not. Also, I think doing things like this, that push our boundaries and comfort zones, brings us closer to those around us xxx Good luck with it all, can't wait to hear about how it goes! xxx

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